There Has Been No Significant Net Change In Arctic Sea Ice Extent In The Last 80+ Years


                                                                          Graph adapted from Climate4you

Last week, Edinburgh and Day (2016) used historical monitoring records to conclude that “the [Antarctic sea ice] levels in the early 1900s were in fact similar to today“.   Apparently this was a surprising finding for those who assume anthropogenic greenhouse gases largely determine net changes in polar sea ice.

Perhaps it may also be surprising for those who only focus on the 1979-to-present satellite era to learn that Arctic sea ice has also remained essentially unchanged since the 1930s and 1940s too, and is overall still quite high relative to recent centennial- and millennial-scale historical periods.  Even for the last few decades, the trends are not unusual.

For example, the IPCC referenced NOAA satellite data that extended back to 1972, not 1979, in the first UN report (1990).  It showed that there had been a slight increasing trend in sea ice for 1972-1990 due to the low extent recorded during the early 1970s, and the very high extent in the late 1970s, when the current satellite datasets begin.  Now, the IPCC (and NOAA, NSIDC) discard the 1972-1978 data from the sea ice record, instead using 1979 as the starting point, or the year with the highest sea ice extent since the early 20th century.  This way, the decline in sea ice extent to the present can be steepened considerably in modern graphics.

IPCC FAR (1990):


Between 1990 and 2006, Arctic sea ice declined rapidly.  Since 2006, however, the sea ice decline has undergone a pause, as shown in NSIDC data (using interactive graphs):


                                                   Graph generated using

Including the 1972-1978 trend with the 1979-2016 anomaly data (with added trend line) looks like this:

University of Illinois graph:


For the early 20th century, there was a dramatic decline in Arctic sea ice between the 1920s and 1940s that was concomitant with the as-warm-as-present Arctic surface temperatures (top graph).  After this abrupt warming trend ended, the Arctic cooled for several decades and a subsequent increase in sea ice occurred through the late 1970s.  Hoffert and Flanney (1985) furnish a graph with recorded sea ice trends for 1920-1975.

Hoffert and Flannery, 1985

Introduction: As described m ore fully in the accompanying state-o f-the-art report on the Detecting the Climatic Effects of Increasing Carbon Dioxide (see Chapter 4 by Wigley et al. 1985), there is no clear indication of a monotonic warming over this period [1880-1980], as would be anticipated from the observed build up of CO2 in the atmosphere. Instead, these data sets indicate a complex picture including interannual variability and, perhaps, some systematic trends. Indeed, the global temperatures seem to have increased from 1885- 1935, and the extent of Arctic sea ice decreased from 1925-1945. This was followed, however, by a leveling off and then a subsequent decrease in temperature.


If we were to add the IPCC’s 1972-1990 trend data to the Hoffert and Flannery (1985) graph of the early 20th century, we would see a clear oscillatory pattern in Arctic sea ice (below), not a linear trend that aligns with the increase in anthropogenic CO2 emissions.  In fact, Arctic sea ice experienced a rather steep recovery from the 1940s lows to the late 1970s highs, during the same period that anthropogenic CO2 emissions rates were quadrupling in intensity.   The pause in Arctic sea ice decline (since 2006) also does not correlate with the rapid increase in anthropogenic CO2 emissions during this period.


Extending the sea ice record back centuries, we also see that there is nothing unusual about the recent Arctic sea ice extent changes.

Zhang et al., 2015


Durantou et al., 2012

Sea surface temperature [Arctic Ocean] between ∼ AD 1885–1935 are warmer by up to 3°C with respect to the average modern temperature at the coring site. For the period ∼ AD 1887–1945, reconstructed sea ice cover values are on average 8.3 months per year which is 1.1 months per year lower than the modern values.


Moore et al., 2001

Summer temperatures at Donard Lake [Canadian Arctic] over the past 1250 yrs averaged 2.9 °C.  At the beginning of the 13th century, Donard Lake experienced one of the largest climatic transitions in over a millennium. Average summer temperatures rose rapidly by nearly 2 °C from 1195–1220 AD [+0.80 C per decade], ending in the warmest decade in the record (~4.3 °C).    A dramatic warming event is seen around the same time (~1160 AD) in a tree-ring width record from Fennoscandia (Briffa et al., 1990). The rapid warming at Donard Lake was followed by a period of extended warmth, with average summer temperatures of 3.4 °C. This time of warm summer temperatures corresponds to the period when Thule Inuit moved into the Canadian Arctic from Alaska using open boats and hunting whale. A ~150–200 yr period of increased temperature around the same time is also seen in historical records of mild conditions allowing the expansion of settlements in Greenland (McGovern, 1991), and radiocarbon-dated records of glacial advance and retreat from numerous glaciers throughout the Kenai peninsula in Alaska (Wiles & Calkin, 1995), as well as humifaction records from Irish peat bogs (Blackford & Chambers, 1995).


H.H. Lamb (1982) “Climate, History, and the Modern World” (book)


Ran et al., 2010


Finally, many scientists acknowledge that Arctic sea ice trends are naturally determined, and anthropogenic CO2 emissions have little to do with decadal-scale variations.  Below are just a few examples.

Ohashi and Tanaka, 2010

Since the decadal variation of the AO is recognized as the natural variability of the global atmosphere, it is shown that both of decadal variabilities before and after 1989 in the Arctic can be mostly explained by the natural variability of the AO not by the external response due to the human activity.

Sha et al., 2016

Solar forcing as an important trigger for West Greenland sea-ice variability over the last millennium … Here, we use diatom assemblages from a marine sediment core collected from the West Greenland shelf to reconstruct changes in sea-ice cover over the last millennium. The proxy-based reconstruction demonstrates a generally strong link between changes in sea-ice cover and solar variability during the last millennium. Weaker (or stronger) solar forcing may result in the increase (or decrease) in sea-ice cover west of Greenland. In addition, model simulations show that variations in solar activity not only affect local sea-ice formation, but also control the sea-ice transport from the Arctic Ocean through a sea-ice–ocean–atmosphere feedback mechanism.

Parker and Ollier, 2015

A better understanding of the future climate pattern developments in the Arctic may only follow a better reconstruction of the past patterns of natural oscillations and the determination of the forcing and the resulting oscillations occurred in the climate parameters over different time scales. The proposed information for the past demonstrates the Walsh & Chapman reconstruction claiming a flat sea ice 1870 to 1950 is too simple. The Arctic sea ice experienced a drastic reduction that was phased with warming temperatures 1923 to 1940. This reduction was followed by a sharp cooling and sea ice recovery. This permits us to also conclude that very likely the Arctic sea ice extent also has a quasi-60 years’ oscillation. The recognition of a quasi-60 year’s oscillation in the sea ice extent of the Arctic similar to the oscillation of the temperatures and the other climate indices may permit us to separate the natural from the anthropogenic forcing of the Arctic sea ice. The heliosphere and the Earth’s magnetosphere may have much stronger influence on the climate patterns on Earth including the Arctic sea ices than has been thought.

Lessen and Thejll, 2005

Multi-decadal variation of the East Greenland Sea-Ice Extent: AD 1500-2000 … The extent of ice in the North Atlantic varies in time with time scales stretching to centennial, and the cause of these variations is discussed. We consider the Koch ice index which describes the amount of ice sighted from Iceland, in the period 1150 to 1983 AD. This measure of ice extent is a non-linear and curtailed measure of the amount of ice in the Greenland Sea, but gives an overall view of the amounts of ice there through more than 800 years.  [W]e find that the recently reported retreat of the ice in the Greenland Sea  may be related to the termination of the so-called Little Ice Age in the early twentieth century. We also look at the approximately 80 year variability of the Koch [sea ice] index and compare it to the similar periodicity found in the solar cycle length, which is a measure of solar activity. A close correlation (R=0.67) of high significance (0.5 % probability of a chance occurrence) is found between the two patterns, suggesting a link from solar activity to the Arctic Ocean climate. … The ’low frequency oscillation’ that dominated the ice export through the Fram Strait as well as the extension of the sea-ice in the Greenland Sea and Davis Strait in the twentieth century may therefore be regarded as part of a pattern that has existed through at least four centuries. The pattern is a natural feature, related to varying solar activity. The considerations of the impact of natural sources of variability on arctic ice extent are of relevance for concerns that the current withdrawal of ice may entirely be due to human activity. Apparently, a considerable fraction of the current withdrawal could be a natural occurrence.

48 responses to “There Has Been No Significant Net Change In Arctic Sea Ice Extent In The Last 80+ Years”

  1. Ron Clutz

    The referenced study by Edinburgh and Day found Antarctic ice today compares with a century ago.

    A comparable Arctic study is Accounts from 19th-century Canadian Arctic Explorers’ Logs Reflect Present Climate Conditions (here) by James E. Overland and Kevin Wood.

    Synopsis here:

  2. tom0mason

    “Extending the sea ice record back centuries, we also see that there is nothing unusual about the recent Arctic sea ice extent changes.”

    Or maybe there is. Looking at the graphic of “simulated and Reconstructed September Arctic SIE Anormaly”
    Looking at each of the minimums Wolf, Sporer, Maunder and Dalton, the sea ice appears not to be affected by these event happening, certainly not at their start. In fact 2 appear to have minimum Ice just as the cooling kicks in — Wolf and Maunder (and maybe the Dalton).

    So what? Well, if the ice can be at a minimum just before a major cooling event, isn’t that just what we have now?
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying the current conditions indicate anything. I’m just pointing out that as a proxy for ‘climate’ Arctic ice does not appear to cut it as a direct link.

    Ice advances and recedes as sea temperature and solar heating dictate. Hansen was and is wrong again!

    1. DirkH

      Ice mass must work as an integrator of temperature. So it must be 90 degree phase shifted to temperature in all frequencies. This can be shown to be trivially true by looking at the annual minimum and maximum: The dates are a quarter year after insolation min/max.

      Warmunists ignore this phase shift: They ignore more science than they ever pretend to do.

      They actually ignore the entirety of signal processing. And most of mathematics. An AMAZING display of ignorance by so called scientists.

      1. yonason

        “An AMAZING display of ignorance by so called scientists.” – DirkH

        At least they are “well versed” in that aspect of it. :- )

      2. tom0mason

        Yes it shows variation in temperature and appears as a lagging indicator mostly of the sea cycle but also its affected by the local wind effects.
        As an indicator of climate trends, monitoring Arctic ice woeful.

  3. AndyG55

    Nothing unusual this year.

    Mid ice is increased above last 5 years, but new ice is struggling because of the temporary less cold patch over the Arctic.
    But the North Russia freeze is gradually working it way to the Kara sea area. When it gets there the ice will grow like crazy !!

  4. AndyG55

    I tried to post this once, all gone ? ! ?

    Shows that mid thickness sea ice is greater than the last 5 years

    1. AndyG55

      Only the new ice that is struggling a bit, but the Northern Russia freeze is moving towards the Kara Sea.
      When it gets there, sea ice levels will climb rapidly.

      It would not surprise me if they top-out above the last several years.

  5. sod

    This post again is totally false.

    In fact, we have a significant change even this year.

    This graph is totally insane, as everyone can see at once:

    1. DirkH

      Snopes is a Soros-funded website, sod. Do you have a source that is not funded by an oligarch?

      1. Mindert Eiting

        He said, Dirk, that the snopes-graph is totally insane.

        1. AndyG55

          Actually, the poor chump/chimp/sop is so mixed up, he probably doesn’t even know what he was referring to. !

    2. AndyG55

      Sorry you have to go to a far-left anti-fact site to get your pseudo-science..

      Also sorry you are unable to follow the actual facts put in front of you.

      We expect nothing better from you.

    3. AndyG55

      The sea ice is NOT at record breaking low.

      During most of the first 3/4 of the Holocene, there was regularly ZERO summer sea ice.

      Your and your fellow zero-knowledge twerps always want to use just the last 38 or so years, which has been a highly beneficial drop from EXTREME levels of 1979, which were nearly as high as during the LIA.

      REAL FACTS prove you wrong, time and time and time again, sop.

      You should try finding those real facts before commenting, to avoid making an even more abject fool of yourself.

    4. AndyG55

      “This post again is totally false.”

      Yes, your post was totally false.

      No need to draw attention to that fact but using it as a header.

    5. gallopingcamel

      “sod” is dumb enough to believe snopes.

      Is anyone surprised?

    6. David Johnson

      I think it is you that is totally insane SOD

    7. tom0mason

      And that shows that the ice varies — so what.
      As show above it does not indicate long term climate trends.

    8. Colorado Wellington

      sod, you are not well.

  6. DirkH

    O/T Warmunism used as excuse to funnel 5 million USD German taxpayer money into the coffers of the Clintons. Admitted by German govt, reported by German MSM.

  7. AndyG55

    Note, this graph of Icelandic sea ice…

    is probably a better graph than the one used above.

  8. AndyG55

    A direct comparison of Arctic Sea Ice from 2011..

    As you can clearly see, the mid-level sea ice is greatly increased over previous years, its just the new ice that is struggling a bit because of the WEATHER patterns trapping some anomalous “less cold” over the Arctic.

    But once the freezing blob over Northern Russia makes its way to the Kara Sea, the current sea ice level will take off like a rocket.

  9. sod

    You can not “extend” the record back. we have a completely different sort of data.

    1. David Johnson

      Yes you can.

    2. tom0mason

      Ever heard of the hockey stick temperature graph?

    3. DirkH

      sod 29. November 2016 at 6:53 PM | Permalink | Reply
      “You can not “extend” the record back. we have a completely different sort of data.”

      You are straying from the tenets of the warmunist church. Your wrongthinking attitude would make it impossible to achieve warmunist propaganda pieces like Marcott & Shakun.

    4. yonason

      And, sod, it’s even worse if you try to extend ANY of it FORWARD, whether ours, or especially yours.

  10. Eisiger Dezember 2016 in Deutschland und Europa? – wobleibtdieglobaleerwaermung

    […] There Has Been No Significant Net Change In Arctic Sea Ice Extent In The Last 80+ Years […]

  11. Martin hughes

    So what about that satellite image of the Artic shrinking up to the present? Is this the new ice shrinking but older ice not?

    I’m new to this whole thing!

    Only just started trying to investigate the ‘non-consensus’ view.

    1. Kenneth Richard

      Martin: It’s an oscillatory cycle, driven by natural heat distribution changes in the North Atlantic and Arctic region (NAO [North Atlantic Oscillation], AO [Arctic], AMO, AMOC…). Since the late ’80s/early ’90s, the oscillation has been in the warm mode. Prior to that (’50s to ’80s), it the Arctic was in its cool stage (see the top graph of Arctic temperatures). Within about 10 years, the current pause in sea ice extent will morph into an advancement as the Arctic returns to its cooling cycle. Anthropogenic CO2 emissions only correlate if we cherry-pick short-term start and end dates rather than look at the larger picture of the past century to the past few thousand years, as the above graphs show.

      And by the way, there is no “consensus view” that Arctic sea ice is predominantly shaped by parts per million (0.000001 = 1 ppm) changes in atmospheric CO2 concentrations. That’s a made-up conceptualization.

      1. sod

        “It’s an oscillatory cycle, driven by natural heat distribution changes in the North Atlantic and Arctic region ”

        No, it is not.

        If it was an oscillation, Kenneth would tell you, when it will peak and how low it will get on what year. He can not. Instead he is looking at old data of very much worse quality than satellite data is today and is interpreting ups and downs in the past as a cycle that explains what is happening today. Serious scientists have a real explanation, a massive change to the atmosphere and the arctic ice is reacting like we expect.

        “And by the way, there is no “consensus view” that Arctic sea ice is predominantly shaped by parts per million (0.000001 = 1 ppm) changes in atmospheric CO2 2

        there actually is exactly that. a parts per million change of your body substance with the right chemical will change your status from alive to dead. He also ignores that the “ppm” is over a couple of km of atmosphere thickness.

        1. AndyG55


          When you breathe in its probably somewhere between 300 and 2000 ppm CO2, depending where you are

          Your body breathes out around 40,000ppm

          Do you really think that even another 400ppm is going to make any difference ??

          However, if we take away 400ppm.. THE WORLD DIES !!!


          And the AMO is an oscillation, it just happens to be somewhat irregular. And it has just started to drop from its flatish 10 year maximum.

          Didn’t you know that natural oscillations can be irregular… or are you ignorant of that, as well.

          I am beginning to wonder if there is anything you know, that hasn’t been spoon-and pusher fed to you by your alarmist handlers!

    2. tom0mason

      Martin look at the dates for the start of the
      Wolf Minimum 1230-1350(~666-736 years ago),
      Sporer Minimum 1460-1550(466-556 years ago),
      Maunder Minimum 1645-1715(301-371 years ago) and the
      Dalton Minimum 1790-1820 (226-196)

      You may notice that at the start of most of these big freezing events — mini ice ages — that the ice was at a minimum for that period of time.
      Now I’m not saying that current conditions signal anything BUT sea ice area, or volumes, signals just about NOTHING of the coming climate trends. It just signals local sea and wind conditions.

      If all the ice was to melt before Christmas so what?

    3. AndyG55

      This year the new forming ice has struggled a bit because of the “less colder” blob that hung over the Arctic trapping the “much more colder” blob over Siberia.

      There is actually more mid-thickness sea ice this year than in the last several years.

      And the trend in average Arctic Sea Ice since the AMO topped out in 2006 is essentially zero.

    4. AndyG55

      Martin, Here is the UAH NoPol temperature this century before the current NON-CO2 based El Nino.

      And from 1980 – 1995 (just before the 1998 El Nino)

      So any drop in Arctic sea ice is NOTHING to do with air temperature and all to do with the natural AMO oscillations.


  12. David Appell

    “Perhaps it may also be surprising for those who only focus on the 1979-to-present satellite era to learn that Arctic sea ice has also remained essentially unchanged since the 1930s and 1940s too”


    “History of sea ice in the Arctic,” Leonid Polyak et al, Quaternary Science Reviews 29 (2010) 1757–1778.

    “Early 20th century Arctic warming in retrospect,” Wood and Overland, Intl J Climatology (2009)

    “Reconstructed changes in Arctic sea ice over the past 1,450 years,” Christophe Kinnard et al,
    Nature 479, 509–512 (24 November 2011)

    Walsh and Chapman (2000)
    Graph here on top right:

    “Sea ice before satellites:

    Kenneth, you should best just deny these, and pretend they don’t exist.

  13. David Appell

    “Germany’s Mean Temperature For November 0.5°C Colder Than Normal As Cold Grips Europe
    By P Gosselin on 30. November 2016”


    Have you warned the girls in milking boots? The beautiful frauleins who serve you all that beer? The dogs who trot by your side, blindly obedient??

    Half of denialism is quoting short-term numbers and trends that mean nothing and have no statistical significance?

    Don’t you care when people laugh at you and dismiss you? No pride?

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