Global temperatures this winter on average were up for 2009-2010 but the March Arctic Ice Growth was perhaps unprecedented and much of Northern Asia, Northern Europe and parts of the United States had exceedingly harsh winters while Canada and Greenland were exceedingly warm. In February, the North Pole Arctic Ice extent appeared to have continued a trend of slow growth from the 2006 lowest recorded maximum ice extent. Back in 2004, there were several reports concerning undersea volcanic activity that could account for warming Arctic ocean temperatures, but these reports were not widely brought to the public view by the media. Nevertheless, since the low maximum in March 2006 which followed the lowest Arctic Ice Extent minimum ever recorded in 2005. Then in 2007, a new record low minimum Arctic Sea Ice extent was observed. This led to trumpeting in the media that 2008 could result in an ice free Arctic. If I recall, when I reviewed these media reports, I found that the headline did not match the rhetoric. A few scientists had said that there was a 1 in 4 chance of that happening, which is hardly a prediction that it would occur. Not only did that headline prove to be false, but the 2008 Arctic Sea Ice minimum was greater than the previous year. I noted that, instead of saying that it had grown, the headline from the National Snow and Ice Data Center was that it was the “second lowest” of all time. The headline was true but they chose the negative presentation over the positive depiction which may speak volumes. In my mind, headlines should be absent of adjectives that may create bias perceptions one way or the other.
Since those days of gloom and doom, the reports have consistently come forth with the reference point always being the lowest. I”m not sure if I have ever seen a sentence that simply says the ice is growing. In March 2010, the NSIDC reported that the Arctic Ice Extent in February “continued to track below average” and near those dismal levels of 2007. But, the numbers were slightly higher and at the end of the month, there was a slight rise that was not noted in the text. Later, we find that the February Arctic Ice Extent was the “fourth lowest February extent” which means it was higher than 2005, 2006 and 2007 but was lower than 2008 and 2009. As it turns out, something happened. As the month of March rolled on, that little rise at the end of February that was seemingly dismissed continued on through March such that the March ice extent almost reached the 1979-2000 average that is used as a baseline. I do not recall the ice extent of any month coming close to that level in recent memory. I suppose qualitative adjectives only apply for negative news because the April 6, 2010 NSIDC Arctic Sea Ice Extent report used a more balanced headline than it had in previous reports of low ice. Instead it simply says, “Cold snap causes late-season spurt growth.” The text of the report does not point out but, this is the 3rd consecutive March to be well above the long term trend line. This should bring good news of cheer, I would think. Just 2 years ago, the media was writing about Santa Claus floating away and now we see a huge growth in the ice extent and the latest date of the maximum extent since monitoring began.
Nevertheless, I find very little of a positive nature in the report and I think that is the correct approach. It is good to be cautious in a humble silent admission that we do not have a full understanding of how the earth’s climate operates. Just report the facts. But, in the past, there has been a decided negative tilt. Even in this report, there is talk of how the long term trend is still down and that the overall temperatures were still above average for the Arctic were above average, but it does note that the temperatures in Northern Europe and Siberia were below average. It probably would have been more accurate to say they were “well below average,” yet again, they seem to pick and choose when to use qualifying adjectives. If you look at the seasonal temperature map to the right, you notice that all of Siberia was at least 5 degrees C below average and that the rest of Northern Europe was between 3-5 degrees C below average. That represents an enormous land mass. Now, Canada was some 3-4 degrees warmer but much of the United States was 2-4 degrees colder. Air temperatures over the ocean were generally warmer than average but not to the extent of the land anomalies. For some reason, we had a long wave pattern that gave persistent cold to large land areas in the Northern hemisphere with a somewhat smaller land area covered by warmer temperatures. Overall, the global temperatures were warmer. If you look at the map, you notice that almost the entire Southern Hemisphere was warmer during the peiriod, which is largely ocean areas. The exception is the oceans surrounding Antarctica. What’s up with that?
And that last question is the real truth because no one knows. Yes, the long term trend of Arctic Ice extent is negative but there seems to be a trend over the past 3-4 years of growth that bucks the trend. This rapid expansion of ice in March did not fit the storyline except that it was the third consecutive year that the March Ice Extent was well above the long term trend line. And what’s up with the land masses being so cold and the air over the oceans not playing along? Just a coincidence or is there something at play? And what about the undersea volcanoes? Do they play any role at all or are they just red herrings? And why was the Southern Hemisphere so warm this summer except for the areas around the South Pole? No one wants to address the fact that the Antarctic did not want to go along with the warming script when the global temperature is taken for the time frame. I know that I will be given a label for raising any questions which always puts up a red flag to me when legitimate questions are not seriously since they don’t fit a perconceived notion.
I think that the proper position to take here is not one way or another. It is wrong for people to say that there is no climate change. Most evidence suggests that there is. It is not clear if the change though is anthropogenic or natural so it is equally as wrong to pretend like we have all of the answers. Throughout history, man seems to learn lessons. After the devastating 30 years war in Europe, mankind seemed to at least temporarily find that diplomacy was a far better way to settle disputes than armed conflict. Obviously, that lesson has been lost. But one lesson that man does not seem to learn is humility; a recognition that he currently has limited ability to reach conclusions about anything concerning the wonders of his own planet. Constantly, what is thought to be fact is tossed on the ash heep of history when something comes along to confound that supposed fact. Yet, we continue to behave as if we have all of the answers and persecute those who suggest otherwise.
Weather Bottom Line: After pontificating about the need for humility, I follow up with a forecast. Nice timing. But, duty calls. The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center appears to be taking the more cautious position that I advocated yesterday regarding severe weather prospects in our area. The slight risk area was expanded on Tuesday both north and south as well as farther east to the extent that it now encompasses the Louisville Metro Area. This allows for the potential for storms that should develop to our west to hold together in the evening hours and move into our region. We had temperatures in the mid to upper 80’s on Tuesday…but there is one fly in the ointment..that is the dewpoints.
Tuesday afternoon we were only in the mid 40’s regarding dewpoints and we’ll have to do better than that to support some good storms around here. Surface Dewpoints Tuesday afternoon were over 60 from Southwestern Illinois down through the Bootheel of Missouri and and down south from there. I would speculate that we will probably see an increase in our moisture content such that it will be marginally sufficient to suppor t’storms and possibly strong storms. Bottom Line is that Wednesday afternoon and evening will be something to keep an eye on around here. Not a slam dunk and perhaps not even likely, but there will be a possibility of some action..most likely if we did it would be gusty winds and small hail. We get some CAPE in here late in the day and some sheer and Helicity…enough for conern but not enough to go bananas over either.