The Arctic Sea Ice is Melting - no matter how bad George Will doesn't want it to

There remains a lot of messaging and spin running rampant online over Washington Post colmunist George Will’s misguided and baseless claims that sea ice coverage is similar to 1979.

DeSmog writer Mitchell Anderson has been covering this baffling story for us and doing a great job, but I wanted to provide a few of the sources that have done a particularly good job at highlighting just how much sea ice we have lost since the 1970’s when we first started recording such things. 

These source easily and compellingly explain away George Will’s incorrect claim that sea ice coverage is the same today as it was in 1979.

1. You can watch the extent of Arctic Ice melt decreasing over time. Here’s a great satellite image time series video done by NASA that shows the year-to-year melting of sea ice in the Arctic. I don’t know how anyone could argue that sea ice in the Arctic is the same as it was in 1979 after watching this video:

2. Old ice versus new ice. It’s a simple argument used by people looking for any reason to deny the realities of climate change to talk about sea ice “extent” as opposed to sea ice mass. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center, the issue is not as much the change in the “extent” but the change in the thickness of the ice over time - there’s a lot more thin ice that quickly melts in the Spring as opposed to older thick ice:

“there seems to have been a transition to younger, thinner ice beginning in the late 1970s. This reflects not only trends towards more summer melt and less winter ice growth, but changing winds that have transported fairly thick ice out of the Arctic Ocean into the North Atlantic, and decreased the length of time that ice is “sequestered” in the Arctic Ocean where it might have a chance to grow thicker.”

So the extent of the ice - the actual surface area of the ice covering the Arctic sea - may appear large from time to time, but the amount of thick, old ice has been going down since the 1970’s when scientists first began monitoring such things.

Here’s a great time series of the decrease in old ice in the Arctic. The colors indicate the age of the sea ice in years; light blue is open water (OW). Areas in red are locations where the ice is five years or older, whereas the dark blue areas are first-year ice.

So all the dark blue areas are first year ice and the bright red is 5 years or older:

3. If you still think Arctic Sea Ice is the same as it was in 1979, then here’s a satellite image of the Arctic sea taken in August, 2007. The purple line is where the sea ice usually was between 1979 and 2000.

This image and the animated one above were produced by the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado. In fact, the NSIDC has just today released a new report finding:

“Arctic sea ice extent averaged for the month of February was 14.84 million square kilometers (5.73 million square miles). February extent was 800,000 square kilometers (309,000 square miles) less than the 1979 to 2000 average, and 140,000 square kilometers (54,000 square miles) less than for February 2008.”

800,000 square kilometers is a lot of ice to go missing and with all this data so easily obtained (took me about an hour), you would think it would pretty difficult for a news outlet like the Washington Post and a seasoned journalist like George Will to ignore.

This month we’re giving away FREE copies Keith Farnish’s new book Times Up: an uncivilzed solution to a global crisis.

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George Will talked about global sea ice extent, thanks Paul, but I do put a lot of research time into these posts. I presumed that there are 2 sea ice regions Will was talking about, Arctic and Antarctic.

I’m going to show the flaws in Will’s presumptions regarding Antarctic ice in a post later this week.

But seriously, your splitting hairs, how can you defend Will and his dead-wrong claim? Please take the time to look at the easy to read images and video above, it’s pretty darn clear what’s happening. If you still don’t get it, I don’t know how more simple I can make it.

Clearly this is not ‘Global Sea Ice’. This is in fact Greenland. But its ice-cover is melting too. See below for some of the text. Visit the link for the whole story. 

The northern fringes of Greenland’s ice sheet experienced extreme melting in 2008, according to NASA scientist Marco Tedesco and his colleagues. This image shows the number of days when melting occurred on the ice sheet compared to the average number of melt days between 1979 and 2007.

‘The northern fringes of Greenland’s ice sheet experienced extreme melting in 2008, according to NASA scientist Marco Tedesco and his colleagues. This image shows the number of days when melting occurred on the ice sheet compared to the average number of melt days between 1979 and 2007. Red outlines the northern rim and parts of the west coast of Greenland, indicating that the summer melting period in 2008 was longer than average in many places. Many locations in northern Greenland experienced a record number of melt days. Temperatures at nearby ground-based weather stations were correspondingly high. The average temperature between June and August 2008 was as much as 3 degrees Celsius above average, with new record temperatures at many ground-based weather stations….,’ [my emphasis]

When does a guy like him wake up? WHAT should we ALL to today PERSONALLY to stop this crisis that will take us all down? I wonder….!

All the best,


Considering the effect of aerosols on the earth’s temperature was a reasonable scientific thing to do in the 1970’s (and aerosols are still included in modeling). What’s changed since:

1. The rate of adding CO2 has increased. American per capita consumption and total population has increased. The economic rise of India and China has added two large sources – China is overtaking the U.S. in total CO2 emissions (though not per capita).

2. Work has been done to clean up air pollution sources. (Although the Asia ‘brown cloud’ seems to me to be adding a global haze in the last 2-3 years).

And all scientists considered AGW to be a problem in the 1970s. Statements like Will’s are not fact-based, taken in context.

Preface: Will is wrong on every point, and I’ve fussed at him endlessly in my own blog, in dozens of comments to the Post articles, and in letters to the Post editors, the Post ombudsman, and to Will himself. So don’t yell at me.

But he did say global ice, not Arctic ice. That doesn’t make him any less wrong. It does mean that you can’t rebut that particular claim by talking about Arctic ice only.

To refute his claim properly, you have to talk about global extent, global volume, how Arctic and Antarctic ice differ, single year vs. multi-year ice, why Arctic ice is the key indicator, etc. It’s not quite as simple as what’s covered here.

paul s gets entirely too much space in these threads.  He persistently posts the same easily refuted arguments, and continues to split hairs, cherry-pick, and perpetuate the same-old same-old that the guys at the Heartland Institute et al recycle ad nauseum

Enough, already

Paul, whoever you are, pull your head out.  Take a good long look at the evidence contradicting your position and THINK FOR YOURSELF.  Ask yourself why it matters so much to you that AGW has to be wrong.  Are you afraid that someone is trying to control your life?  Do you think it’s all a socialist conspiracy? 

Now ask yourself:  what if the human species has been so successful on this planet that we have begun to be a significant factor in its chemistry?  What if there are so many of us producing so much chemical effluent that we are soiling our own nest, changing the balance of our delicate atmospheric composition?  What if we could be doing things to minimize the impact of that?  If it could be indisputably proven to you that your behaviour (driving an SUV, heating with oil, air conditioning, buying strawberries in January) was causing the planet to become uninhabitable – would you change your behaviour?  What would it take to prove it to you?  I am deadly serious, because these are the questions we must all ask ourselves.

I have a book on my shelves that I inherited from my father. It is called The Family of Man.  Lately that’s had a sightly sexist implication, but for the moment let’s just focus on the Family concept.  We are all connected.  What affects some of us affects us all. 

So get back to me, paul s.  Just asking.

Paul s said: “I am glad to see Stephen’s and Ian’s offensive statements have been removed from this thread”.

Get real, it was your offensivce statements and our honest replies indicating your dishonesty and ignorance of science which were removed.

My comments were a valid response to your scientific ignorance and the misinformation you continually post on this blog.

My comment was not offensive in the slightest.  I said that if the Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets are shrinking, then it is impossible for global sea ice trends to be stable or increasing.

I don’t know why my comment was deleted.  I never was condescending.  I think you, Paul, are so worried that you are wrong that you attempt to silence your critics.  So much for your support of free speech.

It may be that your comment was a reply to an offensive post that got zapped.  When we delete an offensive post, all of the responses go too.  There is also a viral thing happening right now, and you might have got caught up in that.

Not sure why people deny the long-term studies.  It is importnat, just like with global warming, that people look at long-term trends.  Seems to me that the video says it all…


What is the big deal with the ice melting anyway? What kind of problems will it cause. Wont it release more fresh water into the enviornment? This could be a good thing for some nations, right?

A lot of people will say that the melting ice will cause floods but how? When ice melts in water the water level lowers. I think this is all just a bunch of Hype created for taxation purposes.

You are lagging behind! Archimedes (287 BC-212 BC) knew this! FYI, floating ice has no effect on sea-level when it melts. I should think that schoolchildren would know this!

A very simplified account of why melting Actic Ice is very bad.

Melting Arctic Ice will replace high reflectance ice and snow with dark ocean. Thereby resulting in an positive albedo  feedback mechanism accelerating Arctic warming.

Arctic warming threatens to release vast reserves of stored carbon from sea floor clathrates, thermokarst lakes and melting permafrost. This carbon will be in the form of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, further resulting in greatly accelerated warming. 

PS This are already happening.

Loss of Arctic ice will also be bad for Polar bears and numerous other polar species [including many species of sea fish eaten by humans (see your local seafish supplier)], that will be unable to migrate further North to avoid the warming.

All that fresh water from the melting ice-cap will dilute the Arctic Ocean and seems likely to have bad consequences for the thermohaline / meridional overturning circulation, which transports much heat from the tropics to the temperate zone.

PPS Do you realise now  why this is such a big deal?


I strongly recommend that you read some science. 

Don’t pay any attention to posts that have a link at the end that is unrelated to the thread.  These are spamming posts, and the person posting is not really taking part in the discussion. I am working on filtering them out without stopping legitimate links. 

i am now seeing the big picture….

there must be some conspiracy among government officials and big companies whose interests will be affected by all of this global warming thing. they all seem to be blind to all of these.

sterling silver cz ring

What I find is that when you click on the people who tend to be the most critical and who are downright rude, you find that these people Roll Forming Machine have neither a website, nor a blog of their own, just some generic email account.