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Posted at 10:30 AM ET, 09/22/2008

Freedman: Climate News from the Arctic to Texas

By Andrew Freedman

This was a busy week in climate-related news, so let's get right to it, shall we?

First up was the finding that the Arctic summer melt season of 2008 has ended without breaking a new sea ice loss record. Instead, this year will be recorded as the second "meltiest" melt season since satellite records began in 1979. (Yes, I did just invent the word: "meltiest.")

The graph above shows daily sea ice extent. The solid light blue line indicates 2008; the dashed green line shows 2007; the dotted line shows 2005; the solid gray line indicates average extent from 1979 to 2000. Credit: National Snow and Ice Data Center.

This year's melt was remarkable, since sea ice extent declined steeply despite the absence of some of the same atmospheric factors that drove last year's record melt.

Keep reading for more on sea ice and learn how policymakers are responding to the risk of hurricanes along the Texas coast in the wake of Ike. For the forecast through the week, see our full forecast.

According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado, sea ice extent declined to 1.74 million square miles at the end of the summer, which was .86 million square miles below the 1979-2000 average minimum. This summer was cooler than in 2007, yet the sea ice still declined by so much that last year's record seemed to be in jeopardy for a time. The 2008 minimum is only about 150,000 square miles, or 9.4 percent, more than the record low level set last year.

The minimum sea ice extent of 2008 wound up at 33.1% less than the average minimum extent from 1979 to 2000. This year was also noteworthy since both the Northern Sea Route and a deeper channel of the Northwest Passage opened up for a short time, garnering international headlines and intensifying posturing between Arctic nations eager to gain access to new natural resources and trade routes.


Last week I posted a video news piece I put together for Climate Central on hurricanes and climate change, in which hurricane expert Kerry Emanuel of MIT criticized policies that encourage people to build beachfront homes in hurricane prone areas.

In the wake of Hurricane Ike, it looks as if some policymakers may try to do something about that problem. According to an Associated Press story, Texas officials may invoke a little-known state law that could prohibit people who have lost their beachfront homes from rebuilding in that location. According to the AP, there is a Texas statute from 1959 that designates the land area between the average high tide line and the average low tide line to be state-owned property off limits to development.

According to the AP, Texas has previously invoked the "Open Beaches Act" to limit redevelopment after storms, such as following Hurricane Alicia in 1983. Homeowners are not exactly thrilled about the prospect of being told that not only are they prohibited from rebuilding, but they may not get federal aid to move elsewhere either. The author of the statute couldn't care less.

"We're talking about damn fools that have built houses on the edge of the sea for as long as man could remember and against every advice anyone has given," said the retired state senator A.R. "Babe" Schwartz.

By Andrew Freedman  | September 22, 2008; 10:30 AM ET
Categories:  Climate Change, Environment, Freedman, Government, Tropical Weather  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Forecast: An Amazing Autumn Arrival
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What happened to all of the talk about the abundance of "first year" sea ice, and how thin it was, and how quickly and easily it would melt?

Why don't we hear any more about that? What happened to that theory? Was the theory wrong or was it substantially cooler in the Arctic this year, compared to last year?

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | September 22, 2008 11:42 AM | Report abuse

Looking at the chart, I see that the starting points are all very similar - indeed this chart would indicate a greater ( slightly) area of coverage at peak in 2008 than in 2007 or 2005 - but less than average. So it may be melting a lot come mid-summer, but it is freezing back up to the same level. What, if anything, does that imply ?

Posted by: MDScot | September 22, 2008 12:04 PM | Report abuse

Believe it or not, I only hit the "Submit" button one time on my previous post. I have no clue why it showed up twice, and with two different time stamps. I have posted enough times here to learn to be patient with your server. It can be a little lethargic at times.

How about some climate news from outside the US?

--begin quote--
"The EU plans in their current shape will not lead to any more CO2 emissions savings, as those are capped, but bring sky-high new carbon taxes," he said at a conference in Berlin.

"On top of that, there will be a tsunami of power price hikes as a consequence, which could threaten investment plans, our industry's competitiveness, and jobs."
--end quote--

source of the above quote -

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | September 22, 2008 12:21 PM | Report abuse

I think it implies the ice is not as thick at the end of the winter and the thawing is much faster because of that. If we are indeed recovering from a warm cycle, this implies that it may take many years for the ice pack to build up to its previous levels.

Posted by: Jamming | September 22, 2008 12:24 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Freedman's graphic is old.

A more up to date graphic can be found here -

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | September 22, 2008 12:28 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for pointing out the updated graphic, I used the one provided by NSIDC in their press materials.

Posted by: Andrew Freedman, Capital Weather Gang | September 22, 2008 12:34 PM | Report abuse

You are quite welcome, Mr. Freedman.

That link (as the path implies) is updated daily. It is a handy resource. I found it at climate audit. You would be amazed what you can learn at that website. I am currently witnessing the death of the hockey stick in slow motion. Fascinating stuff.

And just for the record, I also read real climate. I watch both sides of the debate religiously. And I have no doubt which side is correct. ;)

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | September 22, 2008 12:48 PM | Report abuse

"Q" - "No doubt...." ??

Your reply indicates there is no uncertainty in your judgment , not even the possibility that the side you've come down on is THE truth. That's faith, not science. Perhaps statisticians especially should know that nothing is ever totally certain, even if the error bars are very narrow. Are you willing to say that you are 90%, 99% or ??% sure??

Posted by: TBull | September 22, 2008 4:19 PM | Report abuse

quoting TBull, "That's faith, not science."

That is a perfect example of rhetoric that sounds good at first glance, but upon closer examination it is completely devoid of both truth and rational thought.

I have no doubt that if I drop a bowling bowl it will strike the ground. I have no doubt in gravity. Is that another example of my "faith"?

I have no doubt that the Earth revolves around the sun. Is that faith or science? Maybe it is both. Maybe I have faith in rational science. Have you considered that option?

Or, do you believe that everyone who doesn't hold the same opinion as you and who doesn't have any doubt, as having an opinion based in religion? Therefore, you can easily dismiss their opinion and sleep comfortable in the knowledge of your superior intellect. Is that an accurate summary of your thesis?

Good luck with that.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr, Q. | September 22, 2008 7:26 PM | Report abuse

Faith is a belief in the trustworthiness of an idea while religion is a set of tenets and practices. Nothing in TBull's response said any thing about religion. And yet, Mr. Q throws it into the mix to deflect the criticism and avoids the question.

"This is like deja vu all over again." - Yogi Berra

Posted by: John - Burke | September 22, 2008 11:41 PM | Report abuse

Thanks for your comment, John-Burke. Right on.

So, Mr. Q, how about answering the question. Are you 100% certain - i.e., "no doubt"?? If so, that means it's your intellect which is superior. Wow, I bet you believe it should have you been you who was awarded the Nobel Prize, not the International Climate Community - after all it was only 90% sure of it's conclusions on AGW).

Posted by: TBull | September 23, 2008 8:23 AM | Report abuse

There is always the question of the relative importance of climate change and natural variability in weather from one summer to the next.

The trend is clearly in the direction of a climatic long term reduction of Arctic sea ice. One possible, if not likely, reason for the lesser melting this year than last is that in 2008 it was generally cloudier and cooler over the Arctic. Aside from the direct effects of cooling the atmosphere below cloud level, clouds would reduce the warming of the water in ice free regions and thus reduce melting at the margins of the ice zone.

Posted by: Steve Tracton | September 23, 2008 8:39 AM | Report abuse


Factually, the reason for less meting of arctic ice this year has to be a combination of all or some of the following: cooler water temp (incl currents), cooler local atmosphere temp, and/or less radiative heating.

Regardless of any spin put on the ice melting less than last year, this data does not support the current global warming alarmist position. By the same token it's not enough to disprove the alarmist theory.

However, when combined with satellite temperature readings over the past several years, it tells us, IMHO, that whatever temperature increase that we humans are causing seems to be being offset, or more, by what appears to be one of Earth's natural cooling cycles. Whether this is related to sunspots, cloud formation, magnetic fields, or other theory does not seem to be well enough understood by scientists to make accurate predictions, at least according to the materials I have read.

Posted by: RM | September 24, 2008 9:29 AM | Report abuse

@Capital Weather Gang
John - Burke used bold. I thought that was a style of posting reserved for Capital Weather Gang. Weird how no one corrected him.

@John - Burke
Yes, that is one definition of faith, but it is not the only definition. Try this link. Or try Merriam-Webster -
1 a: allegiance to duty or a person : loyalty b (1): fidelity to one's promises (2): sincerity of intentions
2 a (1): belief and trust in and loyalty to God (2): belief in the traditional doctrines of a religion b (1): firm belief in something for which there is no proof (2): complete trust
3: something that is believed especially with strong conviction ; especially : a system of religious beliefs

The definition you quoted appears to have come straight from Wikipedia. If you had kept reading beyond the first sentence, you would have found religion.

Given the preponderous accusations of religious dogma being at the heart of the disbelief in catastrophic man made global warming from people who advocate that theory, I dare say my interpretation of what TBull was saying was correct. That belief is only strengthened by the fact that it was you, and not TBull, who claimed that I misinterpreted what he was saying.

No, I don't think I will answer your questions. I have been fairly clear in what I believe. If people don't understand what I believe at this point, I don't see how reiterating it will help.

Very well said. But don't forget about the PDO. One theory is that the changes in upper air currents associated with the PDO results in a changing temperature (which is well documented) due to changes in location and quantity of cloud formations. Fascinating stuff! I will post a link to an interesting talk from Dr. Spencer. It might take me a minute to find it.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | September 24, 2008 12:04 PM | Report abuse

I found the link. It is here. It is a 164 MB video file. The whole speech is good, but the portion I was referring to begins at approximately the 57 minute mark. Enjoy.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | September 24, 2008 12:30 PM | Report abuse

Re: John - Burke's use of bold: it is not a problem since he used it just for emphasis of two words. In the past, Mr. Q, you have used it for your entire responses, which is reserved for CapWxGang in order to have our comments stand out and be easily recognized.

Posted by: Andrew Freedman, Capital Weather Gang | September 24, 2008 12:45 PM | Report abuse

Attack - Deny - Ignore - Deflect

Same as it ever was... same as it ever was... same as it ever was... David Byrne

Posted by: John - Burke | September 24, 2008 7:50 PM | Report abuse

I have been dying to chime in with my 2 cents on the whole beaches and hurricanes issue, but I have been reluctant to do so at the same time.

But here's my opinion -

I am first and foremost a freedom/liberty guy. I am a borderline libertarian in that regard. If someone isn't infringing on me and my liberties, and their lifestyle (or aspects of their lifestyle) do not have a negative impact on the public as a whole, then I say, "Rock on!".

The problem is that most people fail to comprehend that freedom is messy. :(

Free people don't always make the smartest choices. Life is messy. No amount, short of direct bondage and shackles, of legislation will change that fact.

So the problem isn't so much that people build houses in challenging environments as the bleeding hearts who witness there destruction and decide that they need to do something about it, for the good of those poor people who lost their house don't you know.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr. Q. | September 25, 2008 2:34 AM | Report abuse

We do ask commenters refrain from using bold text. This was John's first "offense" so to speak (and just two words) so no big deal. But we'd appreciate it if everyone would just use plain text in their comments so that CWG can use the bold style to highlight its comments.

Posted by: Capital Weather Gang | September 25, 2008 2:54 AM | Report abuse

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