How to deny climate change with Antarctic sea ice record

A recent study, brilliantly explained in November by the Guardian, lays out the story of a slight but consistent rise in the extent of Antarctic sea ice.

The mystery of the expansion of sea ice around Antarctica, at the same time as global warming is melting swaths of Arctic sea ice, has been solved using data from US military satellites.

Two decades of measurements show that changing wind patterns around Antarctica have caused a small increase in sea ice, the result of cold winds off the continent blowing ice away from the coastline.

"Until now these changes in ice drift were only speculated upon using computer models," said Paul Holland at the British Antarctic Survey. "Our study of direct satellite observations shows the complexity of climate change.

"The Arctic is losing sea ice five times faster than the Antarctic is gaining it, so, on average, the Earth is losing sea ice very quickly. There is no inconsistency between our results and global warming.


A relative of a friend of mine is a climate change "lukewarmer," to use his own description. In practice this means in response to ever bit of new factual evidence of global warming, he reflexively issues a denial, a minimization, or a misleading statement. I hear about this from my friend. It's frustrating.

As Timothy Egan of the NYTimes wrote this week:

It’s not just “the other side of the story” to say that global warming is
a hoax or that Barack Obama is not an American citizen. It’s a serious
injection of misinformation into a nation already woefully misinformed.
And it’s a lapse for responsible journalists to air “both sides” without
calling out the lie on one.

But mostly our "lukewarmer" follows like a lemming the most prominent of all climate change deniers. In this case that means touting the sea ice extent in the Southern Hemisphere, with a reference to a graph that compares Artic Sea Ice and Antarctic sea ice.

Here's the graph: 


If you look closely, or click to enlarge, you can see that even by sunshine hours' own evidence, the same evidence cited by legions of deniers, sea ice overall in the Arctic and Antarctic combined has sharply decreased over the last twenty-five years. 

At NPR, Richard Harris recorded a piece on this exact subject, and looked directly at this claim: 

HARRIS: Bloggers who are skeptical of climate change like to point to the growth in wintertime Antarctic sea ice as evidence that the Earth isn't really warming up. But scientists who actually study this phenomenon say that's silly.

At the Crock of the Week, Peter Sinclair piggy-backs on Harris's story, adding some interviews and commentary of his own, along with satellite records from the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

I once published an op-ed about global warming in the Star and got a fair number of complaints, including one unhappy conservative who wrote me to say in effect, if this is true, what can I do for my children?

I sympathized. Perhaps in the end denial is a species of frustration.

Published by Kit Stolz

I'm a freelance reporter and writer based in Ventura County.

2 thoughts on “How to deny climate change with Antarctic sea ice record

  1. “…sea ice overall in the Arctic and Antarctic combined has sharply decreased over the last twenty-five years. ”

    Um, surely you’re not suggesting that a short term decrease in overall sea ice is somehow abnormal, right?

    I find the most offensive climate deniers are the ones who suggest the worlds climate never changes or that there is no variability in climate. They are the true climate deniers, and many of them are climate alarmists such as yourself.

    Just sayin’



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