Arctic ice melt in the 1930s: Another denier argument debunked.

Submitted by naught101 on Thu, 11/27/2008 - 16:32

When I'm reading about climate change in public forums like the internet, or newspapers, I expect to see denial argments all over. Usually, they're the same old shit, that's been roundly debunked by numerous people. So it's a pleasant suprise to find new arguments - it gives you something to think about.

This one really was suprising though: Richard Lindzen is well known for being a good debater, and well-read. He's one of the last deniers that mainstream seems to accept. So it's a suprise that I haven't seen this particular arguement before: usually these things get picked up like smallpox. This article's actually a bit old (2004), so I'd expect it to be well spread around the internet by now, but it isn't.

In the 2004 article/interview by Marc Morano for, Lindzen says: "Although there is [Arctic] melting going [on] now, there has been a lot of melting that went on in the [19]30s and then there was freezing."

Ok, so the basic appeal of the argument - it's happened before, so who cares if it's happening now? - has appeared in many denial rants before, but this one is very specific, and it isn't documented in any of the other major lists of old denier arguments.

The second part of the suprise is that it's so damn easy to debunk. You don't need to be a scientist for this one. You just need to go to the NOAA Arctic website (see the updated graph). Ok, so there was melting from 1934-40, but there was roughly the same amount of ice INCREASE in the year before that trend started. If any sane person looked at that graph, they'd immediately see that the sea ice extent trend is pretty much static up to about the 50s or 60s, and then the trend swings down dramatically, dropping from a relatively constant ~13.5m sqkm, down to about 11.5-12m sqkm over the last decade.

Anyway, the article is generally crap, nothing that hasn't been talked about thousands of times since. I just thought that this specific bit should be pointed out. I'm not going to go seeking it, but I'd be interested to know what Lindzen thinks about that graph, and whether NOAA is part of the whole conspiracy or not. I'd also be interested to hear why he thinks that fossil fuel companies, with all their billions of dollars of annual profit, haven't been funneling some that money into climate science to see if they can get a different result - obviously if it could be done, the rewards (of not having to deal with environmental regulation) would be significant...


Did you know that in 1905 the arctic ice melted so much that a small wooden boat with a crew of seven was able to navigate the fabeled North West Passage?…

Wait a minute that cannot be true. There was not enough man made CO2 emissions to have resulted in global warming in 1905. Or could it be that the whole global warming scare is a hoax. Any rational person will have to conclude that the latter is true.

Agile Aspect (not verified)

Wed, 07/08/2009 - 10:35

The satellite has only been operating for 30 years.

Where does the data prior to 1979 (when the Arctic
sea ice reached it historical maximum) come from?… <-- looks to me like the recent historical maximum was in the 1950s.

The answer to your question is the same place as every other dataset that now includes satellite data: from ground-based measurement. Considering that this is sea ice extent, you don't have to measure the whole icecap, just it's most equatorial reaches. And of course you don't have to measure every point, you can take any given set of points, and extrapolate a fairly accurate estimate. Of course, the more points, the more accuracy, which is why satellite data is better.