2011-02-04 16:17:19Anyone want to write a rebuttal to this argument
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
123.211.149.21

There is a dogfight in New Mexico and SkS can help join the battle, add to the chorus of voices.

Basically, skeptic Harrsion Schmitt who is connected to the Heartland Institute was nominated for Energy Secretary in New Mexico. Scientist Mark Boslough wrote a piece criticising him. The Heartland are hitting back hard:

http://www.heartland.org/policybot/results/29280/Writer_owes_Schmitt_readers_apology.html

http://blog.heartland.org/2011/02/defending-harrison-schmitt-nominee-for-energy-secretary-of-new-mexico/

While we don't want to get into the politics, what we can do is contribute to the scientific aspect of the discussion. Eg, much of it revolves around:

  • Boslough falsely accuses Harrison Schmitt of making a false statement in 2009 about Arctic sea ice having returned to 1989 levels, and then failing to correct the error. In fact, National Snow and Ice Data Center records show conclusively that in April 2009, Arctic sea ice extent had indeed returned to and surpassed 1989 levels. 

Perhaps we could do a blog post debunking Schmitt on this point? Someone has suggested naming this misinformation "Arcticgate" and use it in a number of different locations so it takes. Anyone want to have a crack at Schmitt's 'Arctic has returned to normal' meme?

2011-02-04 17:26:54comment
Robert Way

robert_way19@hotmail...
142.162.14.78
anything we can do to help is beneficial for our cause...
2011-02-04 18:00:42Damn heartland
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
71.140.0.210
Ugh Heartland, "we're center-right". My ass you are. I assume you want to stick to the Arctic sea ice claim and avoid all the other crap in the Heartland article, like the OISM reference?
2011-02-04 18:17:56More developments
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
123.211.149.21

The New Mexico Republican party is getting behind this. They've emailed the Heartland article by Joseph Bast to their GOP mailing list.

2011-02-04 19:04:48Okay, I'll write this one
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
123.211.149.21
I've already got a ready made rebuttal for this one - will just adapt that to the blog post.

this one will be called Articgate (apparently Scmitt misspelt Arctic in his initial piee).

2011-02-05 03:28:43suggestion
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
38.223.231.252
John, I was thinking that a good way to do this graphically is with the same idea as the Monckton graphics illustrating cherrypicking.  Plot just the 1989 and April 2009 data, then plot all the data with the trend line.
2011-02-05 08:01:19Cherry pick
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
123.211.149.21
I had that very idea last night, we're startig to think alike, Dana (like an old married couple). Will rustle something up today, post it here. Thanks!
2011-02-05 12:29:22A similar Monckton claim
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
112.213.148.195
Monckton has claimed something similar about June 2008 being cooler than June 1988 (to argue that Hansen's 1988 projections were wrong).
2011-02-05 14:12:17Here's the proposed blog post - feedback welcome (it won't go live till probably Monday)
John Cook

john@skepticalscience...
123.211.149.21

Articgate: perpetuating the myth that Arctic sea ice has recovered

In 2009, former astronaut Harrison Schmitt submitted a white paper to NASA, Observations Necessary for Useful Global Climate Models. In this paper, Schmitt crams in an impressive number of skeptic arguments - including the argument that we're currently experiencing cooling:

"How long this cooling trend will persist remains to be seen; however, Greenland glaciers have been advancing since 2006, Artic sea ice has returned to 1989 levels of coverage, and snowy, cold winters and cool summers have dominated northern North America and Europe"

I'm having trouble getting past the brazenness of using Greenland as evidence of cooling, considering over the last few years, Greenland has been losing over 200 billion tonnes of ice per year. But for now, let's look at Schmitt's argument that Arctic (we'll spell it correctly) sea ice had recovered in 2009. Over 1989, the average sea ice extent was 12.14 million square kilometres. In 2009, the average sea ice extent had fallen 11.18 million square kilometres. Sea ice coverage was nearly 1 million square kilometres greater in 1989 compared to 2009. How can Schmitt claim sea ice returned to 1989 levels? The Heartland Institute leapt to his defence:

"In fact, National Snow and Ice Data Center records show conclusively that in April 2009, Arctic sea ice extent had indeed returned to and surpassed 1989 levels."

So they're comparing one month in 1989 to another month in 2009. Of all the measurements and data available to us, what they're looking at is this:

Arctic sea ice extent - cherry picked monthly values

Figure 1: Arctic sea ice extent in April 1989 and April 2009 (NSIDC).

Is this giving you the full picture? There's a lot more to the story than two cherry-picked monthly values:

Arctic Sea Ice extent - monthly and yearly values

Figure 2: Arctic sea ice extent (light blue is monthly and dark blue is the yearly average) from 1978 to 2010 (NSIDC).

Of course sea ice extent only tells you what's happening on the surface. More importantly, Arctic sea ice has been steadily thinning over the last few decades so the total amount of sea ice is declining. Satellites find that Arctic sea ice was thinning, even in 2008 and 2009 when sea ice extent showed a slight recovery from the 2007 minimum (Giles 2008, Kwok 2009). The total volume of Arctic Sea ice through 2008 and 2009 were the lowest on record (Maslowski 2010, Tschudi 2010).

Arctic sea ice volume anomaly

Figure 3: Continuously updated Arctic Sea Ice Volume Anomaly (Polar Ice Center).

To claim Arctic sea ice has recovered in recent years is false. It fails to take into account the overall declining trend in Arctic sea ice and more importantly, the fact that the total amount of Arctic sea ice in recent years have been the lowest on record.

2011-02-05 14:55:45excellent
dana1981
Dana Nuccitelli
dana1981@yahoo...
71.140.0.210
Nice job John.  It might be nice to give a number regarding the amount of Arctic sea ice extent decline - either a trend or total area lost since '78.  Otherwise I've got nothing - excellent post.
2011-02-05 15:27:22John, have you considered using this volume graph?
James Wight

jameswight@southernphone.com...
112.213.148.195
2011-02-05 20:46:08
Rob Painting
Rob
paintingskeri@vodafone.co...
118.93.230.64
Nice post, although to be very nitpicky, maybe a sentence or two explaining figure 2 might be in order. For the casual reader of course!.