Arctic Adds 3 Wadhams of Ice in November (so far)

After concerns over lackluster ice recovery in October, November is seeing ice roaring back.  The image above shows the last 3 weeks adding 3 M km2 of sea ice.  (The metric 1 Wadham = 1 M km2 comes from the professor’s predictions of an ice-free Arctic, meaning less than 1 M km2 extent) The Russian shelf seas on the left filled with ice early on.  On the CanAm side, Beaufort at the bottom center is iced over, Canadian Archipelago (center right) is frozen, and Baffin Bay is filling from the north down.  Hudson Bay (far right) first grew fast ice around the edges, and is now half iced over.  A background post is reprinted below, showing that in just 23 days, 2020 has added 3.1 M km2, 50% more than an average 30-day November.

The graph above shows November Arctic ice extents for the 13-year average and some other notable years.  Note 2020 starts the month 1.5 M km2 below average, and is now ~400k km2 down, with sharp gains in the last week.  SII and MASIE have been closely synchronized, with SII lagging behind lately, while MASIE 2020 is close to 2019. 

Background from Previous Post: Arctic October Pent-up Ice Recovery

Some years ago reading a thread on global warming at WUWT, I was struck by one person’s comment: “I’m an actuary with limited knowledge of climate metrics, but it seems to me if you want to understand temperature changes, you should analyze the changes, not the temperatures.” That rang bells for me, and I applied that insight in a series of Temperature Trend Analysis studies of surface station temperature records. Those posts are available under this heading. Climate Compilation Part I Temperatures

This post seeks to understand Arctic Sea Ice fluctuations using a similar approach: Focusing on the rates of extent changes rather than the usual study of the ice extents themselves. Fortunately, Sea Ice Index (SII) from NOAA provides a suitable dataset for this project. As many know, SII relies on satellite passive microwave sensors to produce charts of Arctic Ice extents going back to 1979.  The current Version 3 has become more closely aligned with MASIE, the modern form of Naval ice charting in support of Arctic navigation. The SII User Guide is here.

There are statistical analyses available, and the one of interest (table below) is called Sea Ice Index Rates of Change (here). As indicated by the title, this spreadsheet consists not of monthly extents, but changes of extents from the previous month. Specifically, a monthly value is calculated by subtracting the average of the last five days of the previous month from this month’s average of final five days. So the value presents the amount of ice gained or lost during the present month.

These monthly rates of change have been compiled into a baseline for the period 1980 to 2010, which shows the fluctuations of Arctic ice extents over the course of a calendar year. Below is a graph of those averages of monthly changes during the baseline period. Those familiar with Arctic Ice studies will not be surprised at the sign wave form. December end is a relatively neutral point in the cycle, midway between the September Minimum and March Maximum.

The graph makes evident the six spring/summer months of melting and the six autumn/winter months of freezing.  Note that June-August produce the bulk of losses, while October-December show the bulk of gains. Also the peak and valley months of March and September show very little change in extent from beginning to end.

The table of monthly data reveals the variability of ice extents over the last 4 decades.

Table 1 Monthly Arctic Ice rates of Extent Changes in M km2. Months with losses in pink, months with gains in blue.

The values in January show changes from the end of the previous December, and by summing twelve consecutive months we can calculate an annual rate of change for the years 1979 to 2019.

As many know, there has been a decline of Arctic ice extent over these 40 years, averaging 40k km2 per year. But year over year, the changes shift constantly between gains and losses.

Moreover, it seems random as to which months are determinative for a given year. For example, much ado has been printed about October 2020 being slower than expected to refreeze and add ice extents. As it happens in this dataset, October has the highest rate of adding ice. The table below shows the variety of monthly rates in the record as anomalies from the 1980-2010 baseline. In this exhibit a red cell is a negative anomaly (less than baseline for that month) and blue is positive (higher than baseline).

Note that the  +/ –  rate anomalies are distributed all across the grid, sequences of different months in different years, with gains and losses offsetting one another.  Yes, October 2020 recorded a lower than average gain, but higher than 2016. The loss in July 2020 was the largest of the year, during the hot Siberian summer.  The bottom line presents the average anomalies for each month over the period 1979-2020.  Note the rates of gains and losses mostly offset, and the average of all months in the bottom right cell is virtually zero.

A final observation: The graph below shows the Yearend Arctic Ice Extents for the last 30 years.

Note: SII daily extents file does not provide complete values prior to 1988.

Year-end Arctic ice extents (last 5 days of December) show three distinct regimes: 1989-1998, 1998-2010, 2010-2019. The average year-end extent 1989-2010 is 13.4M km2. In the last decade, 2009 was 13.0M km2, and ten years later, 2019 was 12.8M km2. So for all the the fluctuations, the net loss was 200k km2, or 1.5%. Talk of an Arctic ice death spiral is fanciful.

These data show a noisy, highly variable natural phenomenon. Clearly, unpredictable factors are in play, principally water structure and circulation, atmospheric circulation regimes, and also incursions and storms. And in the longer view, today’s extents are not unusual.

 

 

Illustration by Eleanor Lutz shows Earth’s seasonal climate changes. If played in full screen, the four corners present views from top, bottom and sides. It is a visual representation of scientific datasets measuring Arctic ice extents.

Arctic Flash Freezing in November

 

After concerns over lackluster ice recovery in October, November is seeing ice roaring back.  The image above shows the last 10 days adding sea ice at an average rate of 215k km2 per day.  The Russian shelf seas on the right have filled with ice in this period.  On the CanAm side, Beaufort at the top left is iced over, Canadian Archipelago (center left) is frozen, and Baffin Bay is filling from the north down.  Hudson Bay (far left) has grown fast ice around the edges.  A background post is reprinted below, showing that in just 10 days, 2020 has added as much ice as an average 30-day November.

The graph above shows Arctic ice extents growing from Mid-Oct. to Mid-Nov. for the 13-year average and some other notable years.  Note 2020 well below other years in the beginning, and then growing ice rapidly in the last 10 days.  The deficit to average was 2.1M km2, now reduced to 810k km2.  SII and MASIE are closely synchronized, and 2020 is closing in on 2019. 

Background from Previous Post: Arctic October Pent-up Ice Recovery

Some years ago reading a thread on global warming at WUWT, I was struck by one person’s comment: “I’m an actuary with limited knowledge of climate metrics, but it seems to me if you want to understand temperature changes, you should analyze the changes, not the temperatures.” That rang bells for me, and I applied that insight in a series of Temperature Trend Analysis studies of surface station temperature records. Those posts are available under this heading. Climate Compilation Part I Temperatures

This post seeks to understand Arctic Sea Ice fluctuations using a similar approach: Focusing on the rates of extent changes rather than the usual study of the ice extents themselves. Fortunately, Sea Ice Index (SII) from NOAA provides a suitable dataset for this project. As many know, SII relies on satellite passive microwave sensors to produce charts of Arctic Ice extents going back to 1979.  The current Version 3 has become more closely aligned with MASIE, the modern form of Naval ice charting in support of Arctic navigation. The SII User Guide is here.

There are statistical analyses available, and the one of interest (table below) is called Sea Ice Index Rates of Change (here). As indicated by the title, this spreadsheet consists not of monthly extents, but changes of extents from the previous month. Specifically, a monthly value is calculated by subtracting the average of the last five days of the previous month from this month’s average of final five days. So the value presents the amount of ice gained or lost during the present month.

These monthly rates of change have been compiled into a baseline for the period 1980 to 2010, which shows the fluctuations of Arctic ice extents over the course of a calendar year. Below is a graph of those averages of monthly changes during the baseline period. Those familiar with Arctic Ice studies will not be surprised at the sign wave form. December end is a relatively neutral point in the cycle, midway between the September Minimum and March Maximum.

The graph makes evident the six spring/summer months of melting and the six autumn/winter months of freezing.  Note that June-August produce the bulk of losses, while October-December show the bulk of gains. Also the peak and valley months of March and September show very little change in extent from beginning to end.

The table of monthly data reveals the variability of ice extents over the last 4 decades.

Table 1 Monthly Arctic Ice rates of Extent Changes in M km2. Months with losses in pink, months with gains in blue.

The values in January show changes from the end of the previous December, and by summing twelve consecutive months we can calculate an annual rate of change for the years 1979 to 2019.

As many know, there has been a decline of Arctic ice extent over these 40 years, averaging 40k km2 per year. But year over year, the changes shift constantly between gains and losses.

Moreover, it seems random as to which months are determinative for a given year. For example, much ado has been printed about October 2020 being slower than expected to refreeze and add ice extents. As it happens in this dataset, October has the highest rate of adding ice. The table below shows the variety of monthly rates in the record as anomalies from the 1980-2010 baseline. In this exhibit a red cell is a negative anomaly (less than baseline for that month) and blue is positive (higher than baseline).

Note that the  +/ –  rate anomalies are distributed all across the grid, sequences of different months in different years, with gains and losses offsetting one another.  Yes, October 2020 recorded a lower than average gain, but higher than 2016. The loss in July 2020 was the largest of the year, during the hot Siberian summer.  The bottom line presents the average anomalies for each month over the period 1979-2020.  Note the rates of gains and losses mostly offset, and the average of all months in the bottom right cell is virtually zero.

A final observation: The graph below shows the Yearend Arctic Ice Extents for the last 30 years.

Note: SII daily extents file does not provide complete values prior to 1988.

Year-end Arctic ice extents (last 5 days of December) show three distinct regimes: 1989-1998, 1998-2010, 2010-2019. The average year-end extent 1989-2010 is 13.4M km2. In the last decade, 2009 was 13.0M km2, and ten years later, 2019 was 12.8M km2. So for all the the fluctuations, the net loss was 200k km2, or 1.5%. Talk of an Arctic ice death spiral is fanciful.

These data show a noisy, highly variable natural phenomenon. Clearly, unpredictable factors are in play, principally water structure and circulation, atmospheric circulation regimes, and also incursions and storms. And in the longer view, today’s extents are not unusual.

 

 

Illustration by Eleanor Lutz shows Earth’s seasonal climate changes. If played in full screen, the four corners present views from top, bottom and sides. It is a visual representation of scientific datasets measuring Arctic ice extents.

Arctic October Pent-up Ice Recovery

Some years ago reading a thread on global warming at WUWT, I was struck by one person’s comment: “I’m an actuary with limited knowledge of climate metrics, but it seems to me if you want to understand temperature changes, you should analyze the changes, not the temperatures.” That rang bells for me, and I applied that insight in a series of Temperature Trend Analysis studies of surface station temperature records. Those posts are available under this heading. Climate Compilation Part I Temperatures

This post seeks to understand Arctic Sea Ice fluctuations using a similar approach: Focusing on the rates of extent changes rather than the usual study of the ice extents themselves. Fortunately, Sea Ice Index (SII) from NOAA provides a suitable dataset for this project. As many know, SII relies on satellite passive microwave sensors to produce charts of Arctic Ice extents going back to 1979.  The current Version 3 has become more closely aligned with MASIE, the modern form of Naval ice charting in support of Arctic navigation. The SII User Guide is here.

There are statistical analyses available, and the one of interest (table below) is called Sea Ice Index Rates of Change (here). As indicated by the title, this spreadsheet consists not of monthly extents, but changes of extents from the previous month. Specifically, a monthly value is calculated by subtracting the average of the last five days of the previous month from this month’s average of final five days. So the value presents the amount of ice gained or lost during the present month.

These monthly rates of change have been compiled into a baseline for the period 1980 to 2010, which shows the fluctuations of Arctic ice extents over the course of a calendar year. Below is a graph of those averages of monthly changes during the baseline period. Those familiar with Arctic Ice studies will not be surprised at the sign wave form. December end is a relatively neutral point in the cycle, midway between the September Minimum and March Maximum.

The graph makes evident the six spring/summer months of melting and the six autumn/winter months of freezing.  Note that June-August produce the bulk of losses, while October-December show the bulk of gains. Also the peak and valley months of March and September show very little change in extent from beginning to end.

The table of monthly data reveals the variability of ice extents over the last 4 decades.

Table 1 Monthly Arctic Ice rates of Extent Changes in M km2. Months with losses in pink, months with gains in blue.

The values in January show changes from the end of the previous December, and by summing twelve consecutive months we can calculate an annual rate of change for the years 1979 to 2019.

As many know, there has been a decline of Arctic ice extent over these 40 years, averaging 40k km2 per year. But year over year, the changes shift constantly between gains and losses.

Moreover, it seems random as to which months are determinative for a given year. For example, much ado has been printed about October 2020 being slower than expected to refreeze and add ice extents. As it happens in this dataset, October has the highest rate of adding ice. The table below shows the variety of monthly rates in the record as anomalies from the 1980-2010 baseline. In this exhibit a red cell is a negative anomaly (less than baseline for that month) and blue is positive (higher than baseline).

Note that the  +/ –  rate anomalies are distributed all across the grid, sequences of different months in different years, with gains and losses offsetting one another.  Yes, October 2020 recorded a lower than average gain, but higher than 2016. The loss in July 2020 was the largest of the year, during the hot Siberian summer.  The bottom line presents the average anomalies for each month over the period 1979-2020.  Note the rates of gains and losses mostly offset, and the average of all months in the bottom right cell is virtually zero.

A final observation: The graph below shows the Yearend Arctic Ice Extents for the last 30 years.

Note: SII daily extents file does not provide complete values prior to 1988.

Year-end Arctic ice extents (last 5 days of December) show three distinct regimes: 1989-1998, 1998-2010, 2010-2019. The average year-end extent 1989-2010 is 13.4M km2. In the last decade, 2009 was 13.0M km2, and ten years later, 2019 was 12.8M km2. So for all the the fluctuations, the net loss was 200k km2, or 1.5%. Talk of an Arctic ice death spiral is fanciful.

These data show a noisy, highly variable natural phenomenon. Clearly, unpredictable factors are in play, principally water structure and circulation, atmospheric circulation regimes, and also incursions and storms. And in the longer view, today’s extents are not unusual.

 

 

Illustration by Eleanor Lutz shows Earth’s seasonal climate changes. If played in full screen, the four corners present views from top, bottom and sides. It is a visual representation of scientific datasets measuring Arctic ice extents.

Hurricane Season Overview Oct. 11

Your weather channel is airing charts like this to show how active is this year’s storm season impacting the Caribbean and US east coast.  So far, there have been many more named storms, two more hurricanes than average, and one less major hurricane at this point in the season.  Dr. Ryan Maue provides (here) a global context for understanding storm activity this year, updated October 11, 2020.

So globally, the ACE (Accumulated Cyclone Energy) is 2/3 of the average 1981-2010 at this point in the season.  ACE compiles the storm strengths as well the the number of storms.  Clearly the North Atlantic is 143% of average, but slightly behind 2019.  This indicates that many of the named storms were not that strong.

Meanwhile the Northern Hemisphere is running 69% of average and well behind last year.  This is due to North Pacific having a quiet season offsetting North Atlantic activity.  See the graph below from RealClimateScience

The historical summary of Tropical Hurricane ACE as of September 30, 2020:

Figure: Last 50-years+ of Global and Northern Hemisphere Accumulated Cyclone Energy: 24 month running sums. Note that the year indicated represents the value of ACE through the previous 24-months for the Northern Hemisphere (bottom line/gray boxes) and the entire global (top line/blue boxes). The area in between represents the Southern Hemisphere total ACE.

The hiatus of storms lasted a decade after 2006 (Thanks Global Warming).  Now seasons are more active (Your fault Global Warming), though somewhat less than previous peaks.   Maybe it’s Mother Nature after all.

Arctic September Ice Dip Is Over

Just like the Arizona road in the image,  Arctic ice extent has dipped in September and is on the rise again.  The graph below shows how September monthly extent averages compare for the years since 2007. 

Overall it resembles the Arizona roadway.  Two low years are followed by two high years, then two low years and so on.  The last two years are low, comparable to 2007, and may portend higher ice extent ahead. As usual MASIE and SII are showing for 2020 nearly the same monthly averages, 4.0M km2 for MASIE and 3.9M km2 for SII. The graph below shows how the ice dipped and recovered in 2020 compared to the 13-year average and some notable years.

September 2020 daily minimum was lower than all previous years except for 2012.  As noted previously this year’s anomaly was the hot Siberian summer melting out the Eurasian shelf seas and the bordering parts of the Central Arctic Sea.  In 2012 it was the Great Arctic Cyclone in August of that year.  After day 255, ice recovered strongly in 2020 ending the month higher than 2007, close to 2019 and about 150k km2 less than the average daily minimum on day 260, 4.4M km2

The table shows monthly extent averages for the regions with ice in September for several years and the 13-year average for each region.

Sept. Monthly Averages 2007 2012 2019 2020 Average SD %
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 4286957 3622648 4124035 3969085 4630779 10%
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 558424 212051 382779 620409 487498 31%
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 49690 52539 111412 77598 172143 53%
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 1251 53411 73023 121408 287777 63%
 (4) Laptev_Sea 246278 44336 87121 28 141604 81%
 (5) Kara_Sea 49502 717 166 13063 24612 102%
 (6) Barents_Sea 6782 0 13238 0 18757 183%
 (7) Greenland_Sea 334147 263899 173116 235216 197263 33%
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 33043 15591 16589 20361 32926 50%
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 252140 198502 265335 339996 299817 30%
 (10) Hudson_Bay 10998 9502 0 2783 7947 135%
 (11) Central_Arctic 2743433 2771014 3000459 2537271 2959458 6%

The last column shows the Standard Deviation % for each region and for NH as a whole.  Over this period the NH fluctuations have been +/- 10%.  The most variable is Barents Sea, which can be zero or over 100k km2.  Hudson Bay and Kara likewise either melt out or retain significant ice. The Central Arctic varies little from year to year.

Illustration by Eleanor Lutz shows Earth’s seasonal climate changes. If played in full screen, the four corners present views from top, bottom and sides. It is a visual representation of scientific datasets measuring Arctic ice extents.

Why the Left Coast is Still Burning

Update September 13, 2020:  This reprint of a post two years ago shows nothing has changed, except for the worse.

It is often said that truth is the first casualty in the fog of war. That is especially true of the war against fossil fuels and smoke from wildfires. The forests are burning in California, Oregon and Washington, all of them steeped in liberal, progressive and post-modern ideology. There are human reasons that fires are out of control in those places, and it is not due to CO2 emissions. As we shall see, Zinke is right and Brown is wrong. Some truths the media are not telling you in their drive to blame global warming/climate change. Text below is excerpted from sources linked at the end.

1. The World and the US are not burning.

The geographic extent of this summer’s forest fires won’t come close to the aggregate record for the U.S. Far from it. Yes, there are some terrible fires now burning in California, Oregon, and elsewhere, and the total burnt area this summer in the U.S. is likely to exceed the 2017 total. But as the chart above shows, the burnt area in 2017 was less than 20% of the record set way back in 1930. The same is true of the global burnt area, which has declined over many decades.

In fact, this 2006 paper reported the following:

“Analysis of charcoal records in sediments [31] and isotope-ratio records in ice cores [32] suggest that global biomass burning during the past century has been lower than at any time in the past 2000 years. Although the magnitude of the actual differences between pre-industrial and current biomass burning rates may not be as pronounced as suggested by those studies [33], modelling approaches agree with a general decrease of global fire activity at least in past centuries [34]. In spite of this, fire is often quoted as an increasing issue around the globe [11,26–29].”

People have a tendency to exaggerate the significance of current events. Perhaps the youthful can be forgiven for thinking hot summers are a new phenomenon. Incredibly, more “seasoned” folks are often subject to the same fallacies. The fires in California have so impressed climate alarmists that many of them truly believe global warming is the cause of forest fires in recent years, including the confused bureaucrats at Cal Fire, the state’s firefighting agency. Of course, the fires have given fresh fuel to self-interested climate activists and pressure groups, an opportunity for greater exaggeration of an ongoing scare story.

This year, however, and not for the first time, a high-pressure system has been parked over the West, bringing southern winds up the coast along with warmer waters from the south, keeping things warm and dry inland. It’s just weather, though a few arsonists and careless individuals always seem to contribute to the conflagrations. Beyond all that, the impact of a warmer climate on the tendency for biomass to burn is considered ambiguous for realistic climate scenarios.

2. Public forests are no longer managed due to litigation.

According to a 2014 white paper titled; ‘Twenty Years of Forest Service Land Management Litigation’, by Amanda M.A. Miner, Robert W. Malmsheimer, and Denise M. Keele: “This study provides a comprehensive analysis of USDA Forest Service litigation from 1989 to 2008. Using a census and improved analyses, we document the final outcome of the 1125 land management cases filed in federal court. The Forest Service won 53.8% of these cases, lost 23.3%, and settled 22.9%. It won 64.0% of the 669 cases decided by a judge based on cases’ merits. The agency was more likely to lose and settle cases during the last six years; the number of cases initiated during this time varied greatly. The Pacific Northwest region along with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals had the most frequent occurrence of cases. Litigants generally challenged vegetative management (e.g. logging) projects, most often by alleging violations of the National Environmental Policy Act and the National Forest Management Act. The results document the continued influence of the legal system on national forest management and describe the complexity of this litigation.”

There is abundant evidence to support the position that when any forest project posits vegetative management in forests as a pretense for a logging operation, salvage or otherwise, litigation is likely to ensue, and in addition to NEPA, the USFS uses the Property Clause to address any potential removal of ‘forest products’. Nevertheless, the USFS currently spends more than 50% of its total budget on wildfire suppression alone; about $1.8 billion annually, while there is scant spending for wildfire prevention.

3. Mega fires are the unnatural result of fire suppression.

And what of the “mega-fires” burning in the West, like the huge Mendocino Complex Fire and last year’s Thomas Fire? Unfortunately, many decades of fire suppression measures — prohibitions on logging, grazing, and controlled burns — have left the forests with too much dead wood and debris, especially on public lands. From the last link:

“Oregon, like much of the western U.S., was ravaged by massive wildfires in the 1930s during the Dust Bowl drought. Megafires were largely contained due to logging and policies to actively manage forests, but there’s been an increasing trend since the 1980s of larger fires.

Active management of the forests and logging kept fires at bay for decades, but that largely ended in the 1980s over concerns too many old growth trees and the northern spotted owl. Lawsuits from environmental groups hamstrung logging and government planners cut back on thinning trees and road maintenance.

[Bob] Zybach [a forester] said Native Americans used controlled burns to manage the landscape in Oregon, Washington and northern California for thousands of years. Tribes would burn up to 1 million acres a year on the west coast to prime the land for hunting and grazing, Zybach’s research has shown.

‘The Indians had lots of big fires, but they were controlled,’ Zybach said. ‘It’s the lack of Indian burning, the lack of grazing’ and other active management techniques that caused fires to become more destructive in the 19th and early 20th centuries before logging operations and forest management techniques got fires under control in the mid-20th Century.”

4. Bad federal forest administration started in 1990s.

Bob Zybach feels like a broken record. Decades ago he warned government officials allowing Oregon’s forests to grow unchecked by proper management would result in catastrophic wildfires.

While some want to blame global warming for the uptick in catastrophic wildfires, Zybach said a change in forest management policies is the main reason Americans are seeing a return to more intense fires, particularly in the Pacific Northwest and California where millions of acres of protected forests stand.

“We knew exactly what would happen if we just walked away,” Zybach, an experienced forester with a PhD in environmental science, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Zybach spent two decades as a reforestation contractor before heading to graduate school in the 1990s. Then the Clinton administration in 1994 introduced its plan to protect old growth trees and spotted owls by strictly limiting logging.  Less logging also meant government foresters weren’t doing as much active management of forests — thinnings, prescribed burns and other activities to reduce wildfire risk.

Zybach told Evergreen magazine that year the Clinton administration’s plan for “naturally functioning ecosystems” free of human interference ignored history and would fuel “wildfires reminiscent of the Tillamook burn, the 1910 fires and the Yellowstone fire.”

Between 1952 and 1987, western Oregon saw only one major fire above 10,000 acres. The region’s relatively fire-free streak ended with the Silver Complex Fire of 1987 that burned more than 100,000 acres in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness area, torching rare plants and trees the federal government set aside to protect from human activities. The area has burned several more times since the 1980s.

“Mostly fuels were removed through logging, active management — which they stopped — and grazing,” Zybach said in an interview. “You take away logging, grazing and maintenance, and you get firebombs.”

Now, Oregonians are dealing with 13 wildfires engulfing 185,000 acres. California is battling nine fires scorching more than 577,000 acres, mostly in the northern forested parts of the state managed by federal agencies.

The Mendocino Complex Fire quickly spread to become the largest wildfire in California since the 1930s, engulfing more than 283,000 acres. The previous wildfire record was set by 2017’s Thomas Fire that scorched 281,893 acres in Southern California.

While bad fires still happen on state and private lands, most of the massive blazes happen on or around lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and other federal agencies, Zybach said. Poor management has turned western forests into “slow-motion time bombs,” he said.

A feller buncher removing small trees that act as fuel ladders and transmit fire into the forest canopy.

5. True environmentalism is not nature love, but nature management.

While wildfires do happen across the country, poor management by western states has served to turn entire regions into tinderboxes. By letting nature play out its course so close to civilization, this is the course California and Oregon have taken.

Many in heartland America and along the Eastern Seaboard often see logging and firelines if they travel to a rural area. This is part and parcel of life outside of the city, where everyone knows that because of a few minor eyesores their houses and communities are safer from the primal fury of wildfires.

In other words, leaving the forests to “nature,” and protecting the endangered Spotted Owl created denser forests––300-400 trees per acre rather than 50-80–– with more fuel from the 129 million diseased and dead trees that create more intense and destructive fires. Yet California spends more than ten times as much money on electric vehicle subsidies ($335 million) than on reducing fuel in a mere 60,000 of 33 million acres of forests ($30 million).

Rancher Ross Frank worries that funding to fight fires in Western communities like Chumstick, Wash., has crowded out important land management work. Rowan Moore Gerety/Northwest Public Radio

Once again, global warming “science” is a camouflage for political ideology and gratifying myths about nature and human interactions with it. On the one hand, progressives seek “crises” that justify more government regulation and intrusion that limit citizen autonomy and increase government power. On the other, well-nourished moderns protected by technology from nature’s cruel indifference to all life can afford to indulge myths that give them psychic gratification at little cost to their daily lives.

As usual, bad cultural ideas lie behind these policies and attitudes. Most important is the modern fantasy that before civilization human beings lived in harmony and balance with nature. The rise of cities and agriculture began the rupture with the environment, “disenchanting” nature and reducing it to mere resources to be exploited for profit. In the early 19thcentury, the growth of science that led to the industrial revolution inspired the Romantic movement to contrast industrialism’s “Satanic mills” and the “shades of the prison-house,” with a superior natural world and its “beauteous forms.” In an increasingly secular age, nature now became the Garden of Eden, and technology and science the signs of the fall that has banished us from the paradise enjoyed by humanity before civilization.

The untouched nature glorified by romantic environmentalism, then, is not our home. Ever since the cave men, humans have altered nature to make it more conducive to human survival and flourishing. After the retreat of the ice sheets changed the environment and animal species on which people had depended for food, humans in at least four different regions of the world independently invented agriculture to better manage the food supply. Nor did the American Indians, for example, live “lightly on the land” in a pristine “forest primeval.” They used fire to shape their environment for their own benefit. They burned forests to clear land for cultivation, to create pathways to control the migration of bison and other game, and to promote the growth of trees more useful for them.

Remaining trees and vegetation on the forest floor are more vigorous after removal of small trees for fuels reduction.

And today we continue to improve cultivation techniques and foods to make them more reliable, abundant, and nutritious, not to mention more various and safe. We have been so successful at managing our food supply that today one person out of ten provides food that used to require nine out of ten, obesity has become the plague of poverty, and famines result from political dysfunction rather than nature.

That’s why untouched nature, the wild forests filled with predators, has not been our home. The cultivated nature improved by our creative minds has. True environmentalism is not nature love, but nature management: applying skill and technique to make nature more useful for humans, at the same time conserving resources so that those who come after us will be able to survive. Managing resources and exploiting them for our benefit without destroying them is how we should approach the natural world. We should not squander resources or degrade them, not because of nature, but because when we do so, we are endangering the well-being of ourselves and future generations.

Conclusion

The annual burnt area from wildfires has declined over the past ninety years both in the U.S. and globally. Even this year’s wildfires are unlikely to come close to the average burn extent of the 1930s. The large wildfires this year are due to a combination of decades of poor forest management along with a weather pattern that has trapped warm, dry air over the West. The contention that global warming has played a causal role in the pattern is balderdash, but apparently that explanation seems plausible to the uninformed, and it is typical of the propaganda put forward by climate change interests.

Sources: 

https://www.frontpagemag.com/fpm/271044/junk-science-and-leftist-folklore-have-set-bruce-thornton

https://www.4baseball.com/westernjournal.com/after-libs-blame-west-coast-fires-on-global-warming-forester-speaks-out/

https://sacredcowchips.net/tag/bob-zybach/

https://www.horsetalk.co.nz/2017/10/13/ecological-imbalance-wildfires-us-rangelands/

http://dailycaller.com/2018/08/08/mismanagement-forests-time-bombs/

Footnote:  So how do you want your forest fires, some small ones now or mega fires later?

Fires in US West: History vs. Hysteria

People who struggle with anxiety are known to have moments of “hair on fire.” IOW, letting your fears take over is like setting your own hair on fire. Currently the media, pandering as always to primal fear instincts, is declaring that the US West is on fire, and it is our fault. Let’s see what we can do to help them get a grip.

First the media hysteria.

BAY AREA ON SEPTEMBER 9, 2020. IMAGE: BAY AREA AIR QUALITY

The Headlines are Screaming!

Why wildfire smoke can turn the sky orange and damage your lungs Vox18:31

A 2006 Heat Wave Was a Wake-Up Call. Why Didn’t L.A. Pay Attention? Curbed18:25

Wildfires and weather extremes: It’s not coincidence, it’s climate change CBS News18:20

Trillions up in smoke: The staggering economic cost of climate change inaction The New Daily18:09

‘Zombie Fires’ May Have Sparked Record High Carbon Emissions in the Arctic Smithsonian Magazine17:33

How Did the Wildfires Start? Here’s What You Need to Know The New York Times17:32

‘It Looks Like Doomsday’: California Residents React to Orange Sky The New York Times17:20

Apocalyptic Orange Haze And Darkness Blanket California Amid Fires HuffPost (US)16:46

Fire experts: Western fires are ‘unreal’ Mashable16:00

Devastating Wildfires Ravage The West HuffPost (US)14:25

‘Entire Western US on Fire’ as Region Faces Deadly Flames Compounded by Heatwave, Blackouts, and Coronavirus Common Dreams13:24

Unprecedented Wildfires Turn California Skies Orange Vice (US)13:43

Now the History.  Are these wildfires “unprecedented?”

The National Interagency Fire Center provides the facts and historical context.  Here are the details on this year and the last decade.

Note that for the year-to-date, 2020 is below average both for number of fires and acreage.  Three years were over 8M acres at this point in the year.  And one of them (2012) was also an election year, but lacked the current media fury politicizing everything.

Annual Number of Acres Burned in US Wildland Fires, 1980-2019

Background Information from Previous Post Arctic on Fire! Not.

1. Summer is fire season for northern boreal forests and tundra.

From the Canadian National Forestry Database

Since 1990, “wildland fires” across Canada have consumed an average of 2.5 million hectares a year.

Recent Canadian Forest Fire Activity 2015 2016 2017
Area burned (hectares) 3,861,647 1,416,053 3,371,833
Number of fires 7,140 5,203 5,611

The total area of Forest and other wooded land in Canada  is 396,433,600 (hectares).  So the data says that every average year 0.6% of Canadian wooded area burns due to numerous fires, ranging from 1000 in a slow year to over 10,000 fires and 7M hectares burned in 1994.

2. With the warming since 1980 some years have seen increased areas burning.

From Wildland Fire in High Latitudes, A. York et al. (2017)

Despite the low annual temperatures and short growing seasons characteristic of northern ecosystems, wildland fire affects both boreal forest (the broad band of mostly coniferous trees that generally stretches across the area north of the July 13° C isotherm in North America and Eurasia, also known as Taiga) and adjacent tundra regions. In fact, fire is the dominant ecological disturbance in boreal forest, the world’s largest terrestrial biome. Fire disturbance affects these high latitude systems at multiple scales, including direct release of carbon through combustion (Kasischke et al., 2000) and interactions with vegetation succession (Mann et al., 2012; Johnstone et al., 2010), biogeochemical cycles (Bond-Lamberty et al., 2007), energy balance (Rogers et al., 2015), and hydrology (Liu et al., 2005). About 35% of global soil carbon is stored in tundra and boreal systems (Scharlemann et al., 2014) that are potentially vulnerable to fire disturbance (Turetsky et al., 2015). This brief report summarizes evidence from Alaska and Canada on variability and trends in fire disturbance in high latitudes and outlines how short-term fire weather conditions in these regions influence area burned.

Climate is a dominant control of fire activity in both boreal and tundra ecosystems. The relationship between climate and fire is strongly nonlinear, with the likelihood of fire occurrence within a 30-year period much higher where mean July temperatures exceed 13.4° C (56° F) (Young et al., 2017). High latitude fire regimes appear to be responding rapidly to recent environmental changes associated with the warming climate. Although highly variable, area burned has increased over the past several decades in much of boreal North America (Kasischke and Turetsky, 2006; Gillett et al., 2004). Since the early 1960s, the number of individual fire events and the size of those events has increased, contributing to more frequent large fire years in northwestern North America (Kasischke and Turetsky, 2006). Figure 1 shows annual area burned per year in Alaska (a) and Northwest Territories (b) since 1980, including both boreal and tundra regions.

[Comment: Note that both Alaska and NW Territories see about 500k hectares burned on average each year since 1980.  And in each region, three years have been much above that average, with no particular pattern as to timing.]

Recent large fire seasons in high latitudes include 2014 in the Northwest Territories, where 385 fires burned 8.4 million acres, and 2015 in Alaska, where 766 fires burned 5.1 million acres (Figs. 1 & 2)—more than half the total acreage burned in the US (NWT, 2015; AICC, 2015). Multiple northern communities have been threatened or damaged by recent wildfires, notably Fort McMurray, Alberta, where 88,000 people were evacuated and 2400 structures were destroyed in May 2016. Examples of recent significant tundra fires include the 2007 Anaktuvuk River Fire, the largest and longest-burning fire known to have occurred on the North Slope of Alaska (256,000 acres), which initiated widespread thermokarst development (Jones et al., 2015). An unusually large tundra fire in western Greenland in 2017 received considerable media attention.

Large fire events such as these require the confluence of receptive fuels that will promote fire growth once ignited, periods of warm and dry weather conditions, and a source of ignition—most commonly, convective thunderstorms that produce lightning ignitions. High latitude ecosystems are characterized by unique fuels—in particular, fast-drying beds of mosses, lichens, resinous shrubs, and accumulated organic material (duff) that underlie dense, highly flammable conifers. These understory fuels cure rapidly during warm, dry periods with long daylight hours in June and July. Consequently, extended periods of drought are not required to increase fire danger to extreme levels in these systems.

Most acreage burned in high latitude systems occurs during sporadic periods of high fire activity; 50% of the acreage burned in Alaska from 2002 to 2010 was consumed in just 36 days (Barrett et al., 2016). Figure 3 shows cumulative acres burned in the four largest fire seasons in Alaska since 1990 (from Fig. 1) and illustrates the varying trajectories of each season. Some seasons show periods of rapid growth during unusually warm and dry weather (2004, 2009, 2015), while others (2004 and 2005) were prolonged into the fall in the absence of season-ending rain events. In 2004, which was Alaska’s largest wildfire season at 6.6 million acres, the trajectory was characterized by both rapid mid-season growth and extended activity into September. These different pathways to large fire seasons demonstrate the importance of intraseasonal weather variability and the timing of dynamical features. As another example, although not large in total acres burned, the 2016 wildland fire season in Alaska was more than 6 months long, with incidents requiring response from mid-April through late October (AICC, 2016).

3. Wildfires are part of the ecology cycle making the biosphere sustainable.

Forest Fire Ecology: Fire in Canada’s forests varies in its role and importance.

In the moist forests of the west coast, wildland fires are relatively infrequent and generally play a minor ecological role.

In boreal forests, the complete opposite is true. Fires are frequent and their ecological influence at all levels—species, stand and landscape—drives boreal forest vegetation dynamics. This in turn affects the movement of wildlife populations, whose need for food and cover means they must relocate as the forest patterns change.

lThe Canadian boreal forest is a mosaic of species and stands. It ranges in composition from pure deciduous and mixed deciduous-coniferous to pure coniferous stands.

The diversity of the forest mosaic is largely the result of many fires occurring on the landscape over a long period of time. These fires have varied in frequency, intensity, severity, size, shape and season of burn.

The fire management balancing act: Fire is a vital ecological component of Canadian forests and will always be present.

Not all wildland fires should (or can) be controlled. Forest agencies work to harness the force of natural fire to take advantage of its ecological benefits while at the same time limiting its potential damage and costs.

Tundra Fire Ecology

From Arctic tundra fires: natural variability and responses to climate change, Feng Sheng Hu et al. (2015)

Circumpolar tundra fires have primarily occurred in the portions of the Arctic with warmer summer conditions, especially Alaska and northeastern Siberia (Figure 1). Satellite-based estimates (Giglio et al. 2010; Global Fire Emissions Database 2015) show that for the period of 2002–2013, 0.48% of the Alaskan tundra has burned, which is four times the estimate for the Arctic as a whole (0.12%; Figure 1). These estimates encompass tundra ecoregions with a wide range of fire regimes. For instance, within Alaska, the observational record of the past 60 years indicates that only 1.4% of the North Slope ecoregion has burned (Rocha et al. 2012); 68% of the total burned area in this ecoregion was associated with a single event, the 2007 AR Fire.

The Noatak and Seward Peninsula ecoregions are the most flammable of the tundra biome, and both contain areas that have experienced multiple fires within the past 60 years (Rocha et al. 2012). This high level of fire activity suggests that fuel availability has not been a major limiting factor for fire occurrence in some tundra regions, probably because of the rapid post-fire recovery of tundra vegetation (Racine et al. 1987; Bret-Harte et al. 2013) and the abundance of peaty soils.

However, the wide range of tundra-fire regimes in the modern record results from spatial variations in climate and fuel conditions among ecoregions. For example, frequent tundra burning in the Noatak ecoregion reflects relatively warm/dry climate conditions, whereas the extreme rarity of tundra fires in southwestern Alaska reflects a wet regional climate and abundant lakes that act as natural firebreaks.

Fire alters the surface properties, energy balance, and carbon (C) storage of many terrestrial ecosystems. These effects are particularly marked in Arctic tundra (Figure 5), where fires can catalyze biogeochemical and energetic processes that have historically been limited by low temperatures.

In contrast to the long-term impacts of tundra fires on soil processes, post-fire vegetation recovery is unexpectedly rapid. Across all burned areas in the Alaskan tundra, surface greenness recovered within a decade after burning (Figure 6; Rocha et al. 2012). This rapid recovery was fueled by belowground C reserves in roots and rhizomes, increased nutrient availability from ash, and elevated soil temperatures.

At present, the primary objective for wildland fire management in tundra ecosystems is to maintain biodiversity through wildland fires while also protecting life, property, and sensitive resources. In Alaska, the majority of Arctic tundra is managed under the “Limited Protection” option, and most natural ignitions are managed for the purpose of preserving fire in its natural role in ecosystems. Under future scenarios of climate and tundra burning, managing tundra fire is likely to become increasingly complex. Land managers and policy makers will need to consider trade-offs between fire’s ecological roles and its socioeconomic impacts.

4. Arctic fire regimes involve numerous interacting factors.

Frequent Fires in Ancient Shrub Tundra: Implications of Paleorecords for Arctic Environmental Change
Philip E. Higuera et al. (2008)

Although our fire-history records provide unique insights into the potential response of modern tundra ecosystems to climate and vegetation change, they are imperfect analogs for future fire regimes. First, ongoing vegetation changes differ from those of the late-glacial period: several shrub taxa (Salix, Alnus, and Betula) are currently expanding into tundra [10], whereas Betula was the primary constituent of the ancient shrub tundra. The lower flammability of Alnus and Salix compared to Betula could make future shrub tundra less flammable than the ancient shrub tundra. Second, mechanisms of past and future climate change also differ. In the late-glacial and early-Holocene periods, Alaskan climate was responding to shrinking continental ice volumes, sea-level changes, and amplified seasonality arising from changes in the seasonal cycle of insolation [13]; in the future, increased concentrations of atmospheric greenhouse gases are projected to cause year-round warming in the Arctic, but with a greater increase in winter months [8]. Finally, we know little about the potential effects of a variety of biological and physical processes on climate-vegetation-fire interactions. For example, permafrost melting as a result of future warming [8] and/or increased burning [24] could further facilitate fires by promoting shrub expansion [10], or inhibit fires by increasing soil moisture [24].

5. The Arctic has adapted to many fire regimes stronger than today’s activity.

The Burning Tundra: A Look Back at the Last 6,000 Years of Fire in the Noatak National Preserve, Northwestern Alaska

Fire history in the Noatak also suggests that subtle changes in vegetation were linked to changes in tundra fire occurrence. Spatial variability across the study region suggests that vegetation responded to local-scale climate, which in turn influenced the flammability of surrounding areas. This work adds to evidence from ‘ancient’ shrub tundra in the southcentral Brooks Range suggesting that vegetation change will likely modify tundra fire regimes, and it further suggests that the direction of this impact will depend upon the specific makeup of future tundra vegetation. Ongoing climate-related vegetation change in arctic tundra such as increasing shrub abundance in response to warming temperatures (e.g., Tape et al. 2006), could both increase (e.g., birch) or decrease (e.g., alder) the probability of future tundra fires.

This study provides estimated fire return intervals (FRIs) for one of the most flammable tundra ecosystems in Alaska. Fire managers require this basic information, and it provides a valuable context for ongoing and future environmental change. At most sites, FRIs varied through time in response to changes in climate and local vegetation. Thus, an individual mean or median FRI does not capture the range of variability in tundra fire occurrence. Long-term mean FRIs in many periods were both shorter than estimates based on the past 60 years and statistically indistinct from mean FRIs found in Alaskan boreal forests (e.g., Higuera et al. 2009) (Figure 2). These results imply that tundra ecosystems have been resilient to relatively frequent burning over the past 6,000 years, which has implications for both managers and scientists concerned about environmental change in tundra ecosystems. For example, increased tundra fire occurrence could negatively impact winter forage for the Western Arctic Caribou Herd (Joly et al. 2009). Although the Noatak is only a portion of this herd’s range, our results indicate that if caribou utilized the study area over the past 6,000 years, then they have successfully co-existed with relatively frequent fire.

Greenland Ice Varies, Don’t Panic

Update September 1, 2020 on GIS Math (at end)

The scare du jour is about Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS) and how it will melt out and flood us all.  It’s declared that GIS has passed its tipping point, and we are doomed.  Typical is the Phys.org hysteria: Sea level rise quickens as Greenland ice sheet sheds record amount:  “Greenland’s massive ice sheet saw a record net loss of 532 billion tonnes last year, raising red flags about accelerating sea level rise, according to new findings.”

Panic is warranted only if you treat this as proof of an alarmist narrative and ignore the facts and context in which natural variation occurs. For starters, consider the last four years of GIS fluctuations reported by DMI and summarized in the eight graphs above.  Note the noisy blue lines showing how the surface mass balance (SMB) changes its daily weight by 8 or 10 gigatonnes (Gt) around the baseline mean from 1981 to 2010.  Note also the summer decrease between May and August each year before recovering to match or exceed the mean.

The other four graphs show the accumulation of SMB for each of the last four years including 2020.  Tipping Point?  Note that in both 2017 and 2018, SMB ended about 500 Gt higher than the year began, and way higher than 2012, which added nothing.  Then came 2019 dropping below the mean, but still above 2012.  Lastly, this year is matching the 30-year average.  Note also that the charts do not integrate from previous years; i.e. each year starts at zero and shows the accumulation only for that year.  Thus the gains from 2017 and 2018 do not result in 2019 starting the year up 1000 Gt, but from zero.

The Truth about Sliding Greenland Ice

Researchers know that the small flows of water from surface melting are not the main way GIS loses ice in the summer.  Neil Humphrey explains in this article from last year Nate Maier and Neil Humphrey Lead Team Discovering Ice is Sliding Toward Edges Off Greenland Ice Sheet  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

While they may appear solid, all ice sheets—which are essentially giant glaciers—experience movement: ice flows downslope either through the process of deformation or sliding. The latest results suggest that the movement of the ice on the GIS is dominated by sliding, not deformation. This process is moving ice to the marginal zones of the sheet, where melting occurs, at a much faster rate.

“The study was motivated by a major unknown in how the ice of Greenland moves from the cold interior, to the melting regions on the margins,” Neil Humphrey, a professor of geology from the University of Wyoming and author of the study, told Newsweek. “The ice is known to move both by sliding over the bedrock under the ice, and by oozing (deforming) like slowly flowing honey or molasses. What was unknown was the ratio between these two modes of motion—sliding or deforming.

“This lack of understanding makes predicting the future difficult, since we know how to calculate the flowing, but do not know much about sliding,” he said. “Although melt can occur anywhere in Greenland, the only place that significant melt can occur is in the low altitude margins. The center (high altitude) of the ice is too cold for the melt to contribute significant water to the oceans; that only occurs at the margins. Therefore ice has to get from where it snows in the interior to the margins.

“The implications for having high sliding along the margin of the ice sheet means that thinning or thickening along the margins due to changes in ice speed can occur much more rapidly than previously thought,” Maier said. “This is really important; as when the ice sheet thins or thickens it will either increase the rate of melting or alternatively become more resilient in a changing climate.

“There has been some debate as to whether ice flow along the edges of Greenland should be considered mostly deformation or mostly sliding,” Maier says. “This has to do with uncertainty of trying to calculate deformation motion using surface measurements alone. Our direct measurements of sliding- dominated motion, along with sliding measurements made by other research teams in Greenland, make a pretty compelling argument that no matter where you go along the edges of Greenland, you are likely to have a lot of sliding.”

The sliding ice does two things, Humphrey says. First, it allows the ice to slide into the ocean and make icebergs, which then float away. Two, the ice slides into lower, warmer climate, where it can melt faster.

While it may sound dire, Humphrey notes the entire Greenland Ice Sheet is 5,000 to 10,000 feet thick.

In a really big melt year, the ice sheet might melt a few feet. It means Greenland is going to be there another 10,000 years,” Humphrey says. “So, it’s not the catastrophe the media is overhyping.”

Humphrey has been working in Greenland for the past 30 years and says the Greenland Ice Sheet has only melted 10 feet during that time span.

Summary

The Greenland ice sheet is more than 1.2 miles thick in most regions. If all of its ice was to melt, global sea levels could be expected to rise by about 25 feet. However, this would take more than 10,000 years at the current rates of melting.

Background from Previous Post: Greenland Glaciers: History vs. Hysteria

The modern pattern of environmental scares started with Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring claiming chemicals are killing birds, only today it is windmills doing the carnage. That was followed by ever expanding doomsday scenarios, from DDT, to SST, to CFC, and now the most glorious of them all, CO2. In all cases the menace was placed in remote areas difficult for objective observers to verify or contradict. From the wilderness bird sanctuaries, the scares are now hiding in the stratosphere and more recently in the Arctic and Antarctic polar deserts. See Progressively Scaring the World (Lewin book synopsis)

The advantage of course is that no one can challenge the claims with facts on the ground, or on the ice. Correction: Scratch “no one”, because the climate faithful are the exception. Highly motivated to go to the ends of the earth, they will look through their alarmist glasses and bring back the news that we are indeed doomed for using fossil fuels.

A recent example is a team of researchers from Dubai (the hot and sandy petro kingdom) going to Greenland to report on the melting of Helheim glacier there.  The article is NYUAD team finds reasons behind Greenland’s glacier melt.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

First the study and findings:

For the first time, warm waters that originate in the tropics have been found at uniform depth, displacing the cold polar water at the Helheim calving front, causing an unusually high melt rate. Typically, ocean waters near the terminus of an outlet glacier like Helheim are at the freezing point and cause little melting.

NYUAD researchers, led by Professor of Mathematics at NYU’s Courant Institute of Mathematical Sciences and Principal Investigator for NYU Abu Dhabi’s Centre for Sea Level Change David Holland, on August 5, deployed a helicopter-borne ocean temperature probe into a pond-like opening, created by warm ocean waters, in the usually thick and frozen melange in front of the glacier terminus.

Normally, warm, salty waters from the tropics travel north with the Gulf Stream, where at Greenland they meet with cold, fresh water coming from the polar region. Because the tropical waters are so salty, they normally sink beneath the polar waters. But Holland and his team discovered that the temperature of the ocean water at the base of the glacier was a uniform 4 degrees Centigrade from top to bottom at depth to 800 metres. The finding was also recently confirmed by Nasa’s OMG (Oceans Melting Greenland) project.

“This is unsustainable from the point of view of glacier mass balance as the warm waters are melting the glacier much faster than they can be replenished,” said Holland.

Surface melt drains through the ice sheet and flows under the glacier and into the ocean. Such fresh waters input at the calving front at depth have enormous buoyancy and want to reach the surface of the ocean at the calving front. In doing so, they draw the deep warm tropical water up to the surface, as well.

All around Greenland, at depth, warm tropical waters can be found at many locations. Their presence over time changes depending on the behaviour of the Gulf Stream. Over the last two decades, the warm tropical waters at depth have been found in abundance. Greenland outlet glaciers like Helheim have been melting rapidly and retreating since the arrival of these warm waters.

Then the Hysteria and Pledge of Alligiance to Global Warming

“We are surprised to learn that increased surface glacier melt due to warming atmosphere can trigger increased ocean melting of the glacier,” added Holland. “Essentially, the warming air and warming ocean water are delivering a troubling ‘one-two punch’ that is rapidly accelerating glacier melt.”

My comment: Hold on.They studied effects from warmer ocean water gaining access underneath that glacier. Oceans have roughly 1000 times the heat capacity of the atmosphere, so the idea that the air is warming the water is far-fetched. And remember also that long wave radiation of the sort that CO2 can emit can not penetrate beyond the first millimeter or so of the water surface. So how did warmer ocean water get attributed to rising CO2? Don’t ask, don’t tell.  And the idea that air is melting Arctic glaciers is also unfounded.

Consider the basics of air parcels in the Arctic.

The central region of the Arctic is very dry. Why? Firstly because the water is frozen and releases very little water vapour into the atmosphere. And secondly because (according to the laws of physics) cold air can retain very little moisture.

Greenland has the only veritable polar ice cap in the Arctic, meaning that the climate is even harsher (10°C colder) than at the North Pole, except along the coast and in the southern part of the landmass where the Atlantic has a warming effect. The marked stability of Greenland’s climate is due to a layer of very cold air just above ground level, air that is always heavier than the upper layers of the troposphere. The result of this is a strong, gravity-driven air flow down the slopes (i.e. catabatic winds), generating gusts that can reach 200 kph at ground level.

Arctic air temperatures

Some history and scientific facts are needed to put these claims in context. Let’s start with what is known about Helheim Glacier.

Holocene history of the Helheim Glacier, southeast Greenland

Helheim Glacier ranks among the fastest flowing and most ice discharging outlets of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS). After undergoing rapid speed-up in the early 2000s, understanding its long-term mass balance and dynamic has become increasingly important. Here, we present the first record of direct Holocene ice-marginal changes of the Helheim Glacier following the initial deglaciation. By analysing cores from lakes adjacent to the present ice margin, we pinpoint periods of advance and retreat. We target threshold lakes, which receive glacial meltwater only when the margin is at an advanced position, similar to the present. We show that, during the period from 10.5 to 9.6 cal ka BP, the extent of Helheim Glacier was similar to that of todays, after which it remained retracted for most of the Holocene until a re-advance caused it to reach its present extent at c. 0.3 cal ka BP, during the Little Ice Age (LIA). Thus, Helheim Glacier’s present extent is the largest since the last deglaciation, and its Holocene history shows that it is capable of recovering after several millennia of warming and retreat. Furthermore, the absence of advances beyond the present-day position during for example the 9.3 and 8.2 ka cold events as well as the early-Neoglacial suggest a substantial retreat during most of the Holocene.

Quaternary Science Reviews, Holocene history of the Helheim Glacier, southeast Greenland
A.A.Bjørk et. Al. 1 August 2018

The topography of Greenland shows why its ice cap has persisted for millenia despite its southerly location.  It is a bowl surrounded by ridges except for a few outlets, Helheim being a major one.

And then, what do we know about the recent history of glacier changes. Two Decades of Changes in Helheim Glacier

Helheim Glacier is the fastest flowing glacier along the eastern edge of Greenland Ice Sheet and one of the island’s largest ocean-terminating rivers of ice. Named after the Vikings’ world of the dead, Helheim has kept scientists on their toes for the past two decades. Between 2000 and 2005, Helheim quickly increased the rate at which it dumped ice to the sea, while also rapidly retreating inland- a behavior also seen in other glaciers around Greenland. Since then, the ice loss has slowed down and the glacier’s front has partially recovered, readvancing by about 2 miles of the more than 4 miles it had initially ­retreated.

NASA has compiled a time series of airborne observations of Helheim’s changes into a new visualization that illustrates the complexity of studying Earth’s changing ice sheets. NASA uses satellites and airborne sensors to track variations in polar ice year after year to figure out what’s driving these changes and what impact they will have in the future on global concerns like sea level rise.

Since 1997, NASA has collected data over Helheim Glacier almost every year during annual airborne surveys of the Greenland Ice Sheet using an airborne laser altimeter called the Airborne Topographic Mapper (ATM). Since 2009 these surveys have continued as part of Operation IceBridge, NASA’s ongoing airborne survey of polar ice and its longest-running airborne mission. ATM measures the elevation of the glacier along a swath as the plane files along the middle of the glacier. By comparing the changes in the height of the glacier surface from year to year, scientists estimate how much ice the glacier has lost.

The animation begins by showing the NASA P-3 plane collecting elevation data in 1998. The laser instrument maps the glacier’s surface in a circular scanning pattern, firing laser shots that reflect off the ice and are recorded by the laser’s detectors aboard the airplane. The instrument measures the time it takes for the laser pulses to travel down to the ice and back to the aircraft, enabling scientists to measure the height of the ice surface. In the animation, the laser data is combined with three-dimensional images created from IceBridge’s high-resolution camera system. The animation then switches to data collected in 2013, showing how the surface elevation and position of the calving front (the edge of the glacier, from where it sheds ice) have changed over those 15 years.

Helheim’s calving front retreated about 2.5 miles between 1998 and 2013. It also thinned by around 330 feet during that period, one of the fastest thinning rates in Greenland.

“The calving front of the glacier most likely was perched on a ledge in the bedrock in 1998 and then something altered its equilibrium,” said Joe MacGregor, IceBridge deputy project scientist. “One of the most likely culprits is a change in ocean circulation or temperature, such that slightly warmer water entered into the fjord, melted a bit more ice and disturbed the glacier’s delicate balance of forces.”

Update September 1, 2020 Greenland Ice Math

Prompted by comments from Gordon Walleville, let’s look at Greenland ice gains and losses in context.  The ongoing SMB (surface mass balance) estimates ice sheet mass net from melting and sublimation losses and precipitation gains.  Dynamic ice loss is a separate calculation of calving chunks of ice off the edges of the sheet, as discussed in the post above.  The two factors are combined in a paper Forty-six years of Greenland Ice Sheet mass balance from 1972 to 2018 by Mouginot et al. (2019) Excerpt in italics. (“D” refers to dynamic ice loss.)

Greenland’s SMB averaged 422 ± 10 Gt/y in 1961–1989 (SI Appendix, Fig. S1H). It decreased from 506 ± 18 Gt/y in the 1970s to 410 ± 17 Gt/y in the 1980s and 1990s, 251 ± 20 Gt/y in 2010–2018, and a minimum at 145 ± 55 Gt/y in 2012. In 2018, SMB was above equilibrium at 449 ± 55 Gt, but the ice sheet still lost 105 ± 55 Gt, because D is well above equilibrium and 15 Gt higher than in 2017. In 1972–2000, D averaged 456 ± 1 Gt/y, near balance, to peak at 555 ± 12 Gt/y in 2018. In total, the mass loss increased to 286 ± 20 Gt/y in 2010–2018 due to an 18 ± 1% increase in D and a 48 ± 9% decrease in SMB. The ice sheet gained 47 ± 21 Gt/y in 1972–1980, and lost 50 ± 17 Gt/y in the 1980s, 41 ± 17 Gt/y in the 1990s, 187 ± 17 Gt/y in the 2000s, and 286 ± 20 Gt/y in 2010–2018 (Fig. 2). Since 1972, the ice sheet lost 4,976 ± 400 Gt, or 13.7 ± 1.1 mm SLR.

Doing the numbers: Greenland area 2.1 10^6 km2 80% ice cover, 1500 m thick in average- That is 2.5 Million Gton. Simplified to 1 km3 = 1 Gton

The estimated loss since 1972 is 5000 Gt (rounded off), which is 110 Gt a year.  The more recent estimates are higher, in the 200 Gt range.

200 Gton is 0.008 % of the Greenland ice sheet mass.

Annual snowfall: From the Lost Squadron, we know at that particular spot, the ice increase since 1942 – 1990 was 1.5 m/year ( Planes were found 75 m below surface)
Assume that yearly precipitation is 100 mm / year over the entire surface.
That is 168000 Gton. Yes, Greenland is Big!
Inflow = 168,000Gton. Outflow is 168,200 Gton.

So if that 200 Gton rate continued, (assuming as models do, despite air photos showing fluctuations), that ice loss would result in a 1% loss of Greenland ice in 800 years. (H/t Bengt Abelsson)

Comment:

Once again, history is a better guide than hysteria.  Over time glaciers advance and retreat, and incursions of warm water are a key factor.  Greenland ice cap and glaciers are part of the Arctic self-oscillating climate system operating on a quasi-60 year cycle.

Siberian Arctic Ice Melt July 2020

The image above shows melting of Arctic sea ice extent over the last 20 days, July 5 to 25, 2020.  At the bottom right, the shallow Hudson Bay goes to water rapidly, losing 500k km2 of ice.  Even so, at 172k km2 that region is nearly average.  The remarkable 2020 event is the effect of high Siberian temperatures causing extensive melting of the nearby shelf seas, seen on the left vertical. Already on July 5, Laptev was mostly water, and now has only 5% ice. Neighboring seas East Siberian and Kara also melted rapidly. The other feature is Baffin Bay, center right, losing 300k km2 to retain only 7% of its maximum ice extent.

The graph below shows the ice extent retreating during July compared to some other years and the 13 year average (2007 to 2019 inclusive).

Note that the  MASIE NH ice extent 13 year average loses about 2.6M km2 during July, down to 7M km2. MASIE 2020 started nearly 500k km2 lower and lost ice at a higher rate, now 1.1M km2 below average.  Both MASIE and SII show this year below other recent years, reaching the present ice extent 7 days ahead of 2019 and 14 days ahead of average.

The table shows where the ice is distributed compared to average.  Bering and Okhotsk are open water at this point no longer shown in these updates. The deficit of 1.1M km2 represents 15% of the total, or an ice extent melting 14 days ahead of average.

Region 2020207 Day 207 Average 2020-Ave. 2007207 2020-2007
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 6350401 7453623  -1103222  7011118 -660717 
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 892059 794821  97238  748948 143111 
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 542328 559045  -16717  440010 102318 
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 460336 853373  -393037  647006 -186670 
 (4) Laptev_Sea 50561 485152  -434591  389317 -338756 
 (5) Kara_Sea 122978 215126  -92147  265137 -142159 
 (6) Barents_Sea 33044 37953  -4910  38346 -5302 
 (7) Greenland_Sea 342772 335165  7607  353806 -11034 
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 115572 198402  -82831  231942 -116371 
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 570728 614794  -44067  595262 -24534 
 (10) Hudson_Bay 172014 203861  -31847  114225 57789 
 (11) Central_Arctic 3047196 3154007  -106811  3185794 -138598 

Note that all of the deficit to average is accounted for by the Russian shelf seas of East Siberian, Laptev and Kara, along with Baffin Bay

Illustration by Eleanor Lutz shows Earth’s seasonal climate changes. If played in full screen, the four corners present views from top, bottom and sides. It is a visual representation of scientific datasets measuring Arctic ice extents.

Climate Change Not the End of the World (Shellenberger)

This post is to celebrate an extended extract with permission, from Michael Shellenberger’s new book, Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, (HarperCollins 2020), 432 pages.  It is published at Quillette Why I Believe Climate Change Is Not the End of the World  A few excerpts from the article in italics with my bolds.

Summary in My Words:

There is no crisis requiring these climate policies.

If there were a crisis, these policies will not help.

Implementing these policies will create a social and economic crisis.

The End is Nigh, They Say

Andrea Dutton, a paleoclimate researcher at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, said, “For some reason, the media latched onto the 12 years (2030), presumably because they thought that it helped to get across the message of how quickly we are approaching this and hence how urgently we need action. Unfortunately, this has led to a complete mischaracterization of what the report said.”

What the IPCC had actually written in its 2018 report and press release was that in order to have a good chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius from preindustrial times, carbon emissions needed to decline 45 percent by 2030. The IPCC did not say the world would end, nor that civilization would collapse, if temperatures rose above 1.5 degrees Celsius.

Scientists had a similarly negative reaction to the extreme claims made by Extinction Rebellion. Stanford University atmospheric scientist Ken Caldeira, one of the first scientists to raise the alarm about ocean acidification, stressed that “while many species are threatened with extinction, climate change does not threaten human extinction.” MIT climate scientist Kerry Emanuel told me, “I don’t have much patience for the apocalypse criers. I don’t think it’s helpful to describe it as an apocalypse.”

An AOC spokesperson told Axios, “We can quibble about the phraseology, whether it’s existential or cataclysmic.” But, he added, “We’re seeing lots of [climate change–related] problems that are already impacting lives.”

But if that’s the case, the impact is dwarfed by the 92 percent decline in the decadal death toll from natural disasters since its peak in the 1920s. In that decade, 5.4 million people died from natural disasters. In the 2010s, just 0.4 million did. Moreover, that decline occurred during a period when the global population nearly quadrupled.

In fact, both rich and poor societies have become far less vulnerable to extreme weather events in recent decades. In 2019, the journal Global En­vironmental Change published a major study that found death rates and economic damage dropped by 80 to 90 percent during the last four decades, from the 1980s to the present.

In 2017, Keeley and a team of scientists modeled 37 different regions across the United States and found that “humans may not only influence fire regimes but their presence can actually override, or swamp out, the effects of climate.” Keeley’s team found that the only statistically significant factors for the frequency and severity of fires on an annual basis were population and proximity to development.

As for the Amazon, the New York Times reported, correctly, that “[the 2019] fires were not caused by climate change.”

When it comes to food production, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) concludes that crop yields will increase significantly, under a wide range of climate change scenarios. Humans today produce enough food for ten billion people, a 25 percent surplus, and experts believe we will produce even more despite climate change.

In its fourth assessment report, the IPCC projected that by 2100, the global economy would be three to six times larger than it is today, and that the costs of adapting to a high (4 degrees Celsius) temperature rise would reduce gross domestic product (GDP) just 4.5 percent.

Does any of that really sound like the end of the world?

The Congo Doesn’t Show us the End of the World

Anyone interested in seeing the end of the world up close and in person could do little worse than to visit the Democratic Republic of the Congo in central Africa. The Congo has a way of putting first-world prophecies of climate apocalypse into perspective. I traveled there in December 2014 to study the impact of widespread wood fuel use on people and wildlife, particularly on the fabled mountain gorillas.

Is climate change playing a role in Congo’s ongoing instability? If it is, it’s outweighed by other factors. Climate change, noted a large team of researchers in 2019, “has affected organized armed conflict within countries. However, other drivers, such as low socioeconomic development and low capabilities of the state, are judged to be substantially more influential.”

There is only a barely functioning government in the Congo. When it comes to security and development, people are mostly on their own. Depending on the season, farmers suffer too much rain or not enough. Recently, there has been flooding once every two or three years. Floods regularly destroy homes and farms.

Researchers with the Peace Research Institute Oslo note, “Demographic and environmental variables have a very moderate effect on the risk of civil conflict.” The IPCC agrees. “There is robust evidence of disasters displacing people worldwide, but limited evidence that climate change or sea-level rise is the direct cause.”

Lack of infrastructure plus scarcity of clean water brings disease. As a result, Congo suffers some of the highest rates of cholera, malaria, yellow fever, and other preventable diseases in the world.

“Lower levels of GDP are the most important predictor of armed conflict,” write the Oslo researchers, who add, “Our results show that resource scarcity affects the risk of conflict less in low-income states than in wealthier states.”

If resources determined a nation’s fate, then resource-scarce Japan would be poor and at war while the Congo would be rich and at peace. Congo is astonishingly rich when it comes to its lands, minerals, forests, oil, and gas.

The Congo is a victim of geography, colonialism, and terrible post-colonial governments. Its economy grew from $7.4 billion in 2001 to $38 billion in 2017, but the annual per capita income of $561 is one of the lowest in the world, leading many to conclude that much of the money that should flow to the people is being stolen.

Billions Will Die, They Say

To get to the bottom of the “billions will die” claim, I interviewed Rockström by phone. He said the Guardian reporter had misunderstood him. What he had actually said, he told me, was this: “It’s difficult to see how we could accommodate eight billion people or even half of that,” not “a billion people.” Rockström said he had not seen the misquote until I emailed him and that he had requested a correction, which the Guardian made in late November 2019. Even so, Rockström was predicting four billion deaths.

“I don’t see scientific evidence that a four degree Celsius planet can host eight billion people,” he said. “This is, in my assessment, a scientifically justified statement, as we don’t have evidence that we can provide freshwater or feed or shelter today’s world population of eight billion in a four degree world. My expert judgment, furthermore, is that it may even be doubtful if we can host half of that, meaning four billion.”

But is there IPCC science showing that food production would actually decline? “As far as I know they don’t say anything about the potential population that can be fed at different degrees of warming,” he said.

Has anyone done a study of food production at four degrees? I asked. “That’s a good question. I must admit I have not seen a study,” said Rockström, who is an agronomist. “It seems like such an interesting and important question.”

In fact, scientists have done that study, and two of them were Rockström’s colleagues at the Potsdam Institute. It found that food production could increase even at four to five degrees Celsius warming above preindustrial levels. And, again, technical improvements, such as fertilizer, irrigation, and mechanization, mattered more than climate change.

The report also found, intriguingly, that climate change policies were more likely to hurt food production and worsen rural poverty than climate change itself.

The “climate policies” the authors refer to are ones that would make energy more expensive and result in more bioenergy use (the burning of biofuels and biomass), which in turn would increase land scarcity and drive up food costs. The IPCC comes to the same conclusion.

Similarly, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization concludes that food production will rise 30 percent by 2050 except if a scenario it calls Sustainable Practices is adopted, in which case it would rise 20 percent. Technological change significantly outweighs climate change in every single one of FAO’s scenarios.

Storms Will Destroy Us, They Say

Pielke then shows normalized hurricane losses for the same period. Nor­malized means that Pielke and his coauthors adjusted the damage data to account for the massive development of America’s coastlines, like Miami’s, since 1900. Once this is done there is no trend of rising costs.

The lack of rising normalized costs matches the historical record of US hurricane landfalls, which gave Pielke and his colleagues confidence in their results. Their results show a few big spikes in hurricane losses, including one rising to an inflation-adjusted and development-normalized $200 billion for the year 1926, when four hurricanes made landfall in the United States, exceeding the $145 billion of damage occurring in 2005. While Florida experienced eighteen major hurricanes between 1900 and 1959, it experienced just eleven from 1960 to 2018.

Is the United States unique? It’s not. “Scholars have done similar analyses of normalized tropical cyclone losses in Latin America, the Caribbean, Australia, China, and the Andhra Pradesh region in India,” Pielke notes. “In each case they have found no trend in normalized losses.”

And it’s not just hurricanes. “There is scant evidence to indicate that hurricanes, floods, tornadoes or drought have become more frequent or intense in the US or globally,” he wrote later. “In fact we are in an era of good fortune when it comes to extreme weather.”

The IPCC says the same thing. “Long-term trends in economic disaster losses adjusted for wealth and population increases have not been attributed to climate change,” notes a special IPCC report on extreme weather, “but a role for climate change has not been excluded.”

Anyone who believes climate change could kill billions of people and cause civilizations to collapse might be surprised to discover that none of the IPCC reports contain a single apocalyptic scenario. Nowhere does the IPCC describe developed nations like the United States becoming a “climate hell” resembling the Congo. Our flood-control, electricity, and road systems will keep working even under the most dire potential levels of warming.

The Earth is Burning, They Say

Before Europeans arrived in the United States, fires burned up woody biomass in forests every 10 to 20 years, preventing the accumulation of wood fuel, and fires burned the shrublands every 50 to 120 years. But during the last 100 years, the United States Forest Service (USFS) and other agencies extinguished most fires, resulting in the accumulation of wood fuel.

Keeley published a paper in 2018 finding that all ignition sources of fires had declined in California except for electric power lines. “Since the year 2000 there’ve been a half-million acres burned due to powerline-ignited fires, which is five times more than we saw in the previous 20 years,” he said. “Some people would say, ‘Well, that’s associated with climate change.’ But there’s no relationship between climate and these big fire events.

What then is driving the increase in fires? “If you recognize that 100 percent of these [shrubland] fires are started by people, and you add six million people [since 2000], that’s a good explanation for why we’re getting more and more of these fires,” said Keeley.

The news media depicted the 2019–2020 fire season as the worst in Australia’s history but it wasn’t. It ranked fifth in terms of area burned, with about half of the burned acreage as 2002, the fourth-place year, and about a sixth of the burned acreage of the worst season in 1974–1975. The 2019–2020 fires ranked sixth in fatalities, about half as many as the fifth-place year, 1926, and a fifth as many fatalities as the worst fire on record in 2009. While the 2019–2020 fires are second in the number of houses destroyed, they razed about 50 percent less than the worst year, the 1938–39 fire season. The only metric by which this fire season appears to be the worst ever is in the number of non-home buildings damaged.

Climate alarmism, animus among environmental journalists toward the current Australian government, and smoke that was unusually visible to densely populated areas, appear to be the reasons for exaggerated media coverage.

The bottom line is that other human activities have a greater impact on the frequency and severity of forest fires than the emission of greenhouse gases. And that’s great news, because it gives Australia, California, and Brazil far greater control over their future than the apocalyptic news media suggested.

We’re All Going to Die, They Say

Studies find that climate alarmism is contributing to rising anxiety and depression, particularly among children. In 2017, the American Psychological Association diagnosed rising eco-anxiety and called it “a chronic fear of environmental doom.” In September 2019, British psychologists warned of the impact on children of apocalyptic discussions of climate change. In 2020, a large national survey found that one out of five British children was having nightmares about climate change.

“There is no doubt in my mind that they are being emotionally impacted,” one expert said.

Extinction Rebellion activists stoked those fears. Extinction Rebellion activists gave frightening and apocalyptic talks to schoolchildren across Britain. In one August talk, an Extinction Rebellion activist climbed atop a desk in the front of a classroom to give a terrifying talk to children, some of whom appear no older than 10 years old.

“But most scientists don’t agree with this,” says the BBC’s Andrew Neil. “I looked through [the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent reports] and see no reference to billions of people going to die, or children going to die in under 20 years… How would they die?”

Responds XR ‘s Zion Lights, “Mass migration around the world is already taking place due to prolonged drought in countries, particularly in South Asia. There are wildfires in Indonesia, the Amazon rainforest, also Siberia, the Arctic.”

“These are really important problems,” Neil says, “and they can cause fatalities. But they don’t cause billions of deaths. They don’t mean that our young people will all be dead in 20 years.”

Apocalypse Coming if We Don’t Change Our Ways, Media Say

In November and December 2019, I published two long articles criticizing climate alarmism and covering material similar to what I’ve written above. I did so in part because I wanted to give scientists and activists, including those whom I criticized, a chance to respond or correct any errors I might have made in my reporting before publishing this book. Both articles were widely read, and I made sure the scientists and activists I mentioned saw my article. Not a single person requested a correction. Instead, I received many emails from scientists and activists alike, thanking me for clarifying the science.

But consider a June Associated Press article. It was headlined, “UN Predicts Disaster if Global Warming Not Checked.” It was one of many apocalyptic articles that summer about climate change.

In the article, a “senior UN environmental official” claims that if global warming isn’t reversed by 2030, then rising sea levels could wipe “entire nations… off the face of the Earth.”

Crop failures coupled with coastal flooding, he said, could provoke “an exodus of ‘eco-refugees,’ ” whose movements could wreak political chaos the world over. Unabated, the ice caps will melt away, the rainforests will burn, and the world will warm to unbearable temperatures.

Governments “have a 10-year window of opportunity to solve the greenhouse effects before it goes beyond human control,” said the UN official.

Did the Associated Press publish that apocalyptic warning from the United Nations in June 2019? No, June 1989. And, the cataclysmic events the UN official predicted were for the year 2000, not 2030.