David Rose and the Antarctic sea ice misrepresentation?

David Rose has an article in the Daily Mail about the increase in Antarctic sea ice. The implication is that the increase in Antarctic sea ice somehow compensates for the decrease in Arctic sea ice. Well this isn’t really correct as what David Rose is referring to is the increase is sea ice area, not volume. According to Holland et al. 2014, the Arctic sea ice is losing mass/volume 10 times faster than the Antarctic sea ice is gaining mass/volume. Also the impact on our albedo of decreased Arctic sea ice in the NH summer is very different to the impact of increased Antarctic sea ice in the SH winter.

The only climate scientist who David Rose quotes with regards to the actual science is Judith Curry, who is quoted as saying

it was becoming increasingly apparent that long-term cycles in ocean temperatures were responsible for a significant proportion of the ice decline in the Arctic – a process that may be starting to reverse.

I presume that this refers to Judith Curry’s Stadium Wave idea which – as far as I can tell – is just an elaborate curve-fitting exercise. Also, I don’t think that this is consistent with what most others think is happening. One idea is that the melting of Antarctic ice sheets is adding cold, fresh water to the Antarctic ocean (Bintanja et al. 2013). Fresh water freezes more easily than salt water, and so this is one explanation for the increased Antarctic sea ice extent. There is also a chance that it is just natural variability (Swart & Fyfe 2013) but even if true, this doesn’t mean that it somehow compensates for reduction in Arctic sea ice.

The article also has an entire section devoted to the views of Andrew Montford – a UK-based climate blogger. I recently spent a couple of days commenting on his blog. Based on the comments and on what he himself says, it appears that his understanding of climate science is remarkably low. That’s also a positive interpretation. Why a journalist writing an article in a major UK newspaper couldn’t find someone more suitable is beyond me. It can’t be that hard. It, however, might be hard to find someone credible who would be willing to be quoted by David Rose, and who would not say something that fundamentally contradicted what he was trying to get across in his article.

Andrew Montford does comment that

In recent days a new scandal over the integrity of temperature data has emerged, this time in America, where it has been revealed as much as 40 per cent of temperature data there are not real thermometer readings.

This is based on some recent claims by Steven Goddard, whose real name happens to be Tony Heller. In my experience (and in my opinion) Heller/Goddard is one of the most dishonest individuals I’ve encountered – and that is saying something. I also find it remarkable that those who criticise me for using a pseudonym have no issue with someone else using a pseudonym that wasn’t obviously a pseudonym. Anyway, if you want to know why this is probably just a red herring, you could read some of Nick Stokes’ recent posts about infilling, climatology, and anomalies.

So, I find these kind of articles remarkably frustrating and really wish this kind of nonsense was called out more broadly. I’m trying to my best, but it’s pretty hard going. It’s also hard not draw some fairly uncomplimentary conclusions; namely that David Rose is either an ignorant fool or willfully misrepresenting our current understanding of climate science. I’ll leave it to the reader to make up their own mind. I will ask, however, that if you do comment, that you keep the comments civil and on the correct side of the libel/personal opinion boundary.

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53 Responses to David Rose and the Antarctic sea ice misrepresentation?

  1. Nick says:

    Routine Mail bullshit, I doubt anybody much reads it.

    The Mail give Montford [billed as Mountford] a blue box to quarantine his particular daftness from Rose’s. The poor fellow asks a lot of questions that he could easily answer, and conspicuously avoids talking about trends in glacier mass balance in the continental US where he is so very, very deeply concerned about the quality of temperature records, so concerned that he cannot even describe the system and its methodology correctly. Yes, certainly quite suitable for a blue box of his own. Blue for breath-holder?

    Rose has his own catalogue of misdirection at the Deltoid blog.

  2. jsam says:

    What I find most intriguing about these types of articles is that you don’t see those who cast themselves as “honest sceptics” don’t come out and criticise these articles. And that shows exactly how “honest” they really are.


  3. jsam says:

    (And now I wish for an edit feature so that I could clean up my sentences. 🙂

  4. nobodyknows says:

    “Unlike the rapid sea ice losses reported in the Arctic, satellite observations show an overall increase in Antarctic sea ice concentration over recent decades. However, observations of decadal trends in Antarctic ice thickness, and hence ice volume, do not currently exist. In this study a model of the Southern Ocean and its sea ice, forced by atmospheric reanalyses, is used to assess 1992–2010 trends in ice thickness and volume. The model successfully reproduces observations of mean ice concentration, thickness, and drift, and decadal trends in ice concentration and drift, imparting some confidence in the hindcasted trends in ice thickness. The model suggests that overall Antarctic sea ice volume has increased by approximately 30 km3 yr−1 (0.4% yr−1) as an equal result of areal expansion (20 × 103 km2 yr−1 or 0.2% yr−1) and thickening (1.5 mm yr−1 or 0.2% yr−1).”
    I find this strange, to replace observations by model estimates, and to say that models successfully reproduses observations when there are no observations.
    And it is a simple explanation, isn`t it; that Antarctic has been cooled the last years?

  5. Won’t read that Rose-crap, but based on your comment it’s clear that he is willfully ignorant, continuing to spout scientific nonsense. While the increasing Antarctic sea ice extent is certainly counter-intuitive for most lay-people, there are a bazillion extremely plausible scientific explanations as to why this is happening. Nobody with a glimpse of technical background in atmospheric science should be surprised! Everyone who uses the Antarctic sea ice anomaly in an effort to undermine climate science is (1) utterly clueless AND (2) acts in bad faith! There’s no OR in this case. If you don’t understand why this is happening, ask the experts. It’s too ironic that Rose is living right next to Myles Allen here in Oxford. But rather than asking him, he asks his next best denier friend. Of course, that’s the logical thing to do for everyone who want’s to understand the science, right? At least in the parallel universe most of these people seem to be living in. Hopeless!

  6. “I also find it remarkable that those who criticise me for not using a pseudonym have no issue with someone using a pseudonym that wasn’t obviously a pseudonym.”

    It gets worse. “Goddard” uses a middle initial of S to further reinforce that he is “honest”.

    Also read his cloying and treacly profile page, “Who is Steven Goddard?”. He contrives a persona of an energy-conserving miser. The worst is where he claims not to use air conditioning … in Maryland … in the summer !

    And then he rationalizes everything with his gravatar saying “Just having fun”

    Misrepresenting and lying through your teeth is having fun?

  7. nobodyknows,
    If you read what you quote, there no observations of decadal trends. The comparison that you then mention is to observations of concentration, thickness and drift, and decadal trends in concentration and drift. I don’t think there is any contradiction here.

    And it is a simple explanation, isn`t it; that Antarctic has been cooled the last years?

    I don’t think there are any simple explanations. I’m also not sure that your statement is correct. Don’t think it’s true if you consider decades, rather than only a few years.

    Indeed, it amazes me that someone can write an article in which they only quote a rather contrarian scientist and that the largest discussion is attributed to a blogger with no actual credentials in this field and very little actual scientific experience. I would regard that as rather bad journalism.

  8. WHT,
    Indeed. You’ve also made me realise that I said “not using a pseudonym” rather than “using a pseudonym” which I’ve now corrected.

  9. jsam says:

    nobodyknows knows less than he imagines.

    The earth is losing a trillion tons of ice per year:

    – 159 Gt Antarctic land ice, McMillan el al, GRL (2014)
    + 26 Gt Antarctic sea ice, Holland et al, J Climate (2014)
    – 300 Gt Arctic sea ice, PIOMAS
    – 378 Gt Greenland, Enderlin et al, GRL (2014)
    – 278 Gt other land based glaciers, Gardner et al. Science (2013)

    – 1,070 Gt, total

    h/t http://davidappell.blogspot.co.uk/2014/05/how-fast-is-planet-losing-ice.html

  10. Nick says:

    The Mail has a close relationship with the GWPF, hence Montford. Rose’s excruciating record suggest that he only has Curry left in his contact list.

  11. Nick,
    Indeed. BBD – I think – regularly posts a link to an article that highlights just how close the relationship is. Maybe he’ll pop along and post it again.

  12. jsam,
    Indeed, if we really want to understand if we’re warming (in the gaining energy sense) then considering all the ice – and not just sea ice – is clearly what we should be doing.

  13. AT, I didn’t realize that you made that typo. The truth always shines through if you are honest in your writing, and I could immediately tell what you were trying to say.

  14. @nobodyknows:
    Antarctica hasn’t cooled as a whole. Rather their are warming and cooling regions due to circulation changes. Bob Ward just tweeted this article about the circulation changes in Antarctica (sure you’ve seen it already Anders ;)): [www.washingtonpost.com]
    Well worth a read. That’s just one explanation. Increasing fresh water supply (due to bottom melt) that leads to stronger stratification of surface waters and hence less mixing with warmer sub-surface waters is another one. Add increased precipitation that leads to thickening of the sea ice and you have a few explanations to start with. The list goes on …

    @Anders: The degree of misinformation and sloppy journalism in the tabloid press isn’t sth which surprises anymore. Rather, it’s the sheer amount of tabloid garbage available here in the UK that initially surprised me. There are few to none serious newspapers which I would consider reliable or trust-worthy. As much as I appreciate the polite everyday interaction amongst the people, I somehow fail to understand why some of the same people seem to be loosing their mind when it comes to sensitive subjects such as journalism. But then there is ideology …

  15. AnOilMan says:

    K.a.r.S.t.e.N: Anders: Don’t forget Antarctic wave height alters the extent of the ocean based ice sheets. High waves break up and reduce sea ice, while small waves allow it to grow.

    Nobodyknows, this article should help.

  16. K.a.r.S.t.e.N., I was astonished the first time I went to America at the quality of their regional/local daily newspapers. Instead of being celebrity tittle-tattle, there were real stories about real matters, written by journalists who looked as if they had bothered to find out about the subject.

    In the UK, most newspapers seem to think they are part of the entertainment industry – PR releases reprinted more or less word for word, advertorials passed off as genuine stories, etc. Read either Nick Davies “Flat Earth News” or Ben Goldacre “Bad Science”.

    I don’t buy newspapers any more.

  17. guthrie says:

    In Britain most local newspapers shut down years ago, insofar as they were bought out by big conglomerates and now run the same copy/ paste national ‘stories’ as the big ones, levened wit a bit of local news supplied by some poorly paid local.

    The problem is not so much that nobody reads the article, as Nick suggests; I doubt many people struggle through it all, it’s that the headline and opening paragraph are both a constant drip on anyone skimming the paper, so that even if they don’t “believe” it it had an effect; and that the true believer has his belief re-inforced by seeing such an article; and that this leaves a long trail of contrarian articles polluting the world and the internet, such that it is much, much harder for anyone seeking actual information rather than propaganda to find it.

    AS for Rose, it is clear he has jumped the shark and is not reliable and should be boycotted at every opportunity. Certainly no scientist should speak to him again.

  18. Indeed, people may not read the whole article, but initial impressions would not be consistent with the best evidence available. Also, the readership figures for the Daily Mail are here. Compare with The Independent, or The Guardian.

  19. John Hartz says:

    As to be expected the Rose article has gone viral in Deniersville. Of course, there is absolutely no mention of what’s happening to the WAIS.

  20. Kirk Norring says:

    Yes, sea ice has increased but the volume of Antarctic ice has decreased. Sea ice is a lot thinner than the Arctic glaciers that are melting. Also when it is summer in the northern hemisphere, it is winter in the Antarctic. Sea ice is in the oceans but the glaciers are on the land. As the glaciers melt, it flows into the oceans raising the sea levels. At that point it does not matter if the water is liquid or solid. It will still raise the sea level.

  21. Kirk Norring says:

    Typo. The sea ice is a lot thinner than the Antarctic glaciers.

  22. Kirk,
    Indeed, focusing on Antarctic sea ice is just a distraction. A form of cherry-pick, really.

  23. Joshua says:

    It is really quite noteworthy that Judith speaks so often about treatment of uncertainty – but affiliates with Rose and that kind of dreck, where he talks about the growth in the area of ice but doesn’t mention volume.

  24. johnrussell40 says:

    We all know what Rose’s agenda is because he makes it so bleedin’ obvious.

    Winter Antarctic sea ice extent, as you indicate, is a total irrelevance, as it occurs at a time when it’s dark and brass-monkey cold down there. Summer minimum sea ice extent is the only meaningful comparison (I mean, why the hell would a comparison between supposedly changing maximum winter ice extent in one hemisphere have any relevance to the clearly changing summer minimum extent in the other?) so it gives me great pleasure to link to this graph kindly provided by a denier site: http://sunshinehours.files.wordpress.com/2014/01/antarctic_sea_ice_extent_zoomed_2014_day_27_1981-2010.png

    Ignoring the meaningless cherry pick about sea ice extent on one day in early 2014, take a look at the bottom of the curve when Antarctic sea ice extent is at a summer minimum each year. Note how the distribution of minimum extents for recent years is spread nicely on either side of the 1981-2010 mean? Is this not unequivocal proof (from a fake sceptics own evidence) that Antarctic sea ice is not increasing each year. In fact if more is forming each winter, for the reasons given in this post and others, there’s actually an increase in the amount that melts each spring!

  25. john,
    That’s a fascinating figure, thanks. As you say, it appears to show the the summer sea ice extent in the Antarctic is spread reasonably evenly around the 1981-2010 mean.

  26. Joshua,
    I’m also somewhat dumbfounded by some of Judith says, or is willing to be quoted as saying. It almost seems as though she doesn’t understand the basics.

  27. BBD says:

    ATTP says:

    BBD – I think – regularly posts a link to an article that highlights just how close the relationship is. Maybe he’ll pop along and post it again.

    Always happy to oblige with a tedious re-post of a shopworn link (with special apologies to John Russell) 😉

    The Daily Mail, proud recipient of the Mediamatters Climate Misinformer of the Year Award 2013 is powered by the GWPF!

  28. SM says:

    I think I recently read (or saw) Ed Hawkins discussing natural variability and the role it has played in recent Arctic sea ice decline (can’t remember where I saw this, sorry). He raised the possibility that we may see a significant decrease in the rate of decline or maybe even a plateau, in the coming years. Of course his typically measured and sensible comments are a world away from the irresponsible nonsense spouted by Judith Curry.

  29. SM,
    Indeed, I think there is a chance that the reduction in Arctic sea ice has been exacerbated by variability and that the rate will slow or even plateau. As you say, that’s an entirely plausible scenario. A complete reversal, however, seems unlikely and trying to relate the increase in winter Antarctic sea ice extent to the reduction in summer Arctic sea ice extent is rather nonsensical.

  30. Joshua says:

    ==> “It almost seems as though she doesn’t understand the basics.”

    But that isn’t plausible.

    In the past, Judith has basically said that she thinks that misleading articles like this one from Rose are OK, or acceptable (paraphrasing), because of what she perceives to be misleading information from sources on the other side.

    She applies double-standards in many respects, and from what I can tell, she doesn’t see any problem in doing so.

    The logic of her approach escapes me. I don’t understand why she thinks that applying double-standards will lead to effective communication about climate change. I can only conclude that she is seeing what she wants to see.

  31. John Hartz says:

    As summarized in the recent article listed below, “dark snow” has contributed to the melting of Arctic sea ice, the Greenland ice sheet,,and Himalayan glaciers. Does “dark snow” also exist in the Southern Hemisphere?

    Dark snow: from the Arctic to the Himalayas, the phenomenon that is accelerating glacier melting by John Vidal, The Observer, July 5, 2014

  32. BBD says:

    Sorry if I’ve missed this above, but there’s also Zhang (2013) Modeling the impact of wind intensification on Antarctic sea ice volume.

  33. Nick says:

    Again, the most fascinating thing about Rose’s article is its example of the length to which the Mail news organisation goes to avoid the ordinary stuff of talking to mainstream scientists, scientific bodies and institutions. An agreement between editor and lobby group sets the entire climate news agenda there. It’s an amazing action to marginalise orthodox science, and replace it with banal misdirection.

    I wonder whether Curry considers that? Whether she reads such articles, has gained an overview of that editorial policy, and has any awareness of the modus of that news group? She thinks that dissent is important, but, assuming she sincerely thinks her stadium wave has merit, seems indifferent to the context in which her dissent is placed, and is comfortable to be packaged with appallingly feeble disinformation. What I’m saying is she seems, despite running a blog, unable to make her position clear and independently, to set the terms on her blog, to draw any lines where clearly claims are wildly wrong.

  34. KeefeAndAmanda says:

    How many here know that Judith Curry coauthored a paper in 2010 that claimed to resolve the paradox of the Antarctic sea ice? This paper is trumpeted by Georgia Tech in this article

    “Resolving the Paradox of the Antarctic Sea Ice”

    that essentially says that the Curry and Liu paper says that we can expect continued global warming to cause increasing Antarctic sea ice for perhaps even a few more decades until it finally reverses during still continued global warming, with quotes from Curry and her coauthor:

    “”Our finding raises some interesting possibilities about what we might see in the future. We may see, on a time scale of decades, a switch in the Antarctic, where the sea ice extent begins to decrease,” said Judith A. Curry, chair of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at Georgia Tech.

    “We wanted to understand this apparent paradox so that we can better understand what might happen to the Antarctic sea ice in the coming century with increased greenhouse warming,” said Jiping Liu, a research scientist in Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences.”

    Here is the paper itself

    “Accelerated warming of the Southern Ocean and its impacts on the hydrological cycle and sea ice”

    with a quote from the abstract: “The observed sea surface temperature in the Southern Ocean shows a substantial warming trend for the second half of the 20th century. Associated with the warming, there has been an enhanced atmospheric hydrological cycle in the Southern Ocean that results in an increase of the Antarctic sea ice for the past three decades through the reduced upward ocean heat transport and increased snowfall.”

    It seems to me that this published paper makes it so that those who cite Curry to try to argue against global warming by using the Antarctic sea ice increase should not so cite her.

    And if I may be allowed to point to a very powerful visual that shows how severe the volume loss of both summer and winter Arctic sea ice is when considering Antarctic sea ice volume gain. I hope that everyone sees this video of only 19 seconds:

    This video very nicely shows the summer and winter ice loss with some nice rotations of the image. Very interesting. This shows that we are a large majority of the way to zero summer sea ice and roughly a fourth of more of the way to zero winter sea ice.

  35. andrew adams says:


    There has been plenty of discussion of Rose’s previous articles on Curry’s blog so it is inconceivable that she didn’t know exactly what Rose’s agenda was and in what context her comments would be used.

    This bit particularly caught my attention

    Some scientists have suggested the Antarctic ice increase may itself be caused by global warming. But Professor Judith Curry, head of climate science at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, said the arguments were not convincing.

    Assuming that this is an accurate summary of her view (and there isn’t a quote directly supporting it so it’s possible that Rose is over-reaching) I find it a bit surprising because it would seem to indicate that she is unaware of, or disagrees with, a particular well-cited paper which proposes a mechanism for ocean warming resulting in increased sea ice –

    “The observed sea surface temperature in the Southern Ocean shows a substantial warming trend for the second half of the 20th century. Associated with the warming, there has been an enhanced atmospheric hydrological cycle in the Southern Ocean that results in an increase of the Antarctic sea ice for the past three decades through the reduced upward ocean heat transport and increased snowfall.”

    The authors of this paper?

    Jiping Liu and Judith A. Curry

    Click to access 14987.full.pdf

  36. Keefe,
    Yes, I’m aware of that paper. Eli has an interesting take on that.

  37. andrew adams says:

    Oops, I posted the above before I saw KeefeAndAmanda’s comment. Great minds and all that…

  38. Pingback: Rose-colored glasses: Antarctic sea ice is the Mail on Sunday’s latest global … – The Guardian | Everyday News Update

  39. Nick says:

    Gee, I’d forgotten that paper, perhaps it’s the fog that issues from the Progress of Judith…Oh dear, she finds her own work unconvincing…I guess we must see this self-rejection as the most bracing of self-scepticism…[cough]

    It’s amazing that she still offers any sort of opinion….

  40. izen says:

    If you encounter somebody who cites the increase in Antarctic sea ice area as having some significance to the question of whether the Antarctic is getting colder or even that it reflects on the credibility of AGW, best tell them that the increase in sea ice is a result of it sliding off the land as the glaciers accelerate.
    And cite the multiple lines of evidence for the loss of land ice mass in Antarctica and the increasing rate. Suggest that increases in SEA ice might indicate the imminent and faster collapse of the WAIS.


    It may not be exactly accurate, but any attempt to refute this meme will force a denier to encounter the real complexity of the situation.

    Or probably just double-down on the inconsistency of their argument and claim the ice mass data is wrong while the sea ice extent data is unquestionable.

  41. jsam says:

    David Rose is aiming for the Melanie Phillips Truth in Science Reporting award.


  42. John Hartz says:

    Also see:

    Six things to know about Antarctic ice by Roz Pidcock, The Carbon Brief, July 7, 2014

    Note: Thie above article was originally posted in Nov, 2912.

  43. Pingback: We need a better class of climate “skeptic”! | And Then There's Physics

  44. Pingback: Rose-colored glasses: Antarctic sea ice is the Mail on Sunday’s latest global warming distraction » Rose-colored glasses: Antarctic sea ice is the Mail on Sunday’s latest global warming distraction | GeoengineeringWatch.org

  45. guthrie says:

    JSAM – is that Melanie Philips article, full of lies and distortion, published yet? Apparently it’s being published tommorrow, but this is tommorrow, you posted on the 7th of July.
    Or did you mean to link to a different article?
    I certainly see no mention of David Rose in it.

  46. Pingback: Rose-colored glasses: Antarctic sea ice is the Mail on Sunday's latest global warming distraction | Digital News Daily CA

  47. Eli Rabett says:

    Eli rather likes the web nym, as in something even a bunny can spell, but then again to worry about some things means that you take them seriously. Don;t.

    On the matter of Steve Goddard’s middle name being S. See Harry S Truman

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  49. Pingback: George Clooney, organic food and computer games. The best of rbutr #7 — rbutr

  50. jsam says:

    guthrie – I was just posting one of the many examples of the Daily Mail lying about science. It’s never apologised for their MMR coverage. To be blunt, I believe they are culpable for the anti-vaccination campaign – and sick and dying children. David Rose is cut from Melanie’s cloth.

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