Scientist: Sea Ice Expanding, Driven by Falling Temperatures

While there’s been thousands of legacy media stories about the very real decline in summer sea-ice extent in the Arctic Ocean, we can’t find one about the statistically significant increase in Antarctic sea ice that has been observed at the same time.

Also, comparisons between forecast temperature trends down there and what’s been observed are also very few and far between. Here’s one published in 2015:

Observed (blue) and model-forecast (red) Antarctic sea-ice extent published by Shu et al. (2015) shows a large and growing discrepancy, but for unknown reasons, their illustration ends in 2005.

Observed (blue) and model-forecast (red) Antarctic sea-ice extent published by Shu et al. (2015) shows a large and growing discrepancy, but for unknown reasons, their illustration ends in 2005.

For those who utilize and trust in the scientific method, forming policy (especially multi-trillion dollar policies!) on the basis of what could or might happen in the future seems imprudent. Sound policy, in contrast, is best formulated when it is based upon repeated and verifiable observations that are consistent with the projections of climate models. As shown above, this does not appear to be the case with the vast ice field that surrounds Antarctica.

According to the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), CO2-induced global warming will result in a considerable reduction in sea ice extent in the Southern Hemisphere. Specifically, the report predicts a multi-model average decrease of between 16 and 67 percent in the summer and 8 to 30 percent in the winter by the end of the century (IPCC, 2013). Given the fact that atmospheric CO2 concentrations have increased by 20 percent over the past four decades, evidence of sea ice decline should be evident in the observational data if such model predictions are correct. But are they?

Thanks to a recent paper in the Journal of Climate by Josefino Comiso and colleagues, we now know what’s driving the increase in sea-ice down there. It’s—wait for it—cooling temperatures over the ocean surrounding Antarctica.

This team of six researchers set out to produce an updated and enhanced dataset of sea ice extent and area for the Southern Hemisphere for the period 1978 to 2015. The key enhancement over prior datasets included an improved cloud masking technique that eliminated anomalously high or low sea ice values, assuring that their work is the most definitive study of Antarctic sea ice trends to date.

The six scientists report the existence of a long-term increasing trend in both sea ice extent and area over the period of study (see figure below), with the former measure increasing by 1.7 percent per decade and the latter by 2.5 percent per decade.

Figure 1. Monthly anomalies of Southern Hemisphere sea ice extent (left panel) and area (right panel) derived using the newly enhanced SB2 data (black) of Comiso et al. and the older SBA data (red) prior to the enhancements made by Comiso et al. Trend lines for each data set are also shown and the trend values with statistical errors are provided. Source: Comiso et al. (2017).

Figure 1. Monthly anomalies of Southern Hemisphere sea ice extent (left panel) and area (right panel) derived using the newly enhanced SB2 data (black) of Comiso et al. and the older SBA data (red) prior to the enhancements made by Comiso et al. Trend lines for each data set are also shown and the trend values with statistical errors are provided. Source: Comiso et al. (2017).

With regard to these observed increases, Comiso et al. confirm “the trend in Antarctic sea ice cover is positive,” adding “the trend is even more positive than previously reported because prior to 2015 the sea ice extent was anomalously high for a few years, with the record high recorded in 2014 when the ice extent was more than 20 x 106 km2 for the first time during the satellite era.”

They compared satellite-based estimates of temperature over the ocean/ice and found a very high negative correlation between ice cover and temperature. So, the large and systematic increase in ice extent must be related to a cooling over the sea-ice region throughout the 36-year period of record in this study.

Why is this important? Much like the problems with the missing “tropical hot spot” we noted last month, Antarctic sea-ice modulates a cascade of meteorology. When it’s gone, or in decline, as is the forecast from the climate models, much more of the sun’s energy goes into the ocean, as that energy is only very poorly absorbed by ice, which means an enhanced warming of the Southern Ocean. That has effects on Antarctica itself, where slightly warmed surrounding waters will dramatically increase snowfall on the continent. The fact that there are only glimmerings of this showing up (if at all) should have tipped people off that something was very wrong with the temperature forecast for the nearby ocean.

Consequently, it is clear that despite a 20 percent increase in atmospheric CO2, and model predictions to the contrary, sea ice in the Antarctic has expanded for decades. Such observations are in direct opposition to the model-based predictions of the IPCC.

(N.B. as noted in our May Day post, the Antarctic ice sensor crashed last April, and subsequent data appears to be very unreliable and, in some cases, physically impossible.)


Comiso, J.C., Gersten, R.A., Stock, L.V., Turner, J., Perez, G.J. and Cho, K. 2017. Positive trend in the Antarctic sea ice cover and associated changes in surface temperature. Journal of Climate 30: 2251-2267.

IPCC. 2013. Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Stocker, T.F., D. Qin, G.-K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex and P.M. Midgley (eds.)]. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 1535 pp.

Shu, Q., et al., 2015.  Assessment of sea ice simulations in the CMIP5 models.  The Cryosphere 9, 399-409.

By CRAIG D. IDSO and PATRICK J. MICHAELS. Originally published at The Cato InstituteCreative Commons License This work by Cato Institute is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

The Earth is getting greener. Environmentalists want to stop that.

A recent Science paper by J-F. Busteri and 30 named coauthors assisted by 239 volunteers found, looking at global drylands (about 40% of land areas fall into this category), that we had undercounted global forest cover by a whopping “at least 9%.” 239 people were required to examine over 210,000 0.5 hectare (1.2 acre) sample plots in GoogleEarth, and classify the cover as open or forested. Here’s the resultant cool map:

This has been the subject of a flood of recent stories, blog posts, tweets, and whatever concerning Bastin et al. But here at the Center for the Study of Science, we’re value added, so here’s some added value.

Last year, Zaichin Zhu and 31 coauthors published a remarkable analysis of global vegetation change since satellite sensors became operational in the late 1970s. The vast majority of the globe’s vegetated area shows greening, with 25-50% of that area showing a statistically significant change, while only 4% of the vegetated area is significantly browning. Here’s the mind-boggling map:

Trends in Leaf Area Index, 1978-2009. Positive tones are greening, negative are browning, and the dots delineate where the changes are statistically significant. There is approximately 9 times more area significantly greening up than browning down.

Trends in Leaf Area Index, 1978-2009. Positive tones are greening, negative are browning, and the dots delineate where the changes are statistically significant. There is approximately 9 times more area significantly greening up than browning down. 

Hope you’re sitting down for the money quote:
We show a persistent and widespread increase of growing season integrated LAI (greening) over 25% to 50% of the global vegetated area, whereas less than 4% of the globe shows decreasing LAI (browning). Factorial simulations with multiple global ecosystem models show that CO2 fertilization effects explain 70% of the observed greening trend…
And the other greening driver that stood out from the statistical noise was—you guessed it—climate change.

Now, just for fun, toggle back and forth between the two maps. As you can see, virtually every place where there’s newly detected forest is greening, and a large number of these are doing it in a statistically significant fashion. This may lead to a remarkable hypothesis—that one of the reasons the forested regions were undercounted in previous surveys (among other reasons) is that there wasn’t enough vegetation present to meet Bastin’s criterion for “forest,” which is greater than 10% tree cover, and carbon dioxide and global warming changed that.


Bastin, F-L., et al., 2017. The extent of forest in dryland biomes. Science 356, 635-638.

Zhu, Z., et al., 2016. Greening of the earth and its drivers. Nature Climate Change, DOI: 10.1038/


Commentary by Patrick Michaels. Originally published by The Cato Institute.

What’s behind the fidget spinner fad?

When I asked a colleague if he knew about fidget spinners, he responded: “I’d never heard of them until last week, when my daughter told me she had to have one.” The Conversation

Many parents must be having that conversation with their elementary school-age kids; as of this writing, fidget spinners held the top 16 spots in Amazon’s rankings of the most popular toys, and 43 of the top 50. Add fidget cubes (a spinner cousin), and fidget toys hold 49 of the top 50 rankings.

Fidget spinners, it seems, have become this year’s leading toy fad. I’m a sociologist who has studied fads, and the rapid popularity, media attention and concerns over a new toy craze are a familiar story. As for adults’ confusion about the purpose of the fidget spinner – for many kids, that’s probably part of its appeal.

Don’t know what a fidget spinner is? Not to worry – most people who aren’t in touch with school-age children don’t have a clue. (When I asked a class of 30 college students, only two knew what they were.)

A fidget spinner has two or three paddle-shaped blades attached to a central core. Squeeze the core, give the blades a flick and they spin. That’s it. With a price between US$3 and $4 and available in all sorts of color schemes, many children can carry around a pocketful.

Some tricks of the trade.

Fidget spinners have attracted all sorts of commentary. Some schools have banned them as a distraction, and there are worries that they may disrupt students’ learning. Others argue that fidget spinners can calm special needs students. But most simply categorize them as a craze or fad – the most recent in a long line of toys that children have swarmed to.

The hula hoop is probably the most famous. Over the course of a few months in 1958, an estimated 25 million were sold – enough so that every child in America between the ages of five and 11 could have owned one. Soon, however, most hula hoops stopped spinning and began collecting dust. Similar toys fads include troll dolls, super balls, Rubik’s cubes, Beanie Babies and jelly bracelets.

It’s impossible to predict which toys will become the focus of faddish enthusiasm. It helps if the price tag falls within a child’s budget, if it’s small enough to be brought to school and if it appeals to both boys and girls. But these aren’t hard and fast rules. Cabbage Patch Kids ($25 – equivalent to about $60 today) hit it big in 1983 when frustrated, holiday present-buying adults competed for the limited supply of dolls in stores. (They were eventually issued “adoption certificates” that could be exchanged for the dolls when production runs caught up with demand.)

A happy customer displays his newly purchased Cabbage Patch Kid doll in 1983 as he leaves a South Bellingham, Massachusetts storefront crowded with people hoping to make a similar purchase.

Adults are often ambivalent about children’s fads. Some get caught up in the enthusiasm, like those who invested in the Beanie Baby bubble, convinced that the toys could only grow more valuable with each passing year. (They didn’t.)

Others try to read meanings into toy fads. Progressives might worry that children are being exploited, separated from their allowance money by “Big Toy” marketers. (“Wouldn’t it be better if children played with wooden blocks, instead of commercialized plastic?”)

And conservatives might fear that toys will corrupt children’s values. During the jelly bracelet craze, some claimed that those thin rings of plastic gel were actually dangerous sex bracelets, with each color referring to a particular sexual act (and having one’s bracelet broken required the wearer to perform that act). Of course, critics of all stripes can suspect that the toys distract kids from their responsibilities to focus on their studies.

All of this exaggerates the significance of toy fads. Play is undeniably important to childhood development, but particular toys rarely have dramatic effects. Most parents have probably given a small child a nicely wrapped present, only to have the child ignore the gift in favor of playing with the ribbon. Adults imagine that war toys or sexist toys or racist toys or meat toys (which trouble vegetarians) or occult toys (which concern evangelicals) will produce adults with bad values, but it’s hard to find much evidence to support those claims. No doubt some women who are feminists owned a Barbie as a kid.

Toy fads are important because they represent something novel, different. An important part of childhood is gradually separating yourself from your family and becoming your own person. We can see this when middle-school children announce a taste for music that diverges from what their parents enjoy; it’s a way of declaring, “I’m my own person.”

We can imagine slightly younger kids comparing fidget spinners – yours is an interesting color or really sparkles when it spins, while mine spins for a really long time. Fidget spinners are all the more fun to the degree they’re subterranean, with most adults clueless.

They’re getting a lot of attention today, but like all fads their novelty will inevitably fade: They’ll soon be stuffed in the corners of dresser drawers, waiting to provide little jolts of nostalgia when they’re rediscovered a few years down the road.

Joel Best, Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice, University of Delaware

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Arguments why God (very probably) exists

The question of whether a god exists is heating up in the 21st century. According to a Pew survey, the percent of Americans having no religious affiliation reached 23 percent in 2014. Among such “nones,” 33 percent said that they do not believe in God – an 11 percent increase since only 2007.Such trends have ironically been taking place even as, I would argue, the probability for the existence of a supernatural god have been rising. In my 2015 book, “God? Very Probably: Five Rational Ways to Think about the Question of a God,” I look at physics, the philosophy of human consciousness, evolutionary biology, mathematics, the history of religion and theology to explore whether such a god exists. I should say that I am trained originally as an economist, but have been working at the intersection of economics, environmentalism and theology since the 1990s.

Laws of math

In 1960 the Princeton physicist – and subsequent Nobel Prize winner – Eugene Wigner raised a fundamental question: Why did the natural world always – so far as we know – obey laws of mathematics?

As argued by scholars such as Philip Davis and Reuben Hersh, mathematics exists independent of physical reality. It is the job of mathematicians to discover the realities of this separate world of mathematical laws and concepts. Physicists then put the mathematics to use according to the rules of prediction and confirmed observation of the scientific method.

But modern mathematics generally is formulated before any natural observations are made, and many mathematical laws today have no known existing physical analogues.

Einstein Memorial, National Academy of Sciences, Washington, D.C.
Wally Gobetz, CC BY-ND

Einstein’s 1915 general theory of relativity, for example, was based on theoretical mathematics developed 50 years earlier by the great German mathematician Bernhard Riemann that did not have any known practical applications at the time of its intellectual creation.

In some cases the physicist also discovers the mathematics. Isaac Newton was considered among the greatest mathematicians as well as physicists of the 17th century. Other physicists sought his help in finding a mathematics that would predict the workings of the solar system. He found it in the mathematical law of gravity, based in part on his discovery of calculus.

At the time, however, many people initially resisted Newton’s conclusions because they seemed to be “occult.” How could two distant objects in the solar system be drawn toward one another, acting according to a precise mathematical law? Indeed, Newton made strenuous efforts over his lifetime to find a natural explanation, but in the end he could say only that it is the will of God.

Despite the many other enormous advances of modern physics, little has changed in this regard. As Wigner wrote, “the enormous usefulness of mathematics in the natural sciences is something bordering on the mysterious and there is no rational explanation for it.”

In other words, as I argue in my book, it takes the existence of some kind of a god to make the mathematical underpinnings of the universe comprehensible.

Math and other worlds

In 2004 the great British physicist Roger Penrose put forward a vision of a universe composed of three independently existing worlds – mathematics, the material world and human consciousness. As Penrose acknowledged, it was a complete puzzle to him how the three interacted with one another outside the ability of any scientific or other conventionally rational model.

How can physical atoms and molecules, for example, create something that exists in a separate domain that has no physical existence: human consciousness?

It is a mystery that lies beyond science.

Elizabethe, CC BY-NC-ND

This mystery is the same one that existed in the Greek worldview of Plato, who believed that abstract ideas (above all mathematical) first existed outside any physical reality. The material world that we experience as part of our human existence is an imperfect reflection of these prior formal ideals. As the scholar of ancient Greek philosophy, Ian Mueller, writes in “Mathematics And The Divine,” the realm of such ideals is that of God.

Indeed, in 2014 the MIT physicist Max Tegmark argues in “Our Mathematical Universe” that mathematics is the fundamental world reality that drives the universe. As I would say, mathematics is operating in a god-like fashion.

The mystery of human consciousness

The workings of human consciousness are similarly miraculous. Like the laws of mathematics, consciousness has no physical presence in the world; the images and thoughts in our consciousness have no measurable dimensions.

Yet, our nonphysical thoughts somehow mysteriously guide the actions of our physical human bodies. This is no more scientifically explicable than the mysterious ability of nonphysical mathematical constructions to determine the workings of a separate physical world.

Until recently, the scientifically unfathomable quality of human consciousness inhibited the very scholarly discussion of the subject. Since the 1970s, however, it has become a leading area of inquiry among philosophers.

Recognizing that he could not reconcile his own scientific materialism with the existence of a nonphysical world of human consciousness, a leading atheist, Daniel Dennett, in 1991 took the radical step of denying that consciousness even exists.

Finding this altogether implausible, as most people do, another leading philosopher, Thomas Nagel, wrote in 2012 that, given the scientifically inexplicable – the “intractable” – character of human consciousness, “we will have to leave [scientific] materialism behind” as a complete basis for understanding the world of human existence.

As an atheist, Nagel does not offer religious belief as an alternative, but I would argue that the supernatural character of the workings of human consciousness adds grounds for raising the probability of the existence of a supernatural god.

Evolution and faith

Evolution is a contentious subject in American public life. According to Pew, 98 percent of scientists connected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science “believe humans evolved over time” while only a minority of Americans “fully accept evolution through natural selection.”

As I say in my book, I should emphasize that I am not questioning the reality of natural biological evolution. What is interesting to me, however, are the fierce arguments that have taken place between professional evolutionary biologists. A number of developments in evolutionary theory have challenged traditional Darwinist – and later neo-Darwinist – views that emphasize random genetic mutations and gradual evolutionary selection by the process of survival of the fittest.

From the 1970s onwards, the Harvard evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould created controversy by positing a different view, “punctuated equilibrium,” to the slow and gradual evolution of species as theorized by Darwin.

In 2011, the University of Chicago evolutionary biologist James Shapiro argued that, remarkably enough, many micro-evolutionary processes worked as though guided by a purposeful “sentience” of the evolving plant and animal organisms themselves. “The capacity of living organisms to alter their own heredity is undeniable,” he wrote. “Our current ideas about evolution have to incorporate this basic fact of life.”

A number of scientists, such as Francis Collins, director of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, “see no conflict between believing in God and accepting the contemporary theory of evolution,” as the American Association for the Advancement of Science points out.

For my part, the most recent developments in evolutionary biology have increased the probability of a god.

Miraculous ideas at the same time?

For the past 10,000 years at a minimum, the most important changes in human existence have been driven by cultural developments occurring in the realm of human ideas.

In the Axial Age (commonly dated from 800 to 200 B.C.), world-transforming ideas such as Buddhism, Confucianism, the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle, and the Hebrew Old Testament almost miraculously appeared at about the same time in India, China, ancient Greece and among the Jews in the Middle East, groups having little interaction with one another.

Many world-transforming ideas, such as Buddhism, appeared in the world around the same time.
Karyn Christner, CC BY

The development of the scientific method in the 17th century in Europe and its modern further advances have had at least as great a set of world-transforming consequences. There have been many historical theories, but none capable, I would argue, of explaining as fundamentally transformational a set of events as the rise of the modern world. It was a revolution in human thought, operating outside any explanations grounded in scientific materialism, that drove the process.

That all these astonishing things happened within the conscious workings of human minds, functioning outside physical reality, offers further rational evidence, in my view, for the conclusion that human beings may well be made “in the image of [a] God.”

Different forms of worship

In his commencement address to Kenyon College in 2005, the American novelist and essayist David Foster Wallace said that: “Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship.”

Even though Karl Marx, for example, condemned the illusion of religion, his followers, ironically, worshiped Marxism. The American philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre thus wrote that for much of the 20th century, Marxism was the “historical successor of Christianity,” claiming to show the faithful the one correct path to a new heaven on Earth.

In several of my books, I have explored how Marxism and other such “economic religions” were characteristic of much of the modern age. So Christianity, I would argue, did not disappear as much as it reappeared in many such disguised forms of “secular religion.”

That the Christian essence, as arose out of Judaism, showed such great staying power amidst the extraordinary political, economic, intellectual and other radical changes of the modern age is another reason I offer for thinking that the existence of a god is very probable.

Note from Editor of The Conversation US: This is a revised version of the original piece. We have done so to make explicit the author’s expertise with regard to the subject of this article. We have also incorporated important context that was missing in the original version. The Conversation

Robert H. Nelson, Professor of Public Policy, University of Maryland

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Bill Nye’s Doomsday Predictions on Overpopulation Get Lambasted

Bill Nye has been in the news a lot lately, mostly as the result of the hyperbolic predictions he is prone to making, many of which are backed up with very little science.

Whether it’s on gender identity, global warming, or philosophy, Nye can often be found serving up “a gold mine of fallacies, half-truths, vacuity, and plain historical ignorance,” as one writer put it.

One of Nye’s hobby horses is overpopulation. It’s a problem so severe that Nye has wondered aloud whether it was time to penalize people in developed nations who have “extra” kids. (The panelist on his show responded that “we should at least consider it,” to which Nye replied “Well, ‘at least consider it’ is like, ‘do it.'”)

There is nothing wrong, of course, in publicly musing about the merits of a particular policy, even one that penalizes people for procreating (something many would argue is a fundamental act of humans).

The problem is that Nye seems willfully ignorant (or stubbornly obtuse) on many of the issues he opines. (One wonders how familiar the Science Guy is with Thomas Malthus and Paul Ehrlich, social scientists who made similar population doomsday predictions that never materialized.)

Perhaps this should not be surprising. As others have noted, Nye is not a scientist; he is a popularist. Nye has received multiple honorary degrees in science, but the only degree he actually earned is a B.S. in mechanical engineering. He is primarily the product of good branding, effective TV presence, and clever marketing (he wears bowties and his last name rhymes with Science Guy).

In a recently released video, We the Internet TV set out to debunk (in rather hilarious fashion) some of Nye’s more wild assertions. It’s a pretty smart clip. Enjoy and decide for yourself if Nye's scientific bona fides match his immense popular stature and cultural influence.
This post Bill Nye’s Doomsday Predictions on Overpopulation Get Lambasted was originally published on Intellectual Takeout by Jon Miltimore.