COLUMN: Perspective needed on Arctic melt

With all the coverage of Arctic sea ice melt, few people noticed that records were also just set at the South Pole.

By Tim Ball and Tom Harris

With all the coverage of Arctic sea ice melt, few people noticed that records were also just set at the South Pole where 90 per cent of Earth’s ice is found.

Those records are opposite to what we are seeing in the North, however. The greatest extent of sea ice ever recorded in the waters around Antarctica, and the lowest temperatures and the strongest winds ever recorded at the South Pole.

NASA reports that the record was broken for the earliest in the year that the temperature has dropped below -73.3 C in Antarctica.

With increased cold and changed circulation patterns, winds blowing away from the South Pole have strengthened pushing sea ice further out into the Southern Ocean.

It was also strong winds, not higher temperature, that caused this year’s Arctic sea ice to break up and melt slightly more than in 2007 when it was warmer in the region.

As Antarctic glaciers grow, we have also seen increased iceberg activity in the region. Contrary to the implications in Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth, were it primarily warming at the South Pole, we would see fewer icebergs, not more. The number and size of icebergs calving from glaciers do not increase with warming despite what Greenpeace says either.

The David Suzuki Foundation and others get it wrong also when they speak of “glacial retreat.” Glaciers never retreat. They are always advancing. They only appear to retreat when the leading edge melts faster than the ice advances.

Snowfall at the top of the glacier, not temperature, is the primary determinant of the size and mass of glaciers and Antarctica has seen an increase in the last several years, especially in the Antarctic Peninsula. This results in increased outflow that pushes the shelf ice further off the coast where it’s more subject to tides and waves causing pieces to break off more easily. This results in icebergs that alarmists cite as evidence of a melting ice cap due to “global warming”.

But warming obviously decreases the number of icebergs since the glacial outflow is reduced and the snout of the glaciers stops advancing.

The focus on temperature in Antarctica is particularly inappropriate since the average continental temperature is -20 C.

The misunderstanding about icebergs, glaciers and melting ice caps is mostly due to the United Nations’ obsession with warming and greenhouse gases.

This fear of possible future catastrophe has been a serious distraction away from rational thinking about climate.

One of the main problems centres on the inadequacy of precipitation records and understanding. For example, the August 2006 paper ‘Waiting for the Monsoon’ in the journal Science commented, concerning the Sahel region of Africa:

“Some models predict a wetter future; others, a drier one. They cannot all be right.”

The Science paper authors pointed out that, while Africa had a network of 1,152 weather watch stations that provide real-time data to the international archives, this is just “one-eighth the minimum density recommended by the World Meteorological Organization. Furthermore, the stations that do exist often fail to report.”

The same issue with precipitation records exists across the world, especially in polar regions. This is a serious problem in understanding many natural phenomena since precipitation is almost always more important to climate than temperature.

With the cold September in San Francisco and Alaska, and the early snows across the Midwest, Gore, Suzuki and Greenpeace must cool down the warming rhetoric or risk looking ridiculous.

Shrinking and expanding glaciers and icecaps are normal. We can’t stop it, so we must focus on preparing for and adapting to whatever nature has in store for us.


Tim Ball is a Victoria-based climatologist. Tom Harris is executive director of the International Climate Science Coalition.

Just Posted

Janice Coady, left, Aimee Chalifoux and Linda Milford at a vigil for Amy Watts on Wednesday, June 16, outside Nanaimo city hall. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)
‘We need to do better,’ says mother of woman who was killed in Nanaimo

Vigil held for former outreach worker Amy Watts, whose body was found downtown June 3

The B.C. Ministry of Education has announced close to $44 million for the province’s schools for COVID-19 recovery. (News Bulletin file)
Nanaimo-Ladysmith school stakeholders say COVID-19 recovery funding can make a difference

B.C. Ministry of Education announces it expects a ‘near-normal’ return to class in September

Nanaimo artist Melissa Anderson has paintings on display at White Rabbit Coffee Co. for the next month. (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)
Nanaimo painter showcases coastal Island views in first exhibit in two years

Melissa Anderson presents ‘Seascapes’ oil painting exhibit at White Rabbit Coffee Co.

New COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island by local health area for the week of June 6-12. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control image)
New COVID-19 cases up on Island, but health officials say trends going right way

There were 22 new COVID-19 cases in Greater Victoria last week after just four the week before

People line up to get their COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre, Thursday, June 10, 2021 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Vaccines, low COVID case counts increase Father’s Day hope, but risk is still there

Expert says people will have to do their own risk calculus before popping in on Papa

The Co-op gas station at Whiskey Creek is burning after a camper van exploded while refueling just before 4 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021. (FACEBOOK PHOTO)
Exploding camper van torches Highway 4 gas station between Qualicum Beach and Port Alberni

Highway traffic blocked after Whiskey Creek gas station erupts into flames

Helen Austin performing with Trent Freeman at the 2018 Vancouver Island MusicFest. Austin is one of the many performers listed for the 2021 event.
Vancouver Island MusicFest goes virtual for 2021

Black Press to stream 25 hours of programming July 9-11

Greater father involvement in the home leads to improved childhood development and increased marital satisfaction, says expert. (Black Press Media file photo)
Vancouver Island researcher finds lack of father involvement a drag on gender equality

Working women still taking on most child and household duties in Canada: UVic professor

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

The first suspension bridge is the tallest in Canada, with a second suspension bridge just below it. The two are connected by a trail that’s just over 1 km. (Claire Palmer photo)
PHOTOS: The highest suspension bridges in Canada just opened in B.C.

The Skybridge in Golden allows visitors to take in views standing at 130 and 80 metres

Most Read