Science journalist Axel Bojanowski, a trained geologist, at Spiegel writes how scientists think they may have solved the riddle of growing Antarctic sea ice in a warming world.
Mysteries surround Antarctica…scientists realizing oceans play huge role on climate. Photo: NASA-JPL.
No question the planet has warmed some since 1900 as it crawls out of a little ice age and back to a new Holocene optimum. Bojanowski writes:
For a long time scientists thought the problem would simply pass. They expected it was only a fleeting oddity.”
It turns out that the high level of Antarctic sea ice hasn’t been an oddity at all and continues to set new record highs. Now red-faced scientists are desperately searching for an explanation, even a temporary one, that will at least allow them to buy some time. Bojanowski writes:
Never before since measurements began in the late 1970s has there been so much ice at the southern continent at this time of the year.”
Bojanowski cites climate scientist Hugues Goosse of the Université Catholique of Louvain in Belgium, who says that Antarctica is behaving differently due to the fact that it is surrounded by oceans, and not continents as is the case in the Arctic. Goosse tells of ocean dynamics acting as a likely driver in polar ice behavior.
News for Goosse: Ocean cycles are a climate factor that climate scientists always had a habit of denying in the past. Skeptics argued again and again that oceans indeed acted as one of the earth’s primary thermostats, but were always dismissed. This is one reason why climate models have been so wrong.
Yet, Goosse insists the phenomenon is “temporary”. Spiegel writes:
Goosse believes in “temporary fluctuations in weather patterns”, for example changes in the prevailing wind directions. In the meantime winds are blowing over the southern continent more outwards towards the sea and thus are blowing ice outwards in all directions.”
Why this is happening is unclear. But Bojanowski cites a theory proposed by the National Snow and Ice Data Center, who think the ozone hole over the South Pole may be playing a role.
The mystery of Antarctic sea ice seems bigger than ever. Bojanowski writes of yet another explanation: Finnish researcher Petteri Uotila thinks the answer is that the Atlantic and the conditions in the Antarctic are linked:
‘I think this explanation solves the Antarctic sea ice paradox,’ believes Petteri Uotila of the Finnish Meteorological Institute in Helsinki, who was not involved in the theory.”
The theory is proposed by scientists at the New York University (NYU) who claim they see an “amazing relationship” between the Atlantic and Antarctica via the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO).
The Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation is the water temperature in the Atlantic fluctuating over decades, depending on how strongly the currents flow. And the fluctuations have an impact on years-long climate data all the way to Antarctica.”
Bojanowski cites Xichen Li of NYU, who says it’s no coincidence and is even confirmed by computer simulations. Bojanowski summarizes:
Obviously the Atlantic climate see-saw has the sea level around Antarctica fluctuating. As a result sea ice extent is changing. How this precisely functions remains unclear, however. ‘It appears we have discovered a surprising remote effect,’ Li says.”
So it’s obvious that the science of sea ice is still massively fraught with overwhelming uncertainty and will remain so for a very long time. The proposed Atlantic-Antarctic link does confirm what many skeptics have been claiming for years: the oceans play a massive role.
Veteran meteorologist Joe Bastardi has been telling us for years that the Arctic sea ice extent is driven in large part by the AMO and that today’s low Arctic sea ice levels are directly linked to the currently positive (warm) AMO. If the warm AMO has an impact on Antarctic sea ice, why wouldn’t it have an impact on the Arctic, which is directly next door? Once again the scientists are only realizing (admitting) what has been obvious to skeptics for a decade now.
Finally scientists like Goosse are waking up. Bojanowski quotes:
Here we are dealing with natural fluctuations that are only masking the warming.”
I.e. Goosse is finally admitting that we haven’t been seeing any warming for years. We suspect that in about 10 years from now, when the mask is off, scientists like Goosse will also see that there never was much warming behind the mask to begin with.