Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Arctic Records That Still Remain

Now that Arctic sea ice extent has set a new record minimum in the recorded era -- Jennifer Francis told the NY Times, “It’s hard even for people like me to believe, to see that climate change is actually doing what our worst fears dictated. It’s starting to give me chills, to tell you the truth” -- about the only records remaining are the lowest year and the 12-month moving average.

The lowest annual SIE, calculated as the average of each day in the year, still belongs to 2007, at 9.97 Mkm2. But it depends on how you interpret days with missing data -- I've chosen to linearly interpolate across any data gaps. In this way, 2011 averaged 9.98 Mkm2.

Year-to-date, 2012 ranks 4th, with 2011 the lowest (11.08 Mkm2), then 2007 (11.14 Mkm2), 2006 (11.16 Mkm2), and 2012 (11.28 Mkm2). YTD-2012 is closing in on YTD-2011 fast though, at about 0.005 Mkm2 each day, and at current rates will beat it in about two months.

The daily availability of data lends the undeniable feeling of a horserace to all this. I'm undecided if that's positive or negative. Emphasizing short-term phenomena is always risky in matters of climate change, and perhaps there's an appearance that some are cheering for the records to be broken (Marc Moreno wrote, "...Climate Depot extends congratulations to the global warming activists as they celebrate current Arctic ice conditions and try to convince the public that it is a significant event that is due to man-made global warming," but then, spin is the very essence of his business model).

On the other hand, everyone is much more aware of what's happening than all but the researchers would have been before the Web, which accelerates overall concerns where there should be concerns. At the ISEC Space Elevator Conference I just returned from, one of the speakers said we have been "criminally slow to act on the climate crisis." While more data is always needed, it surely isn't because we lack adequate information about what's happening -- we're now getting it on a daily basis.

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