The Corner

Arctic Argy-Bargy

I’ve been getting mail all day on this post, particularly on its correction. But I’ve been too swamped with other stuff to get at it. Herewith a few of the emails:

Jonah,

The reader response you published is so typical of the greenies.  He is trying to mitigate things by pointing out that both poles are included in the study and not just the Arctic.  But then as usual for a greenie he goes one step too far by pointing out the increased precipitation in the Antartic due to “warm ocean waters”.  Sea ice does not come from precipitation, never has, never will.  The fact that it is snowing more in the south pole has nothing to do with the increase in polar sea ice.  Nice try, but no cigar.

And:

Dear Mr. Goldberg,

 

Your reader is mistaken regarding sea ice in the Arctic.  Sea ice has nothing to do with snowfall.  Glaciers (and the icebergs they release) are formed by snowfall on land.  Sea ice forms from frozen seawater and is slightly salty.

 

Moreover, the reason the Antarctic is not as sensitive as the Arctic is because the currents in the southern ocean are colder than in the Arctic, where the Russian navy is based.  Antarctica is the driest desert on the planet.  There are a few coastal pockets whose climate may be considered “snowy,” but even if sea ice formed from snow, there wouldn’t be enough snow in any given year to accommodate the accumulation of sea ice in the Antarctic.

 

The fact that your reader recognizes that the Antarctic is relatively stable is a good sign.  I would add that even the Arctic is not uniformly unstable.  The only unstable feature in Iceland is the economy.

And:

Hi, Jonah. I’m sure you’ve already received hundreds of objections to your reader update email. The Antarctic is not “land locked” – though the Arctic essentially is. The Antarctic does not receive more snowfall than the Arctic; in fact, Antarctica is the driest place on Earth in terms of new precipitation, even drier than the Atacama Desert. Your original point was correct and the reader is wrong and misses the point: since it’s true that although the ice cover situation in the Antarctic has gotten “better” even as the situation in the Arctic has become “worse,” the effects of the two do roughly balance out. Which is why it’s correct to consider polar conditions as a whole and not single out one pole and (mis-)use it to characterize the situation as deteriorating since 1979 or to single out the other and (mis-)use it for the opposite reason.

And of course what the poles doing opposite things shows is that the simple narrative of more CO2 = more global warming is incorrect. There have to be other factors at work or the Antarctic couldn’t do the opposite of the Arctic.

Me: Iain, you want to wade in here?

Meanwhile, all I do know this is the coldest winter my in-laws in Fairbanks have experienced in decades.

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