The Apples & Oranges of Arctic/Antarctic Sea Ice Trend Comparisons

A newly posted Yale Forum video essay refutes bogus comparisons suggesting that increased sea ice around Antarctica offsets sea ice declines in the Arctic, and examines why such an ‘apples and oranges’ comparison is misleading.


“But sea ice around Antarctica in the south is growing.” It’s become a common refrain among those challenging much of the scientific evidence on climate change whenever the subject of declining Arctic sea ice comes up.

But do such comments have substantive merit? Does the implication that the whole global sea ice issue and the planet’s net energy balance are stable — that gains in Antarctica in offset losses in the Arctic — stand up to scientific evidence?

The issue is dissected in a new original video produced for The Yale Forum by Peter Sinclair of Midland, MI. Sinclair seeks out climate experts from the National Snow & Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder; from Rutgers University in New Jersey; from the University of California, Los Angeles; and from other research organizations and agencies and puts the whole Arctic/Antarctic sea ice issue in context. The video draws on resources from NASA and NOAA and from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, University of Victoria in New Zealand, and it draws also on congressional testimony provided by the then-chief oceanographer of the U.S. Navy, Admiral David Titley, and on audio from National Public Radio science correspondent Richard Harris.

Asked if sea ice globally has increased compared with levels of 30 years ago, NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center climate scientist Claire Parkinson says unequivocally, “There is less sea ice globally now than there was 30 years ago.”  Other experts in the video point to an apples/oranges comparison between the Arctic and Antarctic sea ice trends.

This month’s Yale Forum “This is Not Cool” installment serves as a video complement to the recent Zeke Hausfather “Slightly Increased 2012 Antarctic Sea Ice Levels No Match for Arctic Declines” analysis posted in mid-October.

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3 Responses to The Apples & Oranges of Arctic/Antarctic Sea Ice Trend Comparisons

  1. Another great, to the point video. Regional differences are hard for a lot of people to understand and I find myself constantly looking for easy references to turn those who ask. Thanks!

  2. Martin Lack says:

    In the absence of a “Like” button, I can only concur with the first comment! Well done to all involved (except Harrison Schmitt of the Heartland Institute).

  3. Mai says:

    Thanks for the clarification, Charles. I was going to use Chicken Little but didn’t want to aepapr too talk-radioish. Of course, you failed to address the underlying point how many people, when asked to put their money where their mouth is, all of a sudden lose their religion. If such true believers are loathe to commit to the very policies that in the abstract they claim to approve, why should an increasingly skeptical public do so? I understand you are fully bought in to the global warming/climate change agenda but surely as someone who claims to value the truth you must be troubled by the so-called Climategate (can we put a moratorium on Scandal-gate forever, by the way) revelations of the desire to change the meaning of and make meaningless peer-reviewed literature so as to support the strongly held beliefs of AGW proponents and minimize legitimate scientific dissent? No? How about the temperature record data from collection stations that didn’t exist at the time they are purported to have provided readings? How about the revelation that the majority of Chinese temperature collection stations had either moved over time or never existed, rendering their data meaningless? Those are some of the reasons why the public is skeptical. Supporters of AGW have cleverly have tried to dismiss the controversy by positing that scientists always talk like that in private. Never mind the pretzel logic required to believe that. It’s not about the words. It’s about the actions that their words describe.You’re an investigative reporter. Let’s be honest here. Follow the money. Al Gore is a partner in Generation Investment Management. Their mission statement includes the phrase Deliver superior investment performance by taking a long term investment view and integrating sustainability research within a rigorous fundamental equity analysis framework. Think he doesn’t have some incentive to pump AGW? In the old days we’d call him a shill. The more skeptical among us might contemplate the term stock fraud.Should one wonder about scientists who see the government funding opportunities available to study and act on AGW might all of a sudden find that, lo and behold, it DOES exist? They’ve got mouths at home to feed to.Try following that money too.