Tag Archives: Andrew Revkin

The New Andrew Revkin Fan UPDATED

See below for update.

Andrew Revkin has a new kind of fan. These are fans that agree with much of what Revkin says, or at least feel comfortable in his community of commenters. These fans feel their views are substantiated by what they read in Revkin’s New York Times column, Dot Earth. They seem to be Libertarian, anti-environment, anti-science, pro-fossil fuel, and frankly, anti-green. Not just one or two of Andrew Revkin’s fans, but a bunch — with numbers possibly growing — are of this mind, and this is very disturbing. If we had the technology to transport these fans back in time and put them in a small room with Andy Revkin back in the days of the Bush administration, the room would melt down. They would not be his fans, and he would be shocked to be told that some day they will be.

Revkin still has his old fans, people who are actively and intentionally green, concerned about the environment, not willing to accept a world run by fossil fuel or other major environment-harming industrial interests. These are often activists, people who take seriously their individual responsibly to be good to the only planet we have, the Earth. And I’m sure there are many ways in which these more traditional Revkin-readers still fit with and relate to the folk singer and former New York Times journalist.

I’ve been noticing this for months. I speak with a green activist about climate change. The activist is very concerned about climate change due to human produced greenhouse gas pollution, can see the effects of it, worries about future generations that will be unspeakably harmed by it. Annoyed, the activist is, with deniers of climate change, deniers of the science, those who incorrectly say that even if it is real we can’t do anything about it, or should not, falsely claiming that curtailing fossil fuel use will be worse than using the Sun’s energy to fuel our lifestyle, or perniciously saying this simply can’t be done.

And right there in the middle of the conversation about how global warming is real, human caused, important, and fixable, and about how deniers of these things are truely some kind of bad guy, I’ll hear something about how Any Revkin is great. Writes great stuff. Says great stuff. And I’m sure that to a certain extent, taking a life long career into account, considering it all, this is true.

But then I look at Dot Earth, and I see two things. First is Andy Revkin’s tendency to occupy that space between serious concern about climate change and acceptance of consensus science on one hand, and questioning of the reality and importance of climate change, on the other. In other words, Andy likes to write, often, in the space between what deniers call “warmists” and what warmists call “deniers.”

There was a time, perhaps, one could argue, and many did, that there was a valid intersection between these space, an overlap, a place where an honest broker could be effective in shepherding those who might be antagonistic towards better solutions to our existential problems in a better direction. But that ship has sailed. There is plenty of room for variation in policy approaches to climate change. But there is absolutely zero room for considering the reality of climate change or its severity. We can honestly argue about thresholds, and which decade will see what severe effects, but we can no longer argue about the existence or overall seriousness of the problem. Within climate science, scientists argue over the relative importance of Arctic Warming vs. Pacific surface warm anomalies in relation to quasi-resonant Rossby waves, about the complex dynamics of transient climate sensitivity vis-a-vis positive feedbacks, or about the order in which to load variables into climate models running on supercomputers. But nobody, really, in climate science is arguing about any of the things that are being discussed in that space between consensus science and denial.

Except Andy and a few other people, and many who call themselves green, because they are honestly and honorably green or at least want to be green, see Andy in that space and think, well, if he’s there, maybe I should be there.

As the gaping maw between good climate science on one hand and pro-fossil fuel activism on the other has grown, almost everybody has moved to one side or another, most moving towards the science unless they have some motive to be on the side that we now understand is clearly wrong. Most green people have moved to the side that prefers to save the Earth and has little interest in saving the Koch Brothers. And as this tectonic event, this rifting, in perspective has happened, Andy Revkin’s Dot Earth blog has stayed in the widening valley, initially I assume because it seemed like the right place to be, and eventually remained there for reasons I would feel uncomfortable guessing at.

And today, I took a look into that rift to see what was in there and what I saw was disturbing.

Tony Dokoupil of MSNBC produced some commentary about how Dot Earth has degraded to little more than Andy Revkin’s hobby blog. He makes a number of points you can agree with or not, and Andy, much to his credit — he could have ignored this but chose not to — addresses those points. I have opinions and observations I could express about Dokoupil’s commentary and about Revkin’s response, but that is neither here nor there. What I would prefer to focus on is the nature and character of the supportive commentary, a subset of the folks who jumped in to say Andy’s doing it right. The new fans.

Following is a sampling of comments on this most recent post which give a flavor for what I’m talking about. Much of what is repeated below is discredited by current science or misrepresents science. For the most part it isn’t even very skilled denialism. The denialism part is not what bothers me. Well, science denialism bothers me, but that is not what I’m talking about here. What concerns me is the apparent comfort level found among those who really want us to do nothing to address climate change with the middle ground, the honest broker. What might have once been a true middle ground is now a place where the anti-science troops hunker down and from which they snipe, like the various demilitarized zones of past meatspace wars throughout the 20th century. It is a place that should not be groomed for use in the national paper of record, and especially on a green blog.

Laird Wilcox Kansas City is comfortable at Dot Earth and appreciates Andy’s approach:

What may bother some global warmists is that Dot Earth actually opens issues up to comment in an honest way. For ideologues, and especially dogmatic AGW warmists, this is anathema — it’s giving the hated demonic “other” a voice and allowing him a voice to undermine the group consensus that drives dogmatic causes and crusades to greater and greater levels of intolerance of opposition.

To allow skeptics and others who see issues with global warmist dogma that require reconsideration of basic premises, additional testing of claims and declarations, reanalysis of date and perhaps honest and unsparing consideration of what it is that they really fear from open and vigorous debate in the public domain. Why is it necessary that “denialists” are driven from web pages, comments sections of journals and newspapers as well as warmist meetings and conventions? I don’t this this happens because everybody is assured they are full of c**p but rather that they have cogent arguments worth considering.

This tendency to reject the hated “other” with broad campaigns of marginalization, vilification, stigmatization, stereotyping and name-calling is allowing public awareness of what the AGW warmist movement harbors in its ranks – deeply insecure believers drawn to the apocalyptic catastrophizing their movement demands and a deeply dark paranoia toward all who question the dogma, writ and scripture that supports it.

It’s own intolerance and extremism should give it away in normal times.

Trusted Commenter Kip Hansen implies a link between the Dot Earth approach and a well known scientist turned (sadly) denialist:

Dr. Judith Curry, in her opening remarks at the ” Circling the square: universities, the media, citizens and politics.” conference in Nottingham, England, concluded with this:

“In conclusion, my concern is that the scientific community is extremely confused about the policy process and too many climate scientists are irresponsibly shooting from the hip as issue advocates. Apart from the damage that this is doing at the interface between science and policy, the neglect and perversion of uncertainty is doing irreparable damage to the science and to the public trust of scientists.”

I would support the same statement, with the subject being Environmental Journalists, transmogrified to: (this is a paraphrased quote, with substitutions):

“….my (Kip Hansen’s) concern is that the environmental journalist community is extremely confused about the policy process and too many environmental journalists are irresponsibly shooting from the hip as issue advocates. Apart from the damage that this is doing at the interface between journalism and policy, the neglect and perversion of uncertainty is doing irreparable damage to journalism and to the public trust of environmental journalists.”

When journalists no longer question the pronouncements of advocates — political or scientific — then they fail at their sacred trust.

Has Andrew Revkin become *that* kind of journalist here at Dot Earth? Is he “just another advocate”?

Kurt notes:

If I understand correctly, part of the criticism from “Climate Hawks” is that YOU don’t take a strong stand. (For the record, NOT my criticism; im Gegenteil: a good journalist, like a good scientist, should not let his ideology cloud facts or data!). Nevertheless, they probably wonder why you’re not fighting in the trenches like Joe Romm or Susan Goldenberg.

Keep your balance, your open mind and vor allem: keep playing music!

and, in support of Andy Revkin,

it was Revkin himself who posted the criticism on his own blog. Revkin doesn’t make the silly statement that Dokoupil lacks a scientific background; indeed, none of Dokoupils’ arguments are remotely scientific – they are about Revkin’s attention being split between competing interests, his blog style, his interaction with commenters and hosted writers, and regaining his former gravitas: “… quite simply one of the very best reporters to ever push a green noun against a green verb in newsprint.”

Robert disagreed, but wmar has a response to that:

You forgot the most important part of the list:

The Data –

for that is what is primarily on Kip and Kurt’s ‘side’. When Andy notes this it is indeed refreshing and valuable.

Adrian O has a nice example of denial in response to Portia‘s quip “Man walks into a bar in the Kirabati Islands.
Oh. Wait

precisely mapped how Tarawa, the main atoll and the capital of Kiribati, has GROWN CONSIDERABLY in surface since 1940.
The study and a dozen others are quoted by the IPCC which mentions that out of ALL Pacific small islands measured, a large majority, 86%, are GROWING IN SURFACE or are stable.

IPCC concludes, in section 29.3.1. OBSERVED impacts on Island Coasts (2014)
Sea-level rise did not appear to be the primary control on
shoreline processes on these islands

So now that you see in detail that when measured the islands are NOT sinking, you have two alternatives

1) You are relieved. You were worried that islands are sinking, but now you know that careful maps and the IPCC show that that is not the case.

2) (sadly much more likely) You feel ambushed by right wing deniers, and you know better than to look at measurements, even official: you always choose propaganda, and think that measured reality is Satan. You want Andy’s blog closed.

This can happen in two cases.
a) You are totally uninterested in those islands, but you NEED to feel desperate in order to feel good about yourself, or

b) You are totally uninterested in those islands, but you have considerable gain if you seed despair, e.g. you have green investments, you are a green CEO, etc.
Denver and Kirbati are submerged.
Why Denver?
Why Kiribati?

I’m going to include a comment by Robert to address some of the issues above lest I be repeating a bad message:

i see we’re still not reading the material, AO. well, I’m here to help, though I do think that the masters of science generally do try and do their homework before spouting off.

1. Both the IPCC appendix and the unpublished study you cited agree on two things: a) sea levels generally continue to rise in the Pacific (and have risen approx. 200 mm. over the last 130 years).

2. The rises, together with other natural and “anthropogenic,” events, continue to change islands, reefs and atolls in ways that are not clearly understood.

3. Very generally speaking, Kiribati’s bigger islands have gained in area, while the smaller have lost area.

4. Some of this is wholly natural, in the sense that this sort of geography tends to move, shift, and change a fair amount.

5. However–and your authors are explicit about this–a large part of the reason that the larger islands have tended to grow is that more people live on them, and they’ve been building sea walls, retainers, dredges, etc. like crazy.

In brief, no, these islands don’t just sink. (Actually they don’t really sink at all; they get eroded away, the sea level rises, etc.) The processes involved are complex, just as they are with global warming.

However, the overall pattern is clear.

So read your own material, willya? And grow a sense of humor.

That there are denialist comments on Andy Revkin’s blog is not an issue at all. What he or his editors allow is entirely up to them. My position on blogging comments will be well known to my own readers. There can’t be hard and fast rules. It is entirely appropriate to exclude any and all trolls and at the same time it is entirely appropriate to allow their discussions. There is no free speech issue here (anyone who feels excluded from a given outlet can go get their own outlet). The problem, to reiterate but it probably needs to be said a couple of times, is that Andy Revkin’s approach to many of the climate related issues is to give service to positions that are simply untenable and, very likely, damaging.

Andrew Revkin is not a climate science denialist. But he is occupying a space where, given the evolution of this issue in recent years, few who understand the severity of the problem occupy any more, for good reason. So, as long as people are lining up to advise Andrew Revkin as to what he should do, I’ll add this. Take one of your feet off the dock or the boat, before you fall in!

Update Added June 25

In a response to my post, regarding my assertion that there is zero room for debate about the reality of climate change, Andy Revkin wrote, at Dot Earth:

“Zero room.” That’s scientific.

Yes, it is. There is zero room for debate when an issue has been pretty much settled. In science debate can come up anywhere, you never know, but for all practical purposes we do not debate if the Earth is hollow or solid or flat or round, or that germs cause many diseases, or that frogs reproduce as most other tetrapods do rather then spontaneously emerging from mud.

The Earth is warming. No room for debate there. Many factors affect global surface temperatures. Some are natural, some are human-caused. The sum of the natural effects does not produce the warming we see. The human effects have caused, over the last several decades, a certain amount of cooling (from aerosol pollutants) and a certain amount of warming (from greenhouse gas emissions and related positive feedbacks, and damage to Carbon sinks). So the warming trend is human caused. No room for debate there. Climate change is causing loss of life, damage to property, and threats to food production through drought and excessive rain. Sea levels can not possibly fail to rise over coming decades, wiping out coastal properties including human settlements, harbors, agricultural lands, etc. No room for debate on these effects. Killer heat waves have become more common and this will get much worse. No debate about that. Ocean acidification is happening and will get worse. This is not debated. There is some debate about how much we can adapt to some of these effects, but adaptation will be costly and there are limits. So, yes, there is some debate there. There is no debate that we need to keep the Carbon in the ground. There is some debate (but it is highly questionable) about the idea that we can get energy by releasing Carbon but at the same time use energy to un-release the Carbon. There are serious physical limitations to such an approach. There is a vibrant and real debate about which non-fossil-Carbon technologies we should use to produce energy, given the possible mix of technologies such as wind, PV solar, thermal solar, passive geothermal, tidal, hydro, and nuclear. That’s a real debate. There is real debate about pricing carbon or regulating energy production, about subsidies and incentives, etc.

So to repeat my original post, I said “… there is absolutely zero room for considering the reality of climate change or its severity.” Andy Revkin claimed that this is not true, that there is a debate. Until he said that I had not realized that Revkin was on the fence about the reality of climate change. I wrote “Andrew Revkin is not a climate science denialist,” but I have now been corrected. Apparently that is not true. This comes as an utter surprise to me.

And, in fact, I don’t believe it. I think his “that’s not scientific” argument was not well thought out, something of a knee-jerk reaction, in which you tell the person who seems to be disagreeing with you that they don’t know how to think rationally. (In fact, in his comments, he did that twice. Wrong both times.)

In the comments section (below) Andy wrote:

If you’d asked me about my comment policy and your concerns about my “fans” in that space I might have reminded you that comment contributors — as at most blogs — are a tiny subset of the overall readership. I find it puzzling that someone with scientific training would claim to detect significant trends in such a small and skewed sample (commenters tend to have lots of free time and strong opinions) and then use those “findings” to demean the work of someone whose second National Academy of Sciences Communication Award was for Dot Earth. It’s always imperfect. I don’t have enough time to vet all comments for factual content. Folks can feel free to dive into the conversations there or ignore them. They don’t even appear unless you click.

But I had written in my post “that there are denialist comments on Andy Revkin’s blog is not an issue at all. What he or his editors allow is entirely up to them. My position on blogging comments will be well known to my own readers. There can’t be hard and fast rules. It is entirely appropriate to exclude any and all trolls and at the same time it is entirely appropriate to allow their discussions.

I’m not talking about comments. As Andy and others have pointed out, denialist comments on Dot Earth get addressed by those who disagree. I often do the same thing on my blog.

The point I made in this (original) blog post is that Andy Revkin operates a forum that caters to a middle ground that has disappeared, and that feeding activity in this middle ground is counter-productive, demanding a cost we can’t afford to pay. That is my criticism. I further noted that this is important because of Andy’s cachet with the green community.

Susan Anderson (below) says:

Andy’s promotion of voices from the so-called middle has become a reliable indicator prompting people like me to, for example, look up the credentials and work of Martin Hoerling, Roger Pielke Jr., and a variety of others. I don’t remember if he promotes Lomborg.

Meanwhile, it is very sad, Andy is a fine writer, an excellent researcher, has a reputation deep and wide from his history (he turned around 2008), and is an attractive speaker who gets invited everywhere.

His less popular articles on local ecology and initiatives are more than fine, and it is sad that they are not given top billing by his audience, while the fight goes on … and on … and on … getting nowhere and encouraging apathy.

Well put, Susan.

Metzomagic (below) notes that Revkin brought some standard “middle of the road” questions to bear in his interview with Jeremy Shakun. Yes, he did, but if I was interviewing him I would have asked similar questions to give him an opportunity to address them, which he did. Indeed, Andy points out that the current change in surface temperatures is not so much as hockey stick but rather something much more serious and severe. (In thinking about an alternative to hockey stick to represent the shape of the time serious I keep coming back to various dentistry tools.) This makes me believe that Andy is is on board with the reality of and seriousness of climate change.

And that, really, is the problem as I see it. Andy has one foot on the dock, one foot on the boat, but he really wants to be on the dock. Questioning of the reality and importance of climate change, that boat won’t float. I think it is time for Any to just get himself fully and squarely on the dock.

Another update: This discussion continues with Andy Revkin’s new post: In Weighing Responses to Climate Change, Severity and Uncertainty Matter More than ‘Reality’

“Let me introduce you to my little friend”: 2014, warmest year

Andrew Revkin has this commentary at the New York Times: How ‘Warmest Ever’ Headlines and Debates Can Obscure What Matters About Climate Change.

I will argue below that Revkin has, inadvertently or not, linked a science denialist trope to the important scientific finding that 2014 is the warmest year on record, as part of his presumably well intentioned effort to focus on trends rather than individual points. (See his comment on this blog below.) Yes, the trend is more important than a given data point, but the headline does not really obscure, but rather, underscores.

I’m afraid the devaluing of 2014, or any year, as a new data point in measuring global surface temperature change will become yet another climate science denialist claim. The strength of this claim would lie entirely in absurd idea that one data point in set a of data demonstrating a trend, with N=130, is not important if it is not “statistically significant” in difference from nearby points. That is actually what we expect when adding new data to the end of a trend, when the trend itself is real and there are already sufficient data points to lend a high degree of confidence. Indeed, the temperature anomaly estimate for 2014 is exactly what we would expect under conditions of continuous global warming.

Like this:

2014 is exactly where we expect it to be assuming that the long term trend is well represented by current data and models.  That is Significant with at big 'S'.
2014 is exactly where we expect it to be assuming that the long term trend is well represented by current data and models. That is Significant with at big ‘S’.

In his State of the Union Address, President Obama said, “2014 was the planet’s warmest year on record. Now, one year doesn’t make a trend, but this does?—?14 of the 15 warmest years on record have all fallen in the first 15 years of this century.” The President refers here to last Friday’s announcement by the key US government agencies that study climate and weather, NOAA and NASA, that 2014 was the warmest year in a record of temperatures that goes back to 1880. President Obama correctly notes the milestone of 2014 being the warmest year, and that the larger, more important, fact, is that all of the warmest years we’ve experienced since industrialization have been very recent.

Revkin notes the NOAA/NASA report and links this to criticisms from the Daily Mail (one of the most notorious rags at the fringes of journalism), the right wing “The Federalist,” and an extreme climate science denialist site. This has the effect of creating a balance between established government scientists and agencies who say one thing, and critics providing an alternative view. What this really is, of course, is a false balance between mainstream science on one hand and rather extreme science denialism on the other. By uncritically providing their point of view along side the findings of NOAA and NASA he effectively elevates cranks to the status of expert. This slight of hand seems to have had the function of allowing Revkin to note that “it’s a distraction to focus on records … given how year-to-year differences in global temperature are measured in a few hundredths of a degree Fahrenheit, and given the implicit uncertainty in such measurement.”

So. 2014. Shiny! Since we are capable of thinking about only one thing, lets’ avoid thinking about 2014? No. That would be wrong.

Revkin previously claimed that when writing about science he tries to only refer to scientists, in a 2006 interview conducted by Paul Thacker:

Thacker: Scientists consistently complain that the journalistic practice of “balance” allows skeptics to gain an unfair toehold in media coverage, which ignores consensus in favor of controversy. Do you agree, and do journalists need to rethink their approach to covering complex scientific issues?

Revkin: Balance is a necessary evil, a crutch, particularly in daily journalism, but only works with coverage of the science –policy interface if the journalist works hard to label the voices in a story to reflect what they represent (a consensus or knowledgeable minority) and certainly to reflect their motivation or potential conflict (paid by industry? on staff at an environmental group?). When I’m writing strictly on a scientific finding, I avoid voices from anyone other than scientists. When I’m writing on policy, I’ll quote those with an agenda, but only if I label their agenda.

He did not do this in his latest New York Times commentary.

Much of the rest of Revkin’s post is a foray into probability and statistics that ends up not being very helpful, mainly because the meaning of 2014’s surface temperature estimate was not appreciated.

Here is what is going on. The value of a given year when it is one of 130+ data points is limited. That was true before 2014 turned out to be the warmest in that data set, it would have been true if 2014 had turned out to have been a bit cooler or warmer. It applies to each and every one of the years for which surface temperatures have been estimated by a half dozen or so agencies or research groups. What we are really measuring here is change over time, over decades of time. We do not decide if there is a trend of change over time in such a data set by looking at a given year. We look at the trend itself, incorporating all of the data.

At the same time, every single point counts. The trend is an accumulation of annual averages of individual years arranged across time. We are ultimately asking two questions of these data. First, we are asking about patterns in the past, since humans started releasing copious amounts of the greenhouse gas CO2 into the atmosphere. We are seeking other relationships over that time frame as well, looking at the strength of the sun over time, the effects of atmospheric dust spewed by volcanoes or human activities, and complex interaction between “surface temperature” (the thing these data sets measure) and the actual global temperature which includes the ocean (containing well over 90% of this heat). In order to examine this record in light of all of those variables, we have to pay attention to each and every year. And, the most important year is always the one we just got, because it serves as a tiny but helpful test of our running hypothesis. And, it is more data! It is like finding a new friend.

The second question we are asking is what will happen in the future. Right up until the start of January, the year 2014 was in the future. The temperature value estimated for 2014, or more exactly, the degree (literally) and direction of this year as an anomaly reflected against a long term average, is the very point of this research, and of course, this applies to 2015, 2016, and so on. The relative position of 2014 in relation to the long term data is of great interest. Had that value been substantially less than the trend predicts, there would be some ‘splainin to do. Had the value been way higher than the trend predicts, there would be some ‘splainin to do. As it turns out, 2014 couldn’t have been much closer to the exact value the long term trend line predicted. It was dead on under the assumption of continued warming. That, ladies and gentleman, is a data point of worthy note.

2014’s temperature value is significant for the very fact that it is not statistically different from expectations under the widely accepted model of anthropogenic global warming. That is the meaning of 2014’s surface temperature estimate.

Please remember that the “surface temperature” is only the measurement of the air near the ground and the surface of the sea, combined. This is less than 10% of the total heat containing portion of the planet affected by global warming. The surface temperature is an important indicator of change over time, and for historical reasons this is a measurement we use. But it is like the tail of the dog, where the dog is the ocean, where the other 90% or so of heat resides. John Abraham just posted a commentary on the most recent data, just updated, on ocean heat content, and it has been rising apace. (See also this paper on that topic, and this post by Joe Romm.)

90% of the Earth's energy balance involves the ocean's heat, shown here. Note that there is no current pause, and that surface temperature estimates (see graph above) tend to underestimate the total amount of anthropogenic global warming because much of this heat, routinely, goes into the ocean. We can expect some of this heat to return to the atmosphere in coming years.
90% of the Earth’s energy balance involves the ocean’s heat, shown here. Note that there is no current pause, and that surface temperature estimates (see graph above) tend to underestimate the total amount of anthropogenic global warming because much of this heat, routinely, goes into the ocean. We can expect some of this heat to return to the atmosphere in coming years.

2014’s surface temperature estimate obscures nothing, it reveals. It is not a distraction. It is the point.

I think it is important to note that the reality of global warming, and tracking it, is complex. This was, in fact, the warmest year on record. The fact that a new warmest year will almost always be only a little warmer than a previous recent warmest year does not diminish the importance of the new top rank year, but rather, underscores it, since all the “warmest years” are recent. If this year beat out the next warmest year by only a small amount, and that next warmest year was from 1881, we would not be impressed. But since this new warmest year’s friends, the other previous winners of this particular numerical beauty contest, are all very recent, we are impressed. And we should be worried.

It would be odd to not acknowledge a new warmest year when the data come out, and it would be odd to not recognize its significance.

Is Annual Arctic Sea Ice On Decent Track For A Change?

Andrew Revkin thinks so:


It is hard to interpret this as meaning anything other than the crisis of Arctic Sea ice melting too much and too fast is over. This is an important thing, because the rapid and widespread melting of sea ice in the Arctic seems to be causing a thing called Arctic Amplification, which means in normal human terms that the Arctic is warmer (amplified) than normal. This causes a decrease in the differential between equatorial heat and polar heat in the Northern Hemisphere which seems to change the way the Jet Streams operate which in turn causes Weather Whiplash, where we have days and days of warm air being drawn north into “ridges” under the Jet Stream or colder air being drawn south into “troughs” in the Jet Stream. Our Minnesota Snowy April, the current midwest Heat Wave, severe cold in Siberia a while back, flooding in Central Europe, etc. etc. all are effects of the warped and slow moving waves in the Jet Stream. Climate math seams to explain the warping and stalling of the Jet Stream as a function of Arctic Amplification, and Arctic Amplification is clearly the result of a warmer northern sea which is caused by exposure of the sea to more energy from the sun because the ice is reduced. The ice is reduced because of global warming, and this is positive feedback effect.

If the Arctic Sea ice melt is “on a decent track” than this might mean a) global warming isn’t really happening and/or b) the Arctic Sea ice to amplification to jet stream warping and stalling to weather whiplash connection isn’t valid. So, that would be important. So let’s see if Andy is Revkin the Right or Revkin the Wrong on this one.

Here is a graph of the track of Arctic Sea ice melt for a period of ten years for the first years in which good measurements are available, from the National Snow & Ice Date Center. Since the recent changes in the Arctic post date this time period, we can take this to be more or less “normal.”


The black, thicker line along the bottom of these other lines is the average ice track from 1981-2010. Note that the sea ice for this ten year baseline period is almost never below that line. The baseline for “on track” is the average of these ten years, and I’ll leave it to you to imagine a line running along the midpoint of the observed ice tracks from 1979 to 1988.

Now, here is the same graph but for the ten year period prior to 2012:


For this later time period, the nature of Arctic Sea ice is fundamentally different than before. This is the period of time that the Arctic Sea has been warming. This is the period of time that Arctic Amplification has becoming more severe. This is the period of time that the weather has been changing. This is the period of time that has been affected by anthropogenic global warming. Sea ice tracks that are within this range are not “on track.” They are probably better characterized as “messed up.”

The following is the same data showing the ice track from 2012 and the present year to date.

The year 2012 was exceptional. It was the most melty of the measured years. This year, is in fact, “on track” but not “on track” to be normal. It is “on track” to be one of the years in which the melting is excessive, and it is “on track” to contribute to Arctic Amplification. It could be worse. It could look like 2012, or even worse, I suppose. But it is not good.

I know it is hard to see all the lines in these graphs when many are selected for display on the Charctic Interactive Sea Ice Graphing Tool, but the years that are not as melty as the present year are all the years prior to the shift documented above, and 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006 from after the shift. So, one way of looking at this year is that it is more or less average for the “new normal.” It is “on track” for more weather whiplash.

It is actually good news that the Arctic Sea Ice melting is not worse this year than last year, or even as bad this year as some previous years. But it takes a bit of imagination, or perhaps serves some intent that I find difficult to fathom, to suggest that this year things in the Arctic are on a decent track. Arctic Sea ice melt this year is not decent.

And, all this is about sea ice coverage. There is a more severe problem happening that these graphs don’t show; the melting of old ice, ice that is thicker, with multiple years all jammed up into thicker ice, has been severe over recent years. This ice is important because it forms the foundation on which new sea ice forms every year. Even if the climate went back to “normal” because some technology was invented that sucked all the extra Carbon Dioxide out of the atmosphere to return us to pre-industrial levels was implemented, the lack of old ice would mean that regeneration of sea ice in the Arctic each year would be difficult, and it would probably take several year get the Arctic Sea back to a decent track. For a change.

Here’s Mike Mann’s tweet response to Revkin’s tweet, which says the same thing I say in this blog post but in fewer than 140 characters:


(Professor Mann’s link is to the same data source I use above.)