Arctic Inversions and Intrusions

Early-spring sunlight hits ice in the Chukchi Sea near Barrow, Alaska, in March 2009. UCAR

An earlier post Arctic Ice Factors discussed how ice extent varies in the Arctic primarily due to the three Ws: Water, Wind and Weather. There are other posts on the details of Water and Wind linked below at the end, but this post looks at some ordinary and repeating Weather events in the Arctic that influence ice formation. An interesting new study prompted this essay, but first some background on heat exchange observations in the Arctic.

Ice Station SHEBA near the beginning of the drift on 28 October 1997. The Canadian Coast Guard Icebreaker Des Groseilliers served as a base of operations for the field experiment. The huts housed scientific equipment and logistical supplies.

One project in particular has provided comprehensive empirical data on the energy interface between Arctic Sea Ice and the atmosphere.  The SHEBA project collected heat exchange data on site in the Arctic as described in this article SHEBA: The Surface Heat Budget of the Arctic Ocean by Donald K. Perovich and John Weatherly, U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory, Hanover, New Hampshire; and Richard C. Moritz, Polar Science Center, University of Washington, Seattle.


The combination of the importance of the Arctic sea ice cover to climate and the uncertainties of how to treat the sea ice cover led directly to SHEBA: the Surface Heat Budget of the Arctic Ocean. SHEBA is a large, interdisciplinary project that was developed through several workshops and reports. SHEBA was governed by two broad goals: understand the ice–albedo and cloud–radiation feedback mechanisms and use that understanding to improve the treatment of the Arctic in large-scale climate models. The SHEBA project was sponsored _jointly by the National Science Foundation’s Office of Polar Programs Arctic System Science program and the Office of Naval Research’s High Latitude Dynamics program.

Ice Station SHEBA

On 2 October 1997, the Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker Des Groseilliers stopped in the middle of an ice floe in the Arctic Ocean, beginning the year-long drift of Ice Station SHEBA. For the next 12 months, until 11 October 1998, Ice Station SHEBA drifted with the pack ice from 75°N, 142°W to 80°N, 162°W. At any given time, there were 20–50 researchers at Ice Station SHEBA. During the year over 200 researchers participated in the field campaign, spending anywhere from just a few days to the entire year. Conducting a year-long sea ice experiment provided daunting scientific and logistic challenges: low temperatures, high winds, ice breakup, demanding instruments, and polar bears.

There was an intense measurement program designed to obtain a complete, integrated time series of every possible variable defining the state of the “SHEBA column” over an entire annual cycle. This column is an imaginary cylinder stretching from the top of the atmosphere through the ice into the upper ocean. Observations included longwave and shortwave radiative fluxes; the turbulent fluxes of latent and sensible heat; cloud height, thickness, phase, and properties; energy exchange in the boundary layers of the atmosphere and ocean; snow depth and ice thickness; and upper ocean salinity, temperature, and currents. This year-long, integrated data set provides a test bed for exploring the feedback mechanisms and for model development.

The full set of observations is available in a report entitled Reconciling different observational data sets from Surface Heat Budget of the Arctic Ocean (SHEBA) for model validation purposes

All the detailed measurements are in the report, and the takeaway findings are summarized in Figure 8 below.

Figure 8. (a) Main components of the Surface Heat Budget of the Arctic Ocean (SHEBA) surface energy budget at the Pittsburgh site. (b) Sensible and latent heat fluxes (calculated using bulk formulations). The dashed line indicates the beginning of the summer (1 April), and the dotted line marks the onset of surface melt (29 May). Fluxes are smoothed using a 7 day running mean.

Figure 8a shows how the conductive heat flux in winter (October –March) is controlled by the net longwave radiation. The net longwave radiation has large variability. It is generally high for clear sky conditions, and low for cloudy sky, and constitutes a heat loss from the surface throughout the whole year. The net shortwave radiation (Figure 8a) is steadily growing in spring and early summer with a sudden increase in mid-June when the snow cover starts disappearing and the albedo drops to a lower value. When the surface temperature is at the melting point, the energy surplus is used for melting. This heat flux becomes the major counterbalance of the net solar flux during summer (April –September).

The sensible heat flux (Figure 8b) is usually small except in winter during clear sky conditions when the air temperature is relatively higher than the surface and the wind speed is higher [see Walsh and Chapman, 1998] (see Figure 1). In general, the surface is colder than the overlying air and the sensible heat is downward. During the winter,the sensible heat flux and the net longwave radiation are generally anticorrelated (Figures 8a – 8b). That is, the heat loss from the surface to the atmosphere during clear sky conditions leads to a positive temperature gradient in the air and results in a downward sensible heat flux. The coupling between these two fluxes is discussed in more detail by Makshtas et al. [1999]. The latent heat flux (Figure 8b) is close to zero except after the onset of the melt season when it has several peaks indicating moisture transport from the surface to the atmosphere. Figure 8a shows most components of the surface energy budget together, and the residual from all fluxes.

The Effects of Polar Weather Intrusions

With this background understanding of the winter heat flux over Arctic ice, let us consider the implications of the recent study.

An interesting paper analyzes intrusive weather and estimates the connection between such events and ice extents in the Arctic. The paper is:  The role of moist intrusions in winter Arctic warming and sea ice decline in Journal of Climate 29(12):160314091706008 · March 2016 by Cian Woods and Rodrigo Caballero, Department of Meteorology, and Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden

FIG. 1. Region with ONDJ SIC > 90% and trend < 2% decade-1 (gray shading). Numbered black dots show the location of the radiosonde stations: 1) Barrow, 2) Resolute, 3) Eureka, 4) Alert, 5) Ny-Ålesund, 6) Bjørnøya (Bear Island), 7) Polargmo (Heiss Island), and 8) Dikson Island. Solid black lines show the Barents Sea box (75°–80°N, 20°–80°E). Dotted lines indicate the 70° and 80°N latitude lines.


This paper examines the trajectories followed by intense intrusions of moist air into the Arctic polar region during autumn and winter and their impact on local temperature and sea ice concentration. It is found that the vertical structure of the warming associated with moist intrusions is bottom amplified, corresponding to a transition of local conditions from a ‘‘cold clear’’ state with a strong inversion to a ‘‘warm opaque’’ state with a weaker inversion. In the marginal sea ice zone of the Barents Sea, the passage of an intrusion also causes a retreat of the ice margin, which persists for many days after the intrusion has passed. The authors find that there is a positive trend in the number of intrusion events crossing 708N during December and January that can explain roughly 45% of the surface air temperature and 30% of the sea ice concentration trends observed in the Barents Sea during the past two decades.

An injection event is defined as a vertically integrated northward moisture flux across 708N in excess of 200 Tg day21 deg21 that is sustained for at least 1.5 days and occupies a contiguous zonal extent of at least 98 at all times.

The case study in Fig. 2 shows that the passage of an intrusion can induce local warming of over 20 K in the central Arctic. Here, we examine the typical thermodynamic impact of intrusions, focusing on the fully ice-covered interior of the Arctic basin—specifically, the region where monthly climatological SIC exceeds 90% and shows negligible trend across the data record. This region is shaded gray in Fig. 1.

FIG. 2. Case study of an intrusion event beginning over northern Norway at 1800 UTC on 27 December 1999. Each panel shows a snapshot at a time relative to the beginning of the event as indicated in the lower-right corner. Gray lines show centroid trajectories with gray dots at 1-day intervals. Shading shows surface air temperature anomaly from a 6-hourly, smoothed seasonal cycle, arrows show 10-m wind, and the heavy black line shows the 15% SIC contour. As a reference, the dashed black line shows the 15% SIC contour 5 days before the beginning of the event. Dotted line is the 70°N latitude line. Thin black lines in the +5 days panel show the Barents Sea box.

An example intrusion event is shown in Fig. 2. The injection occurs over the northern tip of Norway and lasts for 1.75 days, yielding seven centroid trajectories. As the injection event progresses, its centroid shifts slowly eastward, giving some zonal spread in centroid trajectories. The flow field during the event features a large-scale dipole straddling the North Pole, with cyclonic circulation over the Atlantic/North American sector and an anticyclone over Eurasia. The trajectories reflect this structure, heading toward the North Pole after injection and then curving cyclonically to exit the Arctic over North America. The intrusion event is associated with large surface air temperature anomalies in the central Arctic and a retreat of the sea ice margin in the Barents Sea, topics we discuss in detail in sections 4 and 5 below.

To focus on intrusions that reach deep into the Arctic basin, events in which fewer than 40% of the trajectory ensemble members reaches 808N over 5 days are discarded. This leaves us with a final dataset of 359 intrusion events from 1990 to 2012, or ;16 per ONDJ season.

It is clear from Fig. 3 that by far the largest fraction of intrusions enters the Arctic through the Atlantic sector, with smaller numbers entering over the Labrador Sea and Greenland and from the Pacific. Interestingly, intrusions entering via the Atlantic and the Barents/Kara sector typically turn cyclonically toward North America—just as in the case study above—while those entering to the east of the Kara Sea typically turn anticyclonically and exit over Siberia. This suggests that moist intrusions into the Arctic are typically associated with cyclonic anomalies over eastern North America and anticyclonic anomalies over western Siberia, consistent with previous work.


FIG. 5. (top) Humidity and (bottom) temperature profiles (left) in the ice-covered Arctic Ocean during ONDJ and (right) in the Barents Sea box during DJ. Solid lines show climatologies over the respective regions and seasons (representative of typical conditions in the absence of an intrusion event), and dashed lines show profiles at the time of maximum surface warming during a composite intrusion event (representative of conditions at the peak of the event).

A key feature of the warming trend in the Arctic is that it is bottom amplified (i.e., that it is in fact a trend toward a weakening of the climatological temperature inversion that prevails in ice-covered regions of the Arctic basin in winter). This feature has previously been mostly attributed to increased upward turbulent heat flux due to sea ice loss (Serreze et al. 2009; Screen and Simmonds 2010a,b).

Our results suggest a more nuanced view. The passage of an intrusion affects local conditions by inducing a transition from a “cold clear” state with a strong inversion to a “warm opaque” state with a much weaker inversion, in agreement with recent modeling work (Pithan et al. 2014; Cronin and Tziperman 2015). This yields an overall bottom-amplified local temperature perturbation, owing largely to surface heating by increased downwelling longwave radiation.

An increase in the frequency of intrusions can therefore drive bottom-amplified warming trend even in the absence of sea ice loss. In addition, the intrusions themselves drive sea ice retreat in the marginal zone and thus promote the upward turbulent fluxes that help produce bottom-amplified warming.

Our results agree with other recent work showing a strong impact of poleward moisture flux on Arctic sea ice variability and trends (D.-S. R. Park et al. 2015; H.-S. Park et al. 2015a,b). Since most of the moisture flux into the Arctic occurs in a small number of extreme events (Woods et al. 2013; Liu and Barnes 2015), it is natural to take an event-based approach as we do here, which allows us to study the structure of the intrusion events and their link to dynamical processes in the Arctic region and at lower latitudes.

Predicted surface air temperature trends (Fig. 9f) are greatest in the Barents Sea area extending into the central Arctic in agreement with observations (Fig. 9k), with the average trend predicted in the Barents Sea box approximately 45% of that observed. This localization of the trends arises both because intrusion counts have risen most rapidly in that region (Fig. 8b) and because individual intrusions have the greatest impact in that region (Fig. 9a). The predicted trend has a peak amplitude of about 3 K decade-1, about half of the observed value. For SIC the predicted trend (Fig. 9g) again coincides spatially with the observed trend (Fig. 9l) and peaks at about 10% decade, or about 1/3 the observed value at the same location, with the average predicted trend in the Barents Sea box being approximately 30% of that observed.


Current wind patterns over Barents and the Atlantic gateway to the Arctic can viewed at nullschool:,74.48,522/loc=33.553,72.930


Arctic Sea Ice: Self-Oscillating System

Arctic Shifts between Cyclonic and Anticyclonic Wind Regimes The Great Arctic Ice Exchange

Arctic Ice Usual Suspects

Drift ice in Okhotsk Sea at sunrise.

Previous posts have noted that in March, all the Arctic seas are locked in ice, the exceptions being Bering and Okhotsk in the Pacific, and Barents and Baffin Bay in the Atlantic. And the seesaw continues, shown in the images below.  Firstly on the Atlantic side, featuring Baffin Bay and Kara, Barents, Greenland Seas.

And on the Pacific side, the only action is in Bering and Okhotsk Seas.

The overall NH extents are down from the 11-year average, and it is mostly due to deficits in the usual places: Barents, Bering and Okhotsk, somewhat offset by a surplus in Baffin. All of them melt out in September, and Bering and Okhotsk basins are effectively outside of the Arctic ocean per se.

As reported previously, 2017 peaked early, rising close to the average on day 53 in February, then losing extent and never achieving the 15M km2 threshold.  14.8 M km2 proved to be the 2017 peak daily ice extent.  2016 also lost extent throughout March, though higher than the current year, and will likely end with a higher monthly average.  2006 and 2017 are virtually tied at this point, though 2017 will likely end up higher on the month.  SII shows about 300km2 less extent for the month, but drawing closer lately.

The Table below presents the ice extents reported by MASIE for day 80 in the years 2017, 2006 and the 11-year average (2006 through 2016).

Region 2017080 Day 080
2017-Ave. 2006080 2017-2006
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 14306702 14928081 -621379 14340618 -33916
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 1070445 1069983 462 1068295 2150
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 966006 965416 590 962459 3547
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 1087137 1086906 231 1084627 2510
 (4) Laptev_Sea 897845 897785 60 897773 71
 (5) Kara_Sea 845743 923038 -77295 933929 -88185
 (6) Barents_Sea 512177 624900 -112723 707363 -195187
 (7) Greenland_Sea 666783 636333 30449 635643 31139
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 1567538 1514854 52684 1099497 468041
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 853214 852858 356 852715 499
 (10) Hudson_Bay 1260903 1258471 2432 1238627 22276
 (11) Central_Arctic 3246109 3229176 16933 3246726 -617
 (12) Bering_Sea 629171 819540 -190369 603351 25820
 (13) Baltic_Sea 43534 89187 -45653 153837 -110304
 (14) Sea_of_Okhotsk 647215 940291 -293076 819326 -172111
 (15) Yellow_Sea 0 158 -158 1067 -1067
 (16) Cook_Inlet 9489 7555 1934 7101 2388

The 2017 deficit to average is largely due to Okhotsk and Bering declining early, along with Barents and Kara.  A surplus in Baffin somewhat offsets these, especially in comparison with 2006.

To summarize, central Arctic seas are locked in ice, while extents have started to decline in the peripheral basins.  As of day 80, extents in 2017 are 4% below average and tied with 2006.






Ocean Physics in a Cup of Coffee


The Great Arctic Cyclone of 2012 from satellite.

 Recently I posted Ocean Climate Ripples summarizing an article by Dr. Arnd Bernaerts on how humans impact upon the oceans and thereby the climate. His references to activities in the North and Baltic Seas included this comment:

It works like a spoon stirring hot coffee, attracting cold air from Siberia. In this respect they serve as confined research regions, like a unique field laboratory experiment.

This post presents an article by John S. Wettlaufer who sees not only the oceans but cosmic patterns in coffee cup vorticies. His essay is The universe in a cup of coffee.  (Bolded text is my emphasis.)

John Wettlaufer is the A. M. Bateman Professor of Geophysics, Physics, and Applied Mathematics at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut.

As people throughout the world awake, millions of them every minute perform the apparently banal act of pouring cold milk into hot coffee or tea. Those too groggy to reach for a spoon might notice upwelling billows of milk separated by small, sinking, linear dark features such as shown in panel a of the figure. The phenomenon is such a common part of our lives that even scientists—trained to be observant—may overlook its importance and generality. The pattern bears resemblance to satellite images of ocean color, and the physics behind it is responsible for the granulated structure of the Sun and other cosmic objects less amenable to scrutiny.

(a) Everyone knows that if you wait for a while coffee will get cold. The primary agent doing the cooling is evaporatively driven convection. Pour cold milk into hot coffee and wait. The cold milk mixes very little as it sinks to the bottom of the cup, but eventually cold plumes created by evaporation at the surface sink down and displace the milk. In time, a pattern forms of upwelling (lighter) and downwelling (darker) fluid.

Archimedes pondered the powerful agent of motion known as buoyancy more than two millennia ago. Children do, too, when they imagine the origins of cloud animals on a summer’s day. The scientific study of thermal and compositional buoyancy originated in 1798 with a report by Count Rumford intended to disabuse believers of the caloric theory. Nowadays, buoyancy is at the heart of some of the most challenging problems in nonlinear physics—problems that are increasingly compelling. Answers to fundamental questions being investigated today will have implications for understanding Earth’s heat budget, the transport of atmospheric and oceanographic energy, and, as a corollary, the climate and fate of stars and the origins of planets. Few avenues of study combine such basic challenges with such a broad swath of implications. Nonetheless, the richness of fluid flow is rarely found in undergraduate physics courses. 

Wake up and smell the physics

The modern theory of hydrodynamic stability arose from experiments by Henri Bénard, who heated, from below, a thin horizontal layer of spermaceti, a viscous, fluid wax. For small vertical temperature gradients, Bénard observed nothing remarkable; the fluid conducted heat up through its surface but exhibited no wholesale motion as it did so. However, when the gradient reached a critical value, a hexagonal pattern abruptly appeared as organized convective motions emerged from what had been an homogenous fluid. The threshold temperature gradient was described by Lord Rayleigh as reflecting the balance between thermal buoyancy and viscous stresses, embodied in a dimensionless parameter now called the Rayleigh number. 

When the momentary thermal buoyancy of a blob of fluid—provided by the hot lower boundary—overcomes the viscous stresses of the surrounding fluid, wholesale organized motion ensues. The strikingly structured fluid, with its up-and-down flow assuming specific geometries, is an iconic manifestation of how a dissipative system can demonstrate symmetry breaking (the up-and-down flow distinguishes horizontal positions even though the lower boundary is at a uniform temperature), self-organization, and beauty. (See the article by Leo Kadanoff in PHYSICS TODAY, August 2001, page 34.)

Astrophysicists and geophysicists can hardly make traction on many of the problems they face unless they come to grips with convection—and their quests are substantially complicated by their systems’ rotations. Despite the 1835 publication of Gaspard-Gustave Coriolis’s Mémoire sur les équations du mouvement relatif des systèmes de corps (On the Equations of Relative Motion of a System of Bodies), debate on the underlying mechanism behind the deflection of the Foucault pendulum raged in the 1905 volume of Annalen der Physik, the same volume in which Albert Einstein introduced the world to special relativity. Maybe the lack of comprehension is not so surprising: Undergraduates still more easily grasp Einstein’s theory than the Coriolis effect, which is essential for understanding why, viewed from above, atmospheric circulation around a low pressure system over a US city is counterclockwise but circulation over an Australian city is clockwise. 

Practitioners of rotating-fluid mechanics generally credit mathematical physicist Vagn Walfrid Ekman for putting things in the modern framework, in another key paper from 1905. Several years earlier, during his famous Fram expedition, explorer Fridtjof Nansen had observed that ice floes moved to the right of the wind that imparted momentum to them. Nansen then suggested to Ekman that he investigate the matter theoretically. That the deflection was due to the ocean’s rotating with Earth was obvious, but Ekman described the corrections that must be implemented in a noninertial reference frame. Since so much in the extraterrestrial realm is spinning, scientists taken by cosmological objects eventually embraced Ekman’s formulation and sought evidence for large-scale vortex structures in the accretion disks around stars. Vortices don’t require convection and when convection is part of a vortex-producing system, additional and unexpected patterns ensue. 

Cream, sugar, and spinning

The Arctic Ocean freezes, cooling and driving salt into the surface layers. Earth’s inner core solidifies, leaving a buoyant, iron-depleted metal. Rapidly rising air from heated land surfaces creates thunderstorms. Planetary accretion disks receive radiation from their central stars. In all these systems, rotation has a hand in the fate of rising or sinking fluid. What about your steaming cup of coffee: What happens when you spin that?

(b) Several views of a volume of water 11.4 cm deep with a cross section of 22.9 × 22.9 cm. Panel b shows the liquid about 7.5 minutes after the fluid is set in motion at a few tenths of a radian per second. The principal image indicates particle density (light is denser) at a depth of 0.6 cm below the surface. The inset is a thermal image of the surface

Place the cup in the center of a spinning record player— some readers may even remember listening to music on one of those. The friction from the wall of the cup transmits stresses into the fluid interior. If the coffee is maintained at a fixed temperature for about a minute, every parcel of fluid will move at the same angular velocity; the coffee is said to be spun up.

On the time scales of contemporary atmospheric and oceanographic phenomena, Earth’s rotation is indeed a constant, whereas the time variation of the rotation could be important for phenomena in planetary interiors, the evolution of an accretion disk, or tidal perturbations of a distant moon. Thus convective vortices are contemplated relative to a rotating background flow. Perturbations in the rotation rate revive the role of boundary friction and substantially influence the interior circulation. Moreover, evaporation and freezing represent additional perturbations, which alter how the fluid behaves as stresses attempt to enforce uniform rotation. Returning to the coffee mug as laboratory, the model system shown in panel b of the figure reveals how the added complexity of rotation momentarily organizes the pattern seen in panel a into concentric rings of cold and warm fluid.

(c) Panel c shows the breakup of the rings, 11 minutes after the initiation of rotation, due to a shearing instability.

Fundamental competitions play out when you rotate your evaporating coffee. As we have seen, evaporative cooling drives narrow regions of downward convection; significant viscous and Coriolis effects balance each other in those downwelling regions. Rotation then dramatically organizes the sinking cold sheets and rising warm billows into concentric rings that first form at the center of the cup. By about 7.5 minutes after rotation has been initiated, the rings shown in panel b have grown to cover most of the horizontal plane. Their uniform azimuthal motion exists for about 3.5 minutes, at which time so-called Kelvin–Helmholtz billows associated with the shearing between the rings appear at their boundaries, grow, and roll up into vortices; see panel c. Three minutes later, as shown in panel d, those vortices lose their azimuthal symmetry and assemble into a regular vortex grid whose centers contain sinking fluid.

(d) As panel d shows, at 14 minutes the breakup leads to a grid of vortices. (Adapted from J.-Q. Zhong, M. D. Patterson, J. S. Wettlaufer, Phys. Rev. Lett. 105, 044504, 2010.)

Panel d shows one type of coherent structure that forms in rotating fluids and other mathematically analogous systems if the persistence time of the structure—vortices here— is much longer than the rotational period. Other well-known examples are Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, which is an enduring feature of the chaotic Jovian atmosphere, and the meandering jet streams on Earth.

Moreover, persistent vortices in superconductors and superfluids organize themselves. Indeed, it appears that vortices in superconductors are as mobile as their counterparts in inviscid fluids. And although scientists have long studied rotating convective superfluids, the classical systems considered in this Quick Study suggest that we may yet find surprising analogies in superconductors. Will we one day see superconducting jet streams?

If you are reading this article with a cup of coffee, put it down and take a closer look at what is going on in your cup.


Wettlaufer has been an advocate for getting the physics right in climate models.  His analogy of a cuppa coffee is actually a demonstration of mesoscale fluid and rotational dynamics and perturbations that still defy human attempts to simulate climate operations.


Six Reasons to Rescind Social Cost of Carbon


A consise summary is provided by Paul Driessen and Roger Bezdek
in this article Anti-fossil fuel SCC relies on garbage models, ignores carbon benefits and hurts the poor. Excerpts below.

The UN Development Program also calls energy “central to poverty reduction.” And International Energy Agency Executive Director Dr. Fatih Birol notes that “coal is raising living standards and lifting hundreds of millions of people out of poverty.” In fact, all fossil fuels are doing so.

Indeed, fossil fuels created the modern world and the housing, transportation, other technologies and living standards so many of us take for granted. They are essential for electricity and life, and over the past 250 years they more than doubled average life expectancy in countries that took advantage of them.

But the Obama Administration and radical environmentalists despise fossil fuels and used every tactic they could devise to eliminate them. One of their most important schemes was the “social cost of carbon.”

Six Things Wrong with Social Cost of Carbon

1. Each ton of U.S. emissions averted would initially have prevented a hypothetical $25/ton in global societal costs allegedly resulting from dangerous manmade climate change: less coastal flooding and tropical disease, fewer droughts and extreme weather events, for example. But within three years regulators arbitrarily increased the SCC to around $40/ton.

That made it easier to justify the Clean Power Plan, Paris climate agreement, and countless Obama Era actions on electricity generation, fracking, methane, pipelines, vehicle mileage and appliance efficiency standards, livestock operations, carbon taxes, and wind, solar and biofuel mandates and subsidies.

2. The supposed bedrock for the concept is the now rapidly shifting sands of climate chaos theory. New questions are arising almost daily about data quality and manipulation, the degree to which carbon dioxide affects global temperatures, the complex interplay of solar, cosmic ray, oceanic and other natural forces, and the inability of computer models to predict temperatures, sea level rise or hurricanes.

3. The SCC scheme blames American emissions for supposed costs worldwide (even though U.S. CO2 emissions are actually declining). It incorporates almost every conceivable cost of oil, gas and coal use on crops, forests, coastal cities, property damage, “forced migration,” and human health, nutrition and disease. However, it utterly fails to mention, much less analyze, tremendous and obvious carbon benefits.

4. CC schemes likewise impute only costs to carbon dioxide emissions. However, as thousands of scientific studies verify, rising levels of this miracle molecule are “greening” the Earth – reducing deserts and improving forests, grasslands, drought resistance, crop yields and human nutrition. No matter which government report or discount rate is used, asserted social costs of more CO2 in Earth’s atmosphere are infinitesimal compared to its estimated benefits.

5.  Government officials claim they can accurately forecast damages to the world’s climate, economies, civilizations, populations and ecosystems from U.S. carbon dioxide emissions over the next three centuries. They say we must base today’s energy policies, laws, and regulations on those forecasts. The notion is delusional and dangerous.

6. Finally, the most fundamental issue isn’t even the social cost of carbon. It is the costs inflicted on society by anti-carbon regulations. Those rules replace fossil fuel revenues with renewable energy subsidies; reliable, affordable electricity with unreliable power that costs two to three times as much; and mines, drill holes, cropland and wildlife habitats with tens of millions of acres of wind, solar and biofuel “farms.”


Anti-carbon rules are designed to drive energy de-carbonization and modern nation de-industrialization. Perhaps worst, their impacts fall hardest on poor, minority and blue-collar families. . . Worldwide, billions of people still do not have electricity – and the SCC would keep them deprived of its benefits.

It’s time to rescind and defund the SCC – and replace it with honest, objective cost-benefit analyses.

Roger Bezdek is an internationally recognized energy analyst and president of Management Information Services, Inc. Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and author of books and articles on energy, climate change and human rights.

Additional posts:

Social Cost of Carbon: Origin and Prospects

The Social Benefits of Carbon

Ocean Surface Temps–How Low Will They Go?


Ocean temperature measurements come from a global array of 3,500 Argo floats and other ocean sensors. Credits: Argo Program, Germany/Ifremer

We have seen lots of claims about the temperature records for 2016 and 2015 proving dangerous man made warming.  At least one senator stated that in a confirmation hearing.  Now that HadSST3 data is complete through February 2017, let’s see how obvious is the ocean’s governing of global average temperatures.

The best context for understanding these last two years comes from the world’s sea surface temperatures (SST), for several reasons:

  • The ocean covers 71% of the globe and drives average temperatures;
  • SSTs have a constant water content, (unlike air temperatures), so give a better reading of heat content variations;
  • A major El Nino was the dominant climate feature the last two years.

HadSST is generally regarded as the best of the global SST data sets, and so the temperature story here comes from that source, the latest version being HadSST3.

The chart below shows the last two years of SST monthly anomalies as reported in HadSST3, along with the first two months of 2017.

Note that higher temps in 2015 and 2016 are first of all due to a sharp rise in Tropical SST, beginning in March 2015, peaking in February 2016, and steadily declining back to its beginning level. Secondly, the Northern Hemisphere added two bumps on the shoulders of Tropical warming, with peaks in August of each year. Also, note that the global release of heat was not dramatic, due to the Southern Hemisphere offsetting the Northern one.

Finally, the oceans are starting 2017 only slightly lower than a year ago, but this year with much cooler Tropics.  Notice that both the Tropics and also the Northern Hemisphere continue to cool.  The Global average warmed slightly, pulled upward by the Southern Hemisphere which reaches its summer peak at this time.

March may repeat 2016 when NH bottomed and SH peaked, or maybe both will rise or both will drop.  In the latter case, perhaps we will see the long-awaited La Nina.

H/T to Global Warming Policy Forum for adding this informative graphic:

Much ado has been made of this warming, including claims of human causation, despite the obvious oceanic origin. However, it is unreasonable to claim CO2 functions as a global warming agent, yet the two hemispheres respond so differently.  Moreover, CO2 warming theory expects greater warming in the higher latitudes, while this event was driven by heating in the Tropics, contradicting alarmist warming theory.

Solar energy accumulates massively in the ocean and is variably released during circulation events.


Skeptical Journalist Spotted, Species Feared Extinct

Just spotted this article:

A Skeptic’s View on Climate Models
By Ross Pomeroy January 23, 2017 in Real Clear Science

I like to think that I’m a good skeptic. I’ve read every word of Carl Sagan’s timeless Demon Haunted World. I almost always ask for evidence. I employ the scientific method to guide my actions. I try to think critically. I’m willing to admit when “I don’t know”. I question bold and crazy claims. And most importantly, I try not to let my ideology sway which claims I question. That’s why, as a skeptic, and as a firm advocate of science, I simply cannot accept the following claims without some level of incredulity:

“The next few decades offer a brief window of opportunity to minimize large-scale and potentially catastrophic climate change that will extend longer than the entire history of human civilization thus far.”

“The forest as we know it would effectively be gone.”

“We will have very few humans on the planet because of lack of habitat.”

Each of the preceding statements are bold, apocalyptic claims concerning climate change, and there are many more like them littered across the Internet. But just because they are widespread and originate from respectable, legitimate scientists, that does not mean I can simply switch off my skepticism. I must subject these claims to the same scrutiny that I would acupuncture, chiropractic, or demons. And when I do, I can only conclude that most claims of catastrophic, apocalyptic climate change are bogus.

But when it comes to portending doom and gloom, the tools scientists use — namely atmosphere and oceanic general circulation models — are woefully insufficient to render specific predictions about the future. The Earth is big, with so many moving parts it would make your head spin. Modeling its climate is a monumental task, and frankly, it’s impossible to do so with complete and total accuracy. Climate scientists try their best, taking into account variables such as cloud cover, albedo, water movement, radiation, and surface pressure. Unfortunately, as climate scientists alter their models to take into account more variables, some of which are poorly understood or difficult to measure, they introduce more sources of uncertainty.

To see if their models work, climatologists validate them against past data, figuring that if they match the past, they can predict the future. But there probably has never been a situation in the history of our planet where carbon dioxide has been the primary culprit of climate change. In other situations (most commonly volcanic eruptions) numerous other greenhouse gases also greatly increased the rate of heating. It’s really hard to build a model for a situation for which there is little historical precedent.

What does all of this mean? It means that anyone who says they know that climate change will result in (insert apocalyptic scenario here) is not making claims based on solid evidence.


The whole article is worth a read. He comes out at the end a lukewarmist while skeptical of climate models and dismissive of alarmist claims.

Steven “Ross” Pomeroy is Chief Editor of RealClearScience. A zoologist and conservation biologist by training, Ross has nurtured a passion for journalism and writing his entire life. Ross weaves his insatiable curiosity and passion for science into regular posts and articles on RealClearScience’s Newton Blog. Additionally, his work has appeared in Science Now and Scientific American.

For more on how climate models work see Climate Models Explained, an extended comment by Dr. R.G. Brown of Duke University.



Honey, I Shrunk the Arctic Ice! Not.

Image is from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, a 1989 American science fiction family film produced by Walt Disney Pictures.

The notion that man-made global warming causes Arctic ice to melt took a major hit with a recent publication.  The article is Influence of high-latitude atmospheric circulation changes on summertime Arctic sea ice by Qinghua Ding, Axel Schweiger, Michelle L’Heureux, David S. Battisti, Stephen Po-Chedley, Nathaniel C. Johnson, Eduardo Blanchard-Wrigglesworth, Kirstin Harnos, Qin Zhang, Ryan Eastman & Eric J. Steig.  (Warning: Reliability of published papers diminishes as numbers of co-authors increases.)

The paper was published online by Nature Climate Change on 13 March 2017. It is behind a paywall, but the reactions to it are revealing.  The abstract says:

The Arctic has seen rapid sea-ice decline in the past three decades, whilst warming at about twice the global average rate. Yet the relationship between Arctic warming and sea-ice loss is not well understood. Here, we present evidence that trends in summertime atmospheric circulation may have contributed as much as 60% to the September sea-ice extent decline since 1979. A tendency towards a stronger anticyclonic circulation over Greenland and the Arctic Ocean with a barotropic structure in the troposphere increased the downwelling longwave radiation above the ice by warming and moistening the lower troposphere. Model experiments, with reanalysis data constraining atmospheric circulation, replicate the observed thermodynamic response and indicate that the near-surface changes are dominated by circulation changes rather than feedbacks from the changing sea-ice cover. Internal variability dominates the Arctic summer circulation trend and may be responsible for about 30–50% of the overall decline in September sea ice since 1979. (my bolds)

Announcements of the finding were welcomed by skeptics and lukewarmists as an indication that climatologists were taking off their CO2 blinders and at last admitting to natural forces internal to the climate system.  Some responses were:

Arctic Ice Loss Driven by Natural Swings

Arctic ice loss driven by natural swings, not just mankind

Study in journal Nature: HALF of Arctic ice loss driven by natural swings — not ‘global warming’

Arctic Ice Alarmists are finding themselves skating on thin ice, as evidenced by their articles attempting to control the damage.  Some of these titles are:

We Deserve Half the Blame for Declining Arctic Sea Ice (Discover)

Humans to blame for bulk of Arctic sea ice loss: study (

Human activity is driving retreat of Arctic sea ice (from the misnamed Skeptical Science blog)

Why Alarmists are Twisting in the Wind

The full paper is behind a paywall, but we have description of the method and content by the lead author in an article at Popular Science Up to half of the Arctic’s melt might be totally natural–But climate change is still responsible for the rest.  He begins with his profession of faith:

“Anthropogenic forcing is still dominant — it’s still the key player,” said first author Qinghua Ding, a climate scientist at the University of California Santa Barbara. . .”But we found that natural variability has helped to accelerate this melting, especially over the past 20 years.”  A colleague adds:  “The results of Ding et al. do not call into question whether human-induced warming has led to Arctic sea-ice decline – a wide range of evidence shows that it has”.

This is the shibboleth demanded from any and all scientists who do not wish to be called “deniers” and cast into the outer darkness.

Note: A shibboleth is an old belief or saying that is repetitively cited but untrue.  This meaning evolved from its earlier significance as a word or custom whose variations in pronunciation or style are used to distinguish members of ingroups from those of outgroups, with an implicit value judgment based on familiarity with the shibboleth.(Wikipedia)

“The tribe has spoken.  Time for you to go!”

What Ding et al. Studied

Ding goes on to describe the nature of their analysis. (From Popular Science)

“There is a mismatch between the model’s output and the observation,” said lead author Qinghua Ding, a professor in the Geography Department at the University of California Santa Barbara. “Observation shows very fast, very abrupt sea ice melting, whereas the climate model cannot capture the fast melting.”

To understand why, Ding and his team focused on the connection between September sea-ice extent (or how much of the Arctic sea had at least 15 percent sea ice) and the preceding summer’s (June-August) atmospheric circulation. Ding knew from earlier work that tropical circulation can affect seasonal variability of sea ice in the Arctic.

“In the model we turned off all CO2 forcing,” said Ding, or all climate changes that were “forced” by the addition of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. “And we still got some sea ice melting, that was very similar to the observation.”

“If the circulation changes are caused by anthropogenic greenhouse warming (or other human or natural external forcings such as ozone depletion, aerosol emissions, or solar activity) this pattern of atmospheric change should emerge as a clear signature when averaging together many climate model simulations of this period,” Neil Swart, a Research Scientist with Environment and Climate Change Canada who wasn’t involved in the new study, wrote in an accompanying article.

But when Ding averaged the climate models together, the air circulation changes cancelled each other out—like a balanced equation. They only data that remained in the models was responding to external forcings, like greenhouse gas emissions. In other words, Ding found that between 30-50 percent of the arctic melting is due to these unforced, or non-climate change caused variations—and that with this factored in, the climate models were generally accurate. The increased rapidity of Arctic melting was due to natural variations outside of the scope of the climate change models.

What Can Be Learned from Ding et al.

First note that they are climate modelers studying the behavior of models when parameters are manipulated.  It is encouraging that they notice the incompleteness of their models leads to discrepancies from reality.  This is a step in the right direction.

Second, note that the CO2 forcing is actually their term for all external forcings, including solar, aerosols etc.  They seem to be blind to oceanic multi-decadal and multi-centennial oscillations.  They make a leap of faith when they attribute every factor outside of atmospheric circulation to CO2.

Others more comprehensive in their research have concluded that fluctuations in the ocean water structure drive both ice extent changes and atmospheric circulations. See Arctic Sea Ice: Self-Oscillating System featuring the work of V. F. Zakharov and others at the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute in St. Petersburg.


Some climate modelers are undermining core beliefs even while using a flawed methodology based on studying models rather than nature itself. Alarmists are forced into scrambling to continue blaming humans for declining Arctic Sea Ice. When the effects of oceanic circulations are added to atmospheric effects, there is little influence left for CO2.

Spinning the papers to keep the narrative alive.


The abstract mentions downwelling longwave radiation, a theoretical effect that in practice is overwhelmed by massive heat transfers upward into space.

In the Arctic (and also at the South Pole), the air is in direct contact with an infinite heat sink: outer space. The tropopause (where radiative loss upward is optimized) is only 7 km above the surface at the poles in winter, compared to 20 km at the equator. There is no door to open or close; the air is constantly convecting any and all energy away from the surface for radiation into space.

Instead of an open door, Arctic ice melts when the sun climbs over the horizon. Both the water and air are warmed, and the ice cover retreats until sundown in Autumn.

Most people fail to appreciate the huge heat losses at the Arctic pole. Mark Brandon has an excellent post on this at his wonderful blog, Mallemaroking.

By his calculations the sensible heat loss in Arctic winter ranges 200-400 Wm2.

The annual cycle of sensible heat flux from the ocean to the atmosphere for 4 different wind speeds

As the diagram clearly shows, except for a short time in high summer, the energy flow is from the water heating the air.

“Then the heat loss over the 2×109 m2 of open water in that image is a massive 600 GW – yes that is Giga Watts – 600 x 10^9 Watts.

If you want to be really inappropriate then in 2 hours, that part of the ocean lost more energy than it takes to run the London Underground for one year.

Remember that is just one component and not the full heat budget – which is partially why it is inappropriate. For the full budget we have to include latent heat flux, long wave radiation, short wave radiation, energy changes through state changes when ice grows and decays, and so on. Also large heat fluxes lead to rapid sea ice growth which then insulates the ocean from further heat loss.”





The Weathermen vs. EPA’s Scott Pruitt

This week the AMS (American Meteorological Society) sent a letter chastising Scott Pruitt for keeping an open mind on the question of man-made global warming/climate change. The letter (here) referred to the AMS institutional statement on the matter, and summarized their position in this paragraph:

In reality, the world’s seven billion people are causing climate to change and our emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases are the primary cause. This is a conclusion based on the comprehensive assessment of scientific evidence. It is based on multiple independent lines of evidence that have been affirmed by thousands of independent scientists and numerous scientific institutions around the world. We are not familiar with any scientific institution with relevant subject matter expertise that has reached a different conclusion.

Background on AMS and Climate Science

Firstly, not all the weathermen are contrary to EPA Chief Scott Pruitt.  The statement announced in 2012 can only be seen as a Council Statement resulting from a process initiated and controlled by AMS council.

The Council puts out a call for volunteers for the writing teams, and approves the make-up of those teams. A Council member serves as a liaison to the team. The writing team’s initial draft is put out to the entire membership for a comment period. The writing team responds to those comments and executes a redraft. The Council, meeting in person or in teleconference, may make final edits before voting to approve or disapprove the statements.  With some over-simplification the process is driven by the AMS Council; the resulting products are Council statements.

Secondly, a subsequent survey showed that the views expressed by the AMS Council have mixed support among AMS members. Respondents numbered 1827 and 52% said “Yes, Most of the warming since 1850 is due to humans.” The other responses included: Insufficient Evidence, Equally Human and Natural, Not Sure It is Happening, and Mostly Natural (in order of frequency). Clearly almost half of the membership sample do not agree with the IPCC position endorsed by AMS Council.

A more recent 2016 survey got a higher number of agreeable members (67%), but it is still the case that 47% of 4092 members contacted did not respond to the questionnaire.

Further, these surveys are now being conducted in the context of the Council already committing the society prior to seeking the views of members. Finally, the whole exercise demonstrates that global warming/climate change is clearly a matter of opinion, not knowledge.

Of course, the questionnaires are superficial and geared to produce a “consensus” support for policy action and for project funding. In depth surveys show much more the complexity of the issues and range of opinions.

Climate Etc. Has several posts going into the details of the AMS maneuvers.

AMS Statement on Climate Change

The 52% Consensus

New AMS Survey on Climate Change

For another assessment including a comment and references by Roger Pielke Sr. See:
AMS Letter to Pruitt,How Ideologues Abuse Power in Professional Associations

Spreading Climatephobia


Depression, anxiety, PTSD: The mental impact of climate change is an article from CNN (“All the Fear All the Time”). It starts with a compelling human interest story about a woman suffering emotional problems due to flooding of her home in Shropshire UK.

Two years later, not long after work was completed on their rural home, they got a sign of what it really meant to live in their new village: It was prone to flooding.

They were almost struck by the extreme weather seen in the UK in 2014, which saw major storms hit the country at levels not seen in the country for over 20 years.

The family of four lived in a recreational vehicle on the surrounding farmland for more than a year after the flood, while they dealt with insurers and builders who would eventually restore their home.

Their finances were hit hard, and daily life was a challenge. “All that we had worked for was completely destroyed,” Shepherd said.

According to Shepherd, her village was also flooded in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2005, though her house was not directly affected in those years. She also now has a flood plan that outlines everything she needs to do if this were to happen again.

“One of the major health effects of flooding seems to be the mental health aspects,” said James Rubin, a psychologist at Kings College London whose recent research looked into the psychological impact of people both directly and indirectly effected by floods. “There are a whole host of stressors around it,” he said.

These types of natural disasters are expected to rise in frequency due to climate change, and Rubin feels that the mental health aspect deserves more attention.  “Preventing (climate change) from happening, from worsening and intervening is really important,” he said.

Climate change is predicted to bring more than just floods: There could be heat waves, sea level rises causing loss of land, and forced migration and droughts affecting agriculture and the farmers producing it. And with these concerns comes a plethora of issues plaguing the human mind, such as depression, worry, anxiety, substance abuse, aggression and even suicide among those who cannot cope.

Climate Activists/Alarmists  Are to Blame for Climatephobia

In their push for “saving the planet” they strive to portray nature in the role of the Big Bad Wolf, who scared the three little pigs by threatening to “Huff and Puff and Blow Your House Down.” Of course in the fable, the adaptive solution was to build a brick house not on a flood plane.

The false claims of future bad weather due to human activity do cause people to be anxious beyond reason.  Natural disasters have always done damage and required efforts to recover. What is new is the added doomsday predictions without a shred of evidence.

Droughts and Floods are not showing any particular trend: Data vs. Models; Droughts and Floods

This is your brain on climate alarm.

Climatephobia is addictive. Just say No!

Footnote: The post Climate Medicine describes the larger effort by medical scientists to cash in on climate funding.

The Limitations of Climate Science

Here is a fine exposition of Bob Carter’s thoughts on the field of climate science and why we should not jump to conclusions concerning global warming/climate change.  The text and some illustrations are provided by Russ Swan in his post (here).  I added one at the end.

Have you ever wondered about these people when they are so definite about mankind causing climate change? Have you ever wondered how much of the information is from their own expertise and how much is what they’ve learned from someone else? Are they really passing on real proven scientific facts or just what they believe to be true from information provided by someone else?

Or do you just accept what they are telling you?

The average person on the street might be forgiven for thinking that climate change scientists are primarily meteorologists or climatologists plus perhaps some others with supporting expertise.  But that would be only partially right.

The subjects relating to climate change actually diverge into more than 100 scientific sub-disciplines, the elements of which can be exceptionally intricate, highly complicated and intertwined.  Just changing one of the many data inputs e.g. the output chemistry of sub-sea volcanoes to a climate change puzzle can flow-on to incorrect or at least misleading changes in the final solution. And the answer will still be a “best probable” result – not fact.

At most there may be a handful of scientists that have mastery of two or three scientific disciplines such as Professor Robert M. Carter (decd) who was a qualified palaeontogist, stratigrapher and marine geologist.  Yet even if a scientist does have expertise in two or more of the climate change elements, he/she still needs to find and use data from other sources to cover the gaps in his/her own knowledge. Such data may in turn only be a “best probable” solution as opposed to fact(s) as will be explained further below.


No Such Thing as a Climate Expert

It must therefore be obvious that there can be no such thing as an “expert” simply because no one can fully comprehend the entirety of it all.

This doesn’t stop the media, in particular the TV media in regularly presenting interviewees as experts to lend credibility to their show. But anyone who claims or admits to being an expert in climate change is either kidding themselves, egocentric or is being deceitful.

The bottom line is that when a supposed expert fronts up in the media – watch it guardedly or else switch the channel.   At the end of the day everyone, including the scientists themselves are basically amateurs when a topic is outside their own field of expertise – even if they are an educated amateur.

But having someone with at least some scientific background involved in climate change discussions has got to be far more preferable than pulling celebrities into the debate. These people despite their best intentions, are simply promoting their own views and muddying the waters for the public to make a realistic conclusion in their own minds.



Apart from that all three groups of scientists generally DO agree that the Earth’s climate has always changed, that human emissions affect local climates e.g. urban areas and have a summed potential to affect climate globally, and that carbon dioxide is a mild greenhouse house – note the word “mild”.

The real argument then is not about whether the Earth is heating up, but about how relevant is AGW when considered against natural climate change processes.

The Blind Men and the Elephant (Indian Fable)


Footnote:  For more on science as knowledge rather than opinion see Yellow Climate Journalism