Arctic sea ice has been rebounding rapidly of late. The usual suspects use pseudo-scary language like “ninth lowest in the 45-year satellite record” for the December extent, which is well within the normal range. But the real question is, or would be for a curious person, how can it be that after the hottest year ever, one that “smashed” records, Arctic ice is growing fast (on January 9 it was at its highest level for that date in 20 years, from Tony Heller again, in his ongoing battle with alarmists over whether the past matters) and the Arctic sea ice minimum has fluctuated without any downward trend since 2006.
It’s also well-known, if not well-explained, that Antarctica has not warmed at all over the last 40 years, again odd since the poles are, we are often told, warming faster than the rest of the planet. We are also often told that wherever a given journalist lives is doing so, which is hard to reconcile with the former claim since very few journalists are penguins or polar bears.
But not to worry; an octopus told them doom loomed. As in “Antarctic octopus DNA reveals ice sheet collapse closer than thought”. And again we don’t want to be rude about science, including the ingenuity researchers often show in determining what unlikely things constitute evidence. But it is dangerous to be so determined to reach a certain result that you’ll lunge at any passing cephalopod:
“A new analysis published Thursday in Science finds that geographically-isolated populations of the eight-limbed sea creatures mated freely around 125,000 years ago, signaling an ice-free corridor during a period when global temperatures were similar to today.”
That story actually manages to fudge badly on the paleohistory, quoting someone that the Eemian interglacial was “the last time the planet was around 1.5 degrees warmer than pre-industrial levels” whereas in fact (apart from it being a preindustrial level) the Eemian was markedly warmer than it is today, somewhere between 1 and 2°C, with forests in northern Norway that we aren’t anywhere close to seeing today, which matters considerably since:
“‘This study provides empirical evidence indicating that the WAIS collapsed when the global mean temperature was similar to that of today, suggesting that the tipping point of future WAIS collapse is close,’ the authors wrote.”
As they should, to get a grant. But “similar to that of today” is highly imprecise language.
The other question is whether it’s a certainty that this genetic mixing means the octopodes were swimming freely where there are now ice walls, or something else explains the fact that they diverged genetically at the end of the Eemian. For instance that they all came from one original population that, despite harsh conditions, gradually spread out and formed separate colonies?
Climate science doesn’t handle such uncertainties well. Indeed, the story adds:
“in an accompanying commentary piece, Andrea Dutton of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Robert DeConto of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst described the new research as ‘pioneering,’ adding it posed intriguing questions about whether ancient history will be repeated. They flagged however that several key questions remained unanswered -- such as whether the past ice sheet collapse was caused by rising temperatures alone, or whether other variables like changing ocean currents and complex interactions between ice and solid Earth were also at play. It’s also not clear whether the sea level rise would be drawn out over millennia or occur in more rapid jumps. But uncertainties such as these can’t be an excuse for inaction against climate change ‘and this latest piece of evidence from octopus DNA stacks one more card on an already unstable house of cards,’ they wrote.”
In short, we know nothing except that we must act as if we knew everything.