The Arctic is Warm

Icontinue to note that the Arctic has been ableto retain its apparent dominant heat signature through all this. Sometime atleast thirty years ago, the heat been transferred from the tropics into the Arctic made an incremental increase, which we maydescribe as delta H.  This has continuedunabated ever since and now continues into next year.

Thisremarkable report describes the continuing observations.   The resultantchanges have kicked us this winter, but has changed nothing else.  The sea ice is continuing to rot apace and ifthis is all correct, we are now entering a protracted period of semi open Arcticseas in the late summer.  I do think thatthe stage is set for a total breakup like event in 2012, although we haveclaims of ice reversal that seems creditable. 

Thefact is that the statistical data systems continue to paint a warmer globe.  Yet this is a position that I deeplymistrust.  A shift of real heat into the Arctic is real and has been seen before and seems tofollow a millennial cycle.  So far sogood.  However, on a global basis, I thinkthat the data gathering itself is subject to serious upward creep that we havebeen unable to correct properly for.  Itis not much, but a half of a degree is all we have to begin with.  An error here and an error there always madeon the upside soon accumulates to give you this.  The best data had exactly that problem inspades.

Inot no one has the guts to correct it using annual tree rings.

That snow outside is what global warminglooks like

Unusually cold winters may make you thinkscientists have got it all wrong. But the data reveal a chilling truth, Monday 20December 2010

A zebra stands in its snow-covered pen at Whipsnade Zoo, north of London on December 20,2010 Photograph: Max Nash/AFP/Getty Images

There were two silent calls, followed by a message left on myvoicemail. She had a soft, gentle voice and a mid-Wales accent. "You are aliar, Mr Monbiot. You and James Hansen and all your lyingcolleagues. I'm going to make you pay back the money my son gave to yourcauses. It's minus 18C and my pipes have frozen. You liar. Is this your globalwarming?" She's not going to like the answer, and nor are you. It may beyes.

There is now strong evidence to suggest that the unusually cold wintersof the last two years in the UKare the result of heating elsewhere. With the help of the severe weatheranalyst John Mason and the ClimateScience Rapid Response Team, I've been through as much of thescientific literature as I can lay hands on (see my website for thereferences). Here's what seems to be happening.

The global temperature maps publishedby Nasa present a striking picture. Last month's shows a deepblue splodge over Iceland,Spitsbergen, Scandanavia and the UK, and another over the western USand eastern Pacific. Temperatures in these regions were between 0.5C and 4Ccolder than the November average from 1951 and 1980. But on either side ofthese cool blue pools are raging fires of orange, red and maroon: thetemperatures in western Greenland, northern Canadaand Siberia were between 2C and 10C higherthan usual. Nasa's Arctic oscillations map for 3-10 December shows that partsof Baffin Island and central Greenland were15C warmer than the average for 2002-9. There was a similar pattern lastwinter. These anomalies appear to be connected.

The weather we get in UK winters, for example, is strongly linked tothe contrasting pressure between the Icelandic low and the Azoreshigh. When there's a big pressure difference the winds come in from thesouth-west, bringing mild damp weather from the Atlantic.When there's a smaller gradient, air is often able to flow down from the Arctic. High pressure in the icy north last winter,according to the US NationalOceanic and Atmospheric Administration, blocked the usual pattern and"allowed cold air from the Arctic to penetrate all the way into Europe,eastern China, and Washington DC".Nasa reports that the same thing is happening this winter.
Sea ice in the Arctichas two main effects on the weather. Because it's white, it bounces back heatfrom the sun, preventing it from entering the sea. It also creates a barrierbetween the water and the atmosphere, reducing the amount of heat that escapesfrom the sea into the air. In the autumns of 2009 and 2010 the coverage ofArctic sea ice was much lower than the long-term average: the second smallest,last month, of any recorded November. The open sea, being darker, absorbed moreheat from the sun in the warmer, light months. As it remained clear for longerthan usual it also bled more heat into the Arctic atmosphere. This causedhigher air pressures, reducing the gradient between the Iceland low and the Azoreshigh.
So why wasn't this predicted by climate scientists? Actually it was,and we missed it. Obsessed by possible changes to ocean circulation (the Gulf Stream grinding to a halt), we overlookedthe effects on atmospheric circulation. A link between summer sea ice inthe Arctic and winter temperatures in thenorthern hemisphere was first proposed in 1914. Close mapping of therelationship dates back to 1990, and has been strengthened by detailedmodelling since 2006.

Will this become the pattern? It's not yet clear. Vladimir Petoukhov of the Potsdam Institute saysthat the effects of shrinking sea ice "could triple the probability ofcold winter extremes in Europe and northern Asia".James Hansen of Nasa counters that seven of the last 10 European winters werewarmer than average. There are plenty of other variables: we can't predict thedepth of British winters solely by the extent of sea ice.

I can already hear the howls of execration:now you're claiming that this cooling is the result of warming! Well, yes, itcould be. A global warming trend doesn't mean that every region becomes warmerevery month. That's what averages are for: they put local events in context.The denial of man-made climate change mutated first into a denial of science ingeneral and then into a denial of basic arithmetic. If it's snowing in Britain, athousand websites and quite a few newspapers tell us, the planet can't bewarming.
According to Nasa's datasets, the world hasjust experienced the warmest January to November period since the global recordbegan, 131 years ago; 2010 looks likely to be either the hottest or the equalhottest year. This November was the warmest on record.
Sod all that, my correspondents insist: just look out of the window. Noexplanation of the numbers, no description of the North Atlantic oscillation orthe Arcticdipole, no reminder of current temperatures in other parts of theworld, can compete with the observation that there's a foot of snow outside. Weare simple, earthy creatures, governed by our senses. What we see andtaste and feel overrides analysis. The cold has reason in a deathlygrip.

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