Watts Up With The Inconvenient Arctic Hiatus?

Our title for today does of course refer to the inconvenient hiatus caused by the Gremlins currently stealing my comments from under the noses of Anthony Watts’ eagle eyed team of moderators before they can approve them as suitable for public view. Yesterday Mr. Watts published an article under the headline:

Inconvenient: Record Arctic Sea Ice Growth In September

Not a lot of people know that Anthony quotes our old friends at the Global Warming Policy Forum quoting our mutual friend Paul Homewood as follows:

Since hitting its earliest minimum extent since 1997, Arctic sea ice has been expanding at a phenomenal rate. Already it is greater than at the same date in 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2015. Put another way, it is the fourth highest extent in the last ten years. Even more remarkably, ice growth since the start of the month is actually the greatest on record, since daily figures started to be kept in 1987.

and GWPF Science Editor, David Whitehouse, as follows:

As I wrote when looking at last year’s data the declining Arctic ice cover has been one of the most powerful images of climate change and that many who follow the debate don’t look too hard at the data. This results in superficial reporting that does not convey any of the complexities of the situation and as such is poor science communication.

With the data for 2016 now in it is time to look again at the claims of an “ice pause.”

In the spirit of improving science communication I commented as follows on Mr. Watts article, when seven previous comments were visible:

Annual average sea ice was all the rage last year:


You may well be wondering what a graph of annual average Arctic sea ice extent looks like? Take a look:



This morning (UTC) there are 197 comments visible under the WUWT article, but mine is not amongst them. Those Gremlins have a lot to answer for!

You may possibly think my comment was somewhat on the terse side? In part that’s because I’d just had a “debate” of sorts with one or more WUWT moderators who happily admitted to [snip]ping large parts of my side of the “conversation”. I certainly didn’t want to offend them by “taking pot shots” or engaging in “self promotion”. After all they had concluded their remarks by informing me that:

It is settled then …you are mendacious

The SIMPLEST solution is to stop attempting to post comments here. We are not required to carry them.

Needless to say my most recent witty riposte was grabbed by the Gremlins:


Just in case you were wondering what a mendacious moderator might mean:

[men-dey-shuh s]


1. telling lies, especially habitually; dishonest; lying; untruthful:
a mendacious person.

2. false or untrue:
a mendacious report.

Is the Northwest Passage Freezing or Melting?

A reader writes to ask us to explain the answer to the above question in more detail. Are you sitting comfortably once again? Then let us begin.

There has been a lot of unusual “weather” in the Arctic over the last twelve months. First of all there was an anomalously warm winter:


Then came what we dubbed the Great Arctic Anticyclone of 2016 in April. Take a look at what happened to the sea ice north of Alaska and Canada during the Spring and early Summer:

The ice was put through the mincer for the first time. Then during August there were a series of strong cyclones, collectively the Great Arctic Cyclone of 2016. The ice was put through the mincer once again, but in an anti-clockwise direction this time. Watch what happens in the Northwest Passage as summer turns to Autumn:

Some of the oldest, thickest ice in the Arctic has been chopped into small pieces which then easily flow through the channels of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago and into the Northwest Passage. Hence when the yacht Northabout (amongst others) was racing to reach Baffin Bay it wasn’t to avoid “the refreeze” as claimed in certain quarters. It was in fact to try and avoid the worst of the chopped up chunks of old sea ice being carried swiftly in their direction by winds and currents. Here’s what some of them looked like in close up:

The next question then becomes, if the Northwest Passage wasn’t refreezing then, is it freezing now? The answer is not yet. In fact the favourite talking point of the cryodenialista, McClure Strait at the western end of the “main” route through the Passage has recently become navigable:

NASA Worldview “true-color” image of Banks Island on September 24th 2016, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite
NASA Worldview “true-color” image of Banks Island on September 24th 2016, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite

which is confirmed by the latest Canadian Ice Service chart of the area:


The “pretty pink” area towards the top left of the chart reveals “new ice”. The Northwest Passage will have started to refreeze when some of that shows up on a “stage of development” chart of the Passage itself, but that hasn’t happened yet. Here’s yesterday evening’s chart of the “Approaches to Resolute“:


Lots of old ice! It was raining in Resolute yesterday, and the old ice there was still melting:



[Edit – September 27th]

No sooner said than done! This evening’s ice charts from the CIS do now show some “pretty pink” new ice in the Northwest Passage:


The wispy areas of new ice are also visible on this “false-color” image of the Parry Channel:

NASA Worldview “false-color” image of the Parry Channel on September 27th 2016, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite
NASA Worldview “false-color” image of the Parry Channel on September 27th 2016, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite

However even if Northabout were still in Prince Regent Inlet she wouldn’t be “trapped in ice”. There is still a way back to Bristol via Fury and Hecla Strait:


That route has been remarkably busy this year!


[Edit – September 30th]

A clear view of McClure Strait from the Terra satellite in “false colour”:

NASA Worldview “false-color” image of the McClure Strait on September 30th 2016, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite
NASA Worldview “false-color” image of the McClure Strait on September 30th 2016, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite

The inclusion of some infra red reveals the thicker old ice on the right noticeably paler than the new ice to its left. Compare also with the CIS ice chart, which has been rotated to match the orientation of the satellite image:



[Edit – October 2nd]

Pretty patterns in the new sea ice forming at the western entrance to McClure Strait:

NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the McClure Strait on October 1st 2016, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Aqua satellite
NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the McClure Strait on October 1st 2016, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Aqua satellite

The freshly frozen new ice in the Northwest Passage has been spotted by the AMSR2 instrument aboard the Japanese “Shizuku” satellite:


On the latest CIS “stage of development” chart the brown “old ice” has turned to deep red “multi-year ice”, and there’s lots more pretty pink out in the Beaufort Sea:


Northabout Braves the North Atlantic

Following another crew change the Polar Ocean Challenge team in their yacht Northabout have just left Nuuk in Greenland, bound for Bristol in South West England:


To get back to good old Blighty they are going to have to brave the North Atlantic in Autumn. Some stormy weather is likely! We’re currently keeping an eye on Tropical Storm Karl, who has just left Bermuda in his wake and is forecast to reach hurricane strength before heading off across the North Atlantic:


The latest advisory bulletin from the National Hurricane Center forecasts that:

Karl is forecast to be absorbed by an extratropical cyclone early Monday.

That cyclone looks set to create 8 meter waves south of Greenland! Here’s how the significant wave height forecast looks for 08:00 on Tuesday September 27th:


What happens after that remains to be seen. We will keep you posted!


[Edit – September 25th]

The new captain of Northabout, Mike Stewart, reports that:

We have decided to approach things in a relaxed manner, and for the first few days, at least, we will day sail southwards amongst the islets and channels towards our departure point, in a sort of ‘shake down’ period, to get used to each other and our vessel, we will head for a remote weather station on the very south east tip of this vast and forbidding Island. More to say on that later..

Our home for this, our first night, as a complete crew is at anchor next to a tiny abandoned port named FAERINGEHAVN. Old dead wooden whalers, ribs now showing, and sad broken down port buildings, minus roofs, are our view of the shore less that 50m away. Have a close look at the top of this image, or zoom in on the tracking on the satellite view.

We did just that:


which reveals that the new name for Færingehavn is Kangerluarsoruseq.

Mike also points out that they are not alone:

We have visitors! EAGLES QUEST II crew, (a Hong Kong registered Tayana 58 who have sailed from via Alaska), decided to tag along for a while are on their way over for a brew..

Given the storm that Karl is brewing up in their path a leisurely cruise to Cape Farewell seems like an eminently sensible idea to me!


[Edit – September 25th PM]

Northabout has now set off on the next section of her island hopping cruise to Cape Farewell:



[Edit – September 26th]

Northabout anchored for the night near Fiskenæsset (AKA Qeqertarsuatsiaat):


She has just set off hopping amongst a few more of the numerous islands off the south-west coast of Greenland:


The imminent storm swell is now forecast further out into the North Atlantic than two days ago, but has grown to a predicted 12 meters:


Note the change in scale!


[Edit – September 27th]

Here’s the storm currently raging in the North Atlantic:

NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the North Atlantic on September 27th 2016, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Aqua satellite
NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the North Atlantic on September 27th 2016, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Aqua satellite

Northabout looks to have found a sheltered spot to stay the night:


It seems that her new crew have experienced plenty of fine weather recently. According to Ben Edwards:

This is ridiculous. Three days in a row and we’ve had the best weather of the entire trip. We woke up in the morning to relative warmth and clear skies our trip ashore to Qeqertarsuatsiaat was short but pleasant with a trip inside the local church.

Upon our return to Northabout we got the anchors up and motored off. We managed to get the sails up a couple of hours later and we’re now doing about eight knots. We passed a glacier earlier on which was a little odd. From where we sat it seemed huge. The head alone was several miles across. The strange thing was that it didn‘t seem to stretch down to the coast. We were fairly sure of this because we could see a line of what looked like stone between the ice and the water and there were no icebergs that we could see. If it was at the water one would expect bits to break off and form bergs. … So it seems likely that it never reached the coast.


Let’s hope that continues!


[Edit – September 30th]

Northabout has just departed from Qaqortoq (AKA Julianehåb):


The Polar Ocean Challenge team have released a beautiful video of one of their recent sheltered spots to stay the night:

On their blog the current captain of Northabout, Mike Stewart, said yesterday:

We have successfully disembarked Steve and continued our preparation of Northabout for crossing the Atlantic. We have also re-fueled in situ courtesy of the Qaqortoq fuel supply truck, and have fitted a new house battery to bolster the hard working but a bit tired battery bank in place. This will keep our domestic amp draw supported- chart plotter, nav lights, interior lighting, electric pumps and bilge pumps etc working as they should. This also ensures that the engine start battery is kept fresh for its most important job.

I am told by the Inuit lady in the local chandlery that its going to blow hard tomorrow. We should have the wind behind us for our transit to the east, and then if all is ok run in to shelter mid afternoon.

In actual fact it looks like it’s going to blow even harder in the not too distant future. Here is our North Atlantic “surf forecast” for 00:00 UTC on Monday October 3rd 2016:


Meanwhile much further south in the Caribbean, Hurricane Matthew is forecast to become a major hurricane before reaching Cuba and then heading north across the Atlantic Ocean:



[Edit – October 1st]

Northabout is on the move again:


It seems my assumption that she would round Cape Farewell early next week was mistaken. According to Mike Stewart:

The strategy is to reach our departure point on the eastern entrance to PRINCE CHRISTIAN SOUND, which has a conveniently manned weather station and pier, in about two days sailing. This will allow us to hold in a safe area, whatever the weather in the Atlantic, and be in an ideal location to depart immediately to sea when the storm that is dominating the north Atlantic abates. After crossing Biscay 4 times this year, I have learnt that after a blow, kind of ‘riding on the back of it’ is an ideal time to head off. I recall something about the Chinese ideogram for chaos and opportunity being the same written character.. and as we have 3 Chinese sailors around half a mile behind us right now, I’ll use that to describe the general strategy I have in mind. Actually looks good for a Tuesday pm departure into decaying westerlies around 30-35 KTS.

If you look at the map above the planned route will take Northabout through the islands of Southern Greenland, passing to the north of Christian IV Island.


[Edit – October 3rd]

Northabout anchored last night at Prins Christian Sund:


She is now heading in the direction of the Irminger Sea:


Beyond that the wilds of the North Atlantic beckon, where there is still a fair old storm raging!


It looks as though the Polar Ocean Challenge team are hoping to get a good head start on their voyage back to Bristol from the strong winds in the wake of that storm, but there’s also some big waves to contend with:


Here’s how the current North Atlantic storm looks from space:



[Edit – October 4th]

Differing accounts from Northabout in the stormy North Atlantic today! Skipper Mike Stewart reports that:

There is another low that will affect us in the next 24 hours, this will be through by tomorrow midnight, and most of its associated wind is westerly or northerly in our bit, anyway we take what we get here, its as simple as that. We have handled this at 50 KT with around 7m seas, (occasionally 8-9m) so our confidence levels are good. I heaved the boat to for a few minutes to test how she behaved, and she was ‘OK’ sitting duck like as the rollers powered through beneath us. During the evening, we were hit by one breaker, as always, theres a set bigger than the rest, and of course one broke over the boat, we were lifted and pushed sideways like a cork, but did not go over to any degree, which says volumes for our stability curve.

In similar vein Rob Hudson tells us:

My first watch was from 1400 to 1600, and was quite an experience. I attached my harness before leaving the main cabin – I leave it permanently attached in the cockpit, a tip from a recent letter in Yachting Monthly – attached the second hook to another point near the wheel, and then took over from David. Looking around at the conditions a loud “Yeehaaar!” left my mouth and was whipped away by the wind. The seas were magnificent, lashed by the wind and spewing spume from the top, as Northabout gamely reached across the tops under reefed staysail.

whereas Ben Edwards bemoans:

So the night hath passed and we’re still alive. To me it feels like it was a bit of a close run thing…

I did my watch (eight to ten) and went straight to bed, not that that saved me. Twenty minutes later I rushed to the toilet and threw up my breakfast of porridge and tea. I then went back to bed, the swell got larger, the wind got stronger, I went back to toilet. This continued for the next ten hours. In total I threw up six times, a personal best.

Tomorrow is another day!


[Edit – October 8th]

David Wynne Davies reports from the middle of the North Atlantic:

Half way point to Ireland reached yesterday. Progress had been impeded by headwinds but with the wind now backed to the South and on the beam we were making 7kts. In order to catch up lost time the mainsail as well as the genoa were hoisted supported by the engine although increasing winds this afternoon (gusting 50kts squalls) prompted us to reduce to 3 reefs and a reduced staysail.

Everything then was cracking on beautifully in fairly rough seas – until the engine splutters and dies. Mike switched fuel tanks in the belief that the forward port tank may have been contaminated or be getting close to having to be switched over. Engine starts, but again stops suddenly. After further consideration the starboard fuel tanks were tested, and the engine started to run smoothly again. We will have to figure out why the port fuel tanks are not feeding through.

Last night to conserve fuel we stayed under sail started off making 5.5 kts. The wind is expected to ease over the next few days, and helpfully be on the nose when we cross the St George’s Channel. Let’s hope that the high pressure over UK moves away before then and that we can benefit from Westerlies.

Possibly related to the spluttering engine, Northabout’s live tracking ceased to function for a while yesterday:

After an anxious wait it burst back into life, and confirms Northabout’s steady progress towards a welcome pint of Guinness in Ireland:


Here’s the ECMWF MSLP forecast for Tuesday morning revealing the approach of another low pressure system, which Northabout is no doubt hoping to avoid as far as possible:



[Edit – October 12th]

After a major, weather enforced detour:


Northabout has just reached Ireland! After a recent blog post mentioned the town I thought they were heading for Clew Bay and Westport:


However they have stopped for the night north of there, at Blacksod Bay:


I hope there’s a hostelry available to serve the crew their longed for pints of Guinness. Then it’s on to Westport tomorrow.


[Edit – October 14th]

David Wynne-Davies reports that some Guinness was duly discovered in Blacksod!

We arrived at Blacksod in darkness on Thursday evening to an unforgettable welcome from Jarlath, Mike, Tom and Mr Sweeney (the lighthouse keeper). Frances Gard was there too having hitched a lift after her Ryanair flight from Bristol.

With great enthusiasm they took our lines and promptly escorted us to a local hostelry. By golly, Guinness is indeed good for you at times like that! In true style, out came the fiddle and accordion with songs about Lord Franklin and other maritime disasters (all uplifting stuff!).

Yesterday we slipped Blacksod for Westport with Jarlath on board. Bringing Northabout back to Westport, where Jarlath had built her in 2001, was a poignant moment.


RTE News and several journalists were on the quay to record the event which was subsequently aired on the national TV news last night.


Here’s that RTE news report:

From David Wynne-Davies once again:

The sun is shining brightly again today although a front is expected tonight bringing heavy rain – but more importantly a wind shift. We leave for Dingle this afternoon after a most remarkable 36 hours during which we were treated to terrific hospitality. Many thanks to the hosting party who incidentally sailed Northabout through the NE and NW Passages over two seasons some years ago. So they fully recognise what this expedition had achieved.


[Edit – October 15th]

Having departed from Westport on yesterday evening’s high tide Northabout has now arrived in Dingle:


Here’s another couple of photos of Northabout’s arrival in Westport on Thursday:



Meanwhile out in the North Atlantic Hurricane Nicole has battered Bermuda and is now heading where Northabout has recently been:



[Edit – October 17th]

Northabout is nearly home! She’s currently crossing the Celtic Sea back into English waters after a long absence:


As the green, green grass of home beckons she no longer needs to worry about ice:

NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the South West England on October 17th 2016, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Aqua satellite
NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the South West England on October 17th 2016, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Aqua satellite

However there are numerous obstacles of a very different sort across her path, as you can see via VesselFinder:


According to Rob Hudson, it’s been a:

Beautiful morning, sun shining, a decent breeze from behind, and rolling down the Atlantic swells under full foresail at a steady 6kts, with bursts to 9kts if the waves pick us up. We are now well into the Celtic Sea, past Cork in the north, and enjoying the run home. We saw a dolphin last night, and four this morning so far.

Skipper Mike is keeping us on our toes, with no relaxing – constant AIS watch, and looking out for boats without AIS on radar.

Assuming Northabout manages to safely avoid all the shipping in the Bristol Channel, on Thursday morning she is due to sail along the River Avon under Isambard Kingdom Brunel‘s Clifton Suspension Bridge:

By GothickOwn work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

From there she will head through the locks of the Cumberland Basin and thence to meet her old friend the SS Great Britain.

We hope to be there to greet her!


[Edit – October 18th]

After witnessing sunrise over South West England earlier in the day:


Ben Edwards reported:

With the wind and swell behind us we were doing twelve knots at times with an average of about seven. Amazingly that continued and continues to continue as we continue to head east.

Perhaps slightly ahead of schedule, Northabout has now arrived in Portishead:


The other blue line in the picture was recorded way back in June!


Previous Polar Ocean Challenge articles:

Non Fiction:

Northabout Heads for Home

Northabout Braves the Northwest Passage

Northabout Races for the Date Line

Northabout Meets Some Serious Sea Ice

Northabout Bides Her Time

Northabout’s Great Adventure


Could Northabout Sail to the North Pole?


Is the Polar Ocean Challenge About to End in Disaster?

The Son of the Blog of Fools Gets Arctic Sea Ice Horrifically Wrong

Halloween is a little way away still, but nonetheless I have a horror story to tell you. Are you sitting comfortably?

As our regular reader(s) will be aware we have been following the fortunes of the plucky little yacht Northabout on her Arctic circumnavigation with great interest. That includes the series of reports about the voyage on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme. Even recent passers by may have noticed that we were none too pleased with the most recent episode in the series!

Now comes news that one of the numerous usual suspects has been blathering about both the Polar Ocean Challenge expedition and that BBC Radio 4 programme. Enter stage right James Delingpole at Breitbart. Under the catchy but erroneous headline:

Ship of Fools II Expedition Escapes Arctic Freeze by the Skin of its Teeth

James assures his faithful followers that:

The Polar Ocean Challenge expedition – aka Ship of Fools II – has escaped from the Arctic by the skin of its teeth. It was supposed to show how amazingly navigable the Arctic Circle has become now that climate change is supposedly melting the polar ice caps at a dangerous and unprecedented rate. But according to one observer who has followed their progress closely (see comments at Paul Homewood‘s place), the intrepid explorers – including a 14-year-old boy – came within just two days of calamity, after being hampered by unexpectedly large quantities of a mysterious substance apparently made of frozen water.

Regular readers will recall that not a lot of people know that Paul Homewood is the proprietor of a production line of porky pies full of horrifying Arctic anomalies. Mr. Delingpole references one batch of such Halloween howlers, wittily entitled:

Arctic Ice Growing Rapidly

and in particular a comment thereto which reads as follows:

The southern NWP route is now closed at the NE exit, with northern Prince Regent Sound blocked by 9/10 ice in freeze up mode. Exactly where they barely made it through after hours of probing on 9/12. Northabout made it through NWP with just two days to spare. Had they taken the planned 2 days resupplying in Barrow rather than 1, and the planned one day call at Cambridge Bay (meeting up with Polar Bound), they would not have made it out and would have had to turn around and overwinter at Cambridge Bay. It was that close.

Now how can I put this politely? That is pure unadulterated balderdash. If Mr. Delingpole thinks that a comment on a known “snow blind” blog constitutes evidence of anything he needs one of his heads examined. Deconstructing all the mistakes in just this one article about both Northabout and the BBC’s climate change coverage will involve a series with more episodes than BBC Radio 4s! However we have to start somewhere, so let’s examine this assertion first shall we?

Paul Homewood notes… it’s also the earliest minimum since 1997, indicating that the Arctic is currently experiencing a very cold spell.

Have I got news for you James, Paul and Ristvan? Oh no it [expletive deleted] isn’t!


Some skeptical fellows over on Twitter disagreed with me about the facts of the matter. This is how that “debate” proceeded:


In other news Anthony Watts has today published a guest post about Arctic sea ice by one Caleb Shaw on his Watts Up With That blog. I thought I’d pose Paul and Caleb some relevant questions, but a team of Gremlins seem to have been hard at work stealing my pertinent comments before the assorted [mods] could approve them. By way of example, from Breitbart:


From “Not a Lot of People Know that”


and from WUWT:



[Edit – September 23rd]

Anthony Watts has published another Arctic sea ice article today. The Gremlins have grabbed another comment of mine!


We’ll keep you posted!

Radio Four in Arctic Sea Ice Bias Shock Today!

The BBC Radio 4 Today programme broadcast another one of their regular updates on the progress of the Polar Ocean Challenge expedition. On this occasion they were able to interview David Hempleman-Adams, the leader of the expedition. That’s because David disembarked from the yacht Northabout at Upernavik in Greenland:


By now David is back in Blighty, in Swindon to be precise. Here’s a brief extract from his interview with Sarah Montague this morning.

David pointed out that:

We’re not scientists. We weren’t collecting scientific data, and it’s wrong to suggest that our trip, this adventure, will show that there’s less ice. What we’re trying to do is make people more aware of the hundreds of scientists who are doing good work and who actually do show that.

At this juncture you might have supposed that one or more of those “hundreds of scientists” might have been mentioned, but you would have been wrong. Shortly thereafter Sarah asked David:

You will know though that the well known science writer Matt Ridley has written about your expedition and said look there are times in the past where routinely ice has disappeared during the summer, and his argument is that really it doesn’t matter, it doesn’t actually tell us anything.

I fondly imagine that at this juncture David raised his eyes to the heavens over Swindon. After all he’d already explained to Sarah that, rather like Matt Ridley, he isn’t a scientist. What he actually then said was:

Sure. You know I do know that he’s written that, and other people. But if you look on balance, and you know I’m just one of the general public, if you look on balance, if you look at 99% of the scientists they’re all saying that we’ve got a problem and if you look at the trends, and of course there are trends over the years but what we’re seeing now is really rapid change. If you look at the, as I said, the Northwest Passage it is quite frightening. We didn’t actually see any ice for the entire route up until the Lancaster Sound, which is worrying whatever scientists say or the naysayers say. It is a worrying trend.

And if you look at the cultures, I’ve been going up there for 30 years now, it’s not just sea ice. If you look at these small, little Inuit villages and seen the impact of the climate on some of these places, you know there’s been dramatic change over the last 30 years.

At which juncture Sarah thanked David Hempleman-Adams and Nick Robinson said:

The time is now 26 minutes past eight, and Rob’s got the sports news.

It’s nice to know where the BBC’s priorities lie, and that they prefer to publicise the views of a “coal baron” rather than one or more of “the hundreds of scientists who are doing good work” on the subject of sea ice.

Should you be wondering at this juncture how the opinions of Matt Ridley are at variance with the actual facts take a look at the August 29th article of his in The Times of London that Sarah Montague was referring to:

The sea ice in the Arctic Ocean is approaching its annual nadir. By early September each year about two thirds of the ice cap has melted, then the sea begins to freeze again. This year looks unlikely to set a record for melting, with more than four million square kilometres of ice remaining, less than the average in the 1980s and 1990s, but more than in the record low years of 2007 and 2012.

That’s not true Matt.


The amount of sea ice around Antarctica has been increasing in recent years, contrary to predictions.

That’s not true Matt.


This will disappoint some. An expedition led by David Hempleman-Adams to circumnavigate the North Pole through the Northeast and Northwest passages, intending to demonstrate “that the Arctic sea ice coverage shrinks back so far now in the summer months that sea that was permanently locked up now can allow passage through”, was recently held up for weeks north of Siberia by, um, ice. They have only just reached halfway.

I suppose that’s not too far from the literal truth:

However it’s also extremely misleading. The yacht Northabout reached the International Date Line spot on the original Polar Ocean Challenge schedule, and earlier than previous successful polar circumnavigations managed to achieve.

Must I go on? I suppose so! Skipping several more untruths, a bit later Matt opines:

Would it matter if it did all melt one year? Here’s the point everybody seems to be missing: the Arctic Ocean’s ice has indeed disappeared during summer in the past, routinely. The evidence comes from various sources, such as beach ridges in northern Greenland, never unfrozen today, which show evidence of wave action in the past. One Danish team concluded in 2012 that 8,500 years ago the ice extent was “less than half of the record low 2007 level”. A Swedish team, in a paper published in 2014, went further: between 10,000 years ago and 6,000 years ago, the Arctic experienced a “regime dominated by seasonal ice, ie, ice-free summers”.

Here’s a thought for you to consider Matt. What was the population of London between 10,000 years ago and 6,000 years ago? How about Miami or the Big Apple, or Dhaka for that matter? Has it ever crossed your mind to enquire what the human population of the whole of Planet Earth was “during parts of the early and middle Holocene”, and what sea level around the World might have been at that time?

Answers on a postcard please, in the space provided for that purpose below. We’ll forward them on to the BBC. I don’t suppose Matt will be interested though.


[Edit – September 20th]

Based on considerable past experience this will not achieve anything, but I have filed a formal complaint via the BBC web site. Here it is:

An extended version of this complaint can be seen at:


Note also the comments. In brief:

Sarah Montague was interviewing David Hempleman-Adams about the Polar Ocean Challenge expedition to circumnavigate the Arctic. David pointed out that “We’re not scientists” and “What we’re trying to do is make people more aware of the hundreds of scientists who are doing good work”. If 3rd party comment was deemed necessary at this juncture then it should have included at least one of those “hundreds of scientists”. Not just Matt Ridley, whose recent article in The Times that Sarah was alluding to was riddled with factual errors, amongst its other failings. See above.

One can only assume that the BBC was attempting to achieve some sort of “balance”? They failed miserably. I’m a long ex academic, but for another perspective on that failure here’s one from a practicing astrophysicist:


Note also the comments. David Hempleman-Adams wasn’t even given adequate time to fully respond to the nonsense printed in The Times and regurgitated by BBC Radio 4 before it was “Rob’s got the sports news.”

As David put it “I’m just one of the general public”. If the BBC wanted to present a balanced report a specialist in the subject should have been invited to comment. There’s loads of them gathered in London as we speak:

Why not ask one of them for their views on declining sea ice? Helen Czerski works as a science presenter for the BBC doesn’t she? She may not be a sea ice specialist, but ask her for her opinion on this charade.

To summarise, either Matt Ridley has no idea what he’s talking about or he has an agenda. In either case reporting his views without adequate “balancing” comment badly lets down BBC Radio 4 listeners. How do you intend to remedy this?

Here is the BBC’s response so far:



[Edit – September 27th]

I have now received an emailed response from the BBC. Here it is:

Thank you for contacting us regarding Radio 4’s ‘Today’ which was broadcast on 19 September.

I understand you felt that the interview with David Hempleman-Adams was of a poor quality, that you considered it inappropriate for Sarah Montague to quote from an article written by Matt Ridley and that a “specialist in the subject should have been invited to comment”.

We are naturally very sorry when we hear that members of our audience have been left disappointed with an interview. We try very hard to produce a wide range of high quality shows and services which we hope will appeal to listeners.

It is not always possible or practical to reflect all the various aspects of a subject within one individual item. Editors are charged to ensure that over a reasonable period they reflect the range of significant views, opinions and trends in their subject area.

We do not seek to denigrate any view or to promote any view. Our aim is always to provide enough information on the stories we cover and to let our listeners make up their own minds. Nevertheless, I would like to assure you that we value your feedback on this matter.

All complaints are sent to senior management and programme makers every morning and we included your points in this overnight report. These reports are among the most widely read sources of feedback in the BBC and ensures that your complaint has been seen by the right people quickly. This helps inform their decisions about current and future output.

Thank you once again for getting in touch.

BBC Complaints Team

NB This is sent from an outgoing account only which is not monitored. You cannot reply to this email address but if necessary please contact us via our webform quoting any case number we provided.

As you can probably imagine, I am far from satisfied with the Beeb’s response thus far!


[Edit – September 28th]

Shock News! I’ve received another communication from the BBC!! In fact I received it twice!!! Here is what it says:

Dear Mr. Hunt

I’m Sam Smith, Head of BBC Audience Services – thank you for getting in touch with the BBC recently.

I wonder if you’d be interested in taking part in a short survey?

It’s to learn more about how you got on, and how we can improve.

All feedback – good or bad – gets passed back to the person that handled your contact.

The survey is carried out by an independent agency called ICM. It takes around 10 minutes to complete, and you just need to click the link below or paste it into your browser:

[Link redacted]

(ICM is a member of the Market Research Society and abides by its strict code of conduct at all times. You will not receive any emails, sales calls or literature as a result of taking part in this survey, and your personal data will only be used for the purpose of helping us to understand our audiences better. If you have any difficulties with the survey, please e-mail [email protected])

Thanks again – we’d love to hear from you.

Sam Smith
Head of BBC Audience Services

Ps. It’s not possible to reply to this address, but please use one of our webforms – quoting your case number – if you need anything else.

Am I “interested in taking part in a short survey”?


[Edit – September 29th]

As luck would have it I decided that I was interested:



Please tell us in detail why you decided to contact the BBC.

Please think about what made you decide to get in touch, why this was important to you, and what you hoped would happen as a result.



Quoting from my original complaint, I have already published my thoughts on the matter:


“At this juncture you might have supposed that one or more of those “hundreds of scientists” [mentioned by David Hempleman-Adams] might have been mentioned, but you would have been wrong.”

“Should you be wondering at this juncture how the opinions of Matt Ridley are at variance with the actual facts take a look at the August 29th article of his in The Times of London that Sarah Montague was referring to.”

“To summarise, either Matt Ridley has no idea what he’s talking about or he has an agenda. In either case reporting his views without adequate “balancing” comment badly lets down BBC Radio 4 listeners. How do you intend to remedy this?”

I “hoped for” a substantive answer to that final question. I have yet to receive one!



When you decided to contact the BBC, what did you think would happen next?

Please think about who you expected to respond, what information you expected the response to provide and what you expected would happen as a result.



Based on my past experience I expected another “canned” reply and no substantive response:


Thus far my exceedingly limited expectations have been fulfilled exactly!



Please tell us a bit more about what you thought about the response you received.

You may like to think about the language used, the tone of the response, what information it gave you, and what you thought was good about it.



See my previous responses.

There was nothing good about it.



What, if anything, could have been better about the response you received?

Please think about any aspect which could be improved – for example the tone of the response, the level of detail it gave, and anything you thought was missing.



The novelty of these questions is wearing off.

See my previous responses.

A substantive answer to my final question would have improved the BBC’s response.



How would you rate the response you received on the following attributes? Please rate each attribute out of 10 where 1 is ‘strongly disagree’ and 10 means ‘strongly agree’.

Please remember we are asking you to rate the specific response you received and not any other aspect of the BBC, such as its programming.






Finally, are there any other comments you would like to make about your contact experience with the BBC that we haven’t covered, or any comments you would like to make about this survey?



Yes. I’d like to ask two questions:

1) What is the point of all the “intrusive” questions I’ve just been asked?

2) Why hasn’t the BBC provided a substantive answer to the final question in my original complaint?



Thank you for taking the time to complete this questionnaire.

To exit the questionnaire you can either navigate to another website or close this window.



We’ll keep you posted!

September Arctic Cyclone Alert!

The Central Arctic has of course already been battered by the Great Arctic Cyclone(s) of August 2016. The minimum sea ice extent has been called by the NSIDC, with a slight proviso:

Arctic sea ice appears to have reached its seasonal minimum extent for 2016 on September 10. A relatively rapid loss of sea ice in the first ten days of September has pushed the ice extent to a statistical tie with 2007 for the second lowest in the satellite record. September’s low extent followed a summer characterized by conditions generally unfavorable for sea ice loss.

Please note that this is a preliminary announcement. Changing winds or late-season melt could still reduce the Arctic ice extent, as happened in 2005 and 2010. NSIDC scientists will release a full analysis of the Arctic melt season, and discuss the Antarctic winter sea ice growth, in early October.

On September 10, Arctic sea ice extent stood at 4.14 million square kilometers (1.60 million square miles).

Now, however, yet another cyclone is raging in the Central Arctic. According to Environment Canada this one is already down to a mean sea level pressure of 975 hPa:


As our regular readers will be well aware, at this time of year strong winds beget large swells. On this occasion it looks as though Barrow will get another battering, as well as the remaining and refreezing sea ice. Here’s the current WaveWatch III significant wave height forecast for September 18th:


Such large swells on the surface of the Arctic Ocean don’t only physically break up the sea ice. Last September scientists aboard the University of Alaska’s research icebreaker Sikuliaq observed the effects of a similar storm in the Beaufort Sea. According to Jennifer MacKinnon, Chief Scientist on the ArcticMix voyage:

One of the funny things about the Arctic is that there’s a reservoir of heat beneath the surface here.

So the more the wind is blowing on the ocean, the more it’s mixing this heat upwards. Which is bringing warmer water to the surface at a pretty rapid rate, warming the surface and accelerating the rate at which this ice is melting.

And if storms like this continue, as there’s more open water, more storms mean more exposed surface. It will not only melt the ice in the summer, but delay the onset of fall ice formation and accelerate the onset of spring ice melting.

In October 2015 the Sikuliaq was back in the Beaufort Sea observing the effect of storm swells on refreezing sea ice. Here’s a report from Chief Scientist Jim Thomson:

A strong easterly wind event came through that built large waves — waves that got to almost five meters in height. And the winds were something like up to thirty knots. And these waves were coming into the newly forming ice and making pancake ice.

There was a very warm layer of water 20 meters down beneath the surface. And these waves coming in were enough to drive additional mixing and bring that warm water up from the subsurface and that warm water melted the ice and changed that balance happening at the surface.

As if all that wasn’t already enough to worry about look who’s waiting in the wings. Tropical Storm Ian is heading towards the Arctic Circle at a rate of knots, even as we speak:



[Edit – September 17th]

Here is the official Barrow surf forecast from the National Weather Service:

0500 AM AKDT SAT SEP 17 2016

0500 AM AKDT SAT SEP 17 2016

.TIDES… LOW SAT 0826 AM -0.03
HIGH SAT 0230 PM 0.38
LOW SAT 0846 PM -0.02
HIGH SUN 0250 AM 0.38

There is also a severe weather warning in place:










[Edit – September 19th]

Somewhat belatedly, before:


and after:


the storm images from the Barrow webcam, which has just burst back into life. Plus an image of the cyclone from on high:

NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the Beaufort Sea on September 18th 2016, derived from the VIIRS sensor on the Suomi satellite
NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the Beaufort Sea on September 18th 2016, derived from the VIIRS sensor on the Suomi satellite

Shock News! The Worms Have Turned!!

Today we bring a positive plethora of “Shock News!”. Starting with sea ice, yesterday Anthony Watts published an article on WUWT about the 2016 Arctic minimum extent. That’s not too surprising perhaps, but what’s shocking is that included one of Wipneus’ graphs of Arctic sea ice AREA that has been gracing our very own Arctic Sea Ice Graphs page since Anthony mocked us for not having such a thing. His take on this momentous event?

All of the data I’ve looked at agrees, Arctic sea ice is now on the upswing, and in a big way.

This graph from Wipneus shows the abruptness of the change.

Here it is, in all its glory:


What’s not in the least surprising is that Anthony failed to provide a link to the source of the graph, and that our polite request for that to be corrected remains invisible took a long time to be approved over at Watts Up With That. Here it is, in all its ignominy:


As if that isn’t enough to cope with for one day, there was even bigger shock yesterday. Tony Heller stated:

Effective Skeptics Don’t Reject Basic Physics

which is accompanied by a screenshot from an Independent article which reads as follows:

One of Britain’s leading climate change sceptics – former Chancellor Nigel Lawson – has admitted that humans are causing global warming.

Speaking to the House of Lords’ Economic Affairs Committee, Lord Lawson said he did not “question for a moment” that carbon dioxide was a greenhouse gas.

And he accepted there was “huge agreement” among scientists that it was having “some effect” on the atmosphere.

But the former Conservative Cabinet minister argued it would be “crazy” for the UK to try to stop burning the fossil fuels that produce carbon dioxide, claiming countries like China were simply carrying on doing so.

Lord Lawson founded the Global Warming Policy Foundation in 2009 to oppose attempts to reduce the rise in temperatures and has emerged as one of Britain’s leading sceptics.

Here’s a recording of Nigel Lawson versus Adair Turner yesterday, testifying before the Economic Affairs Committee:

It seems as if the “97% consensus” on “anthropogenic global warming” is now at least 97.1%. I cannot help but wonder when Anthony Watts will reveal the news to his faithful followers? Meanwhile most of Tony’s many merry minions are unhappy bunnies this morning. 2015 “New Einstein” award winner Gail Combs complains:

The biggest problem is with that statement he just betrayed every skeptic and agreed that we are all tinfoil hat Den1ers.

It does not matter what else he added. That ‘sound bite’ is a HUGE WIN for the other side. Add the Ship of Fools ‘win’ and they will bash us into the ground.

I am sorry Tony, but it is a complete PR disaster especially right before the US elections.

As you well know this has never been about science. Our side plays by the Marquess of Queensberry Rules, their side are dirty street fighters using Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals and lie and cheat and browbeat at every turn. So their side wins EVERY [email protected] TIME!

Mr. Heller comments:

I completely agree with [Nigel Lawson]. Do you consider me to be a “real skeptic” ?

Answers on a virtual postcard please, in the space provided below.

Northabout Heads for Home

The Polar Ocean Challenge team issued a press release last night. This is what it said:

The Polar Ocean Challenge successfully completed their quest to sail the North East Passage and North West Passage in one season. The North West Passage was completed in an astonishing 14 days due to the fact that it was almost totally ice free. They encountered ice only twice in their 1800 mile NW Passage part of the voyage. This highlights an extraordinary loss of sea ice in the Arctic in the 30 years that David Hempleman-Adams has been coming to the area. He said, ‘whilst we are all delighted to have succeeded, it is extremely worrying to see this lack of ice so starkly‘ The objective of the expedition was to raise awareness of the change in the fragile climate in the Arctic. They left Lancaster Sound at the end of the NW Passage at 19.18 UTC on 12th September and are headed for Greenland.

This seems likely to cause much gnashing of teeth in certain quarters, where it is claimed that:

The S/V NORTHABOUT has failed to cross the Pacific Ocean Arctic Circle in the Bering Strait as the official starting line to validate their Northwest Passage attempt. You cannot say you climbed Mount Everest by just reaching high camp – you must summit. You don’t ride a bicycle in the Tour de France without starting and finishing over the course in the designated places. Likewise, you must cross BOTH the Pacific Ocean Arctic Circle in the Bering Strait and the Atlantic Ocean Arctic Circle in Davis Strait to validate a Northwest Passage.

In Northabout’s defence I pointed out that:

Perhaps the Polar Ocean Challenge team have other priorities than gaining an entry on that particular list?

If you’re planning a single season circumnavigation a diversion via Provideniya or Nome doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, rules or no rules.

but nobody else seemed to take that view!

Today they also pointed out on their Twitter feed that they are a:

Pressing on the crew of Northabout are now approaching halfway across Baffin Bay:


Her crew are trying to reach Upernavik in Greenland before the impending storm gets too bad. Here’s our own WaveWatch III based forecast for tomorrow afternoon:


and here’s the official Environment Canada forecast for East Baffin:

Issued 05:30 AM EDT 13 September 2016


Today Tonight and Wednesday Wind light increasing to south 15 knots early this evening and to south 20 late this evening. Wind backing to southeast 25 overnight then diminishing to light Wednesday afternoon.


Today Tonight and Wednesday Seas 1 metre building to 2 after midnight.


Wind light increasing to northwest 15 knots in the afternoon then veering to north 20 late in the day.


Wind north 30 knots diminishing to north 20.

I seem to recall that 30 knot winds are best avoided! After Upernavik Northabout will head for Nuuk further south in Greenland and then across the North Atlantic back to Bristol, where she started her voyage back in June. It is certainly not beyond the bounds of possibility that there will be winds of 30 knots and more to contend with on that final leg of the Polar Ocean Challenge!


[Edit – September 14th]

Northabout has obviously not managed to escape the storm entirely. Ben Edwards reports today:

I hate this part of a journey. Yesterday as I came off watch we were scheduled to arrive about midnight tonight. I hate that anyway because you get the so close yet so far feeling. But typically as I came off watch the wind picked up, moved to an unhelpful angle and created the worst sea state we’ve had since the Chuckchi Sea. We’re still supposed to arrive about two in the morning but it will make the next twenty two hours really horrible. Not that our arrival time mattes too much, we can’t go in till it’s light anyway.

The Danish Meteorological Institute marine forecast for Qimusseriarsuaq (Melville Bay) states:

Gale from south and southeast, 13 to 18 m/s. From the western part decreasing and becoming south and southwest, 5 to 10 m/s, in northern part locally 13 m/s. Thursday gradually in eastern part south and southeast, 8 to 13 m/s, but in western part cyclonic variable, up to 10 m/s. Especially in northern part locally rain, sleet or snow with moderate to poor visibility, otherwise good visibility.

Significant wave height: 3,5 m. Swells: 3 m.

Many icebergs and growlers in the eastern part along the coast, otherwise few icebergs and growlers.

Upernavik is slightly south of there, but nonetheless Ben will have a few more uncomfortable hours, and Northabout may yet meet some more ice before her crew set foot on dry land once again:



[Edit – September 15th]

Northabout has just arrived in Upernavik:



[Edit – September 16th]

It looks as though Northabout has just left Upernavik, and is now en route to Nuuk:



[Edit – September 18th]

Northabout is now moored at Ilulissat:



That’s very near the mouth of Ilulissat Icefjord which leads to the famous Jakobshavn Glacier:


Perhaps that’s where these icebergs came from?


According to the latest Polar Ocean Challenge log:

As we expected, it was a long night last night as the big swell and Northernly winds continued to sweep us along from Upernavik, big surf waves behind us breaking under us, Northabout became a little Hawwai five o. We made our way along the coastline through amazing beautiful icebergs created by glaciers at Ilulissat.

The icebergs were between the size of telly to the size of a house to the size of a grand hotel. They were breaking up, and once or twice right in front of us creating lots a small bergs and ice chunks that don’t float so high above the water and so are difficult to spot especially with a large 10 foot swell, they disappear and reappear in the water around us.


[Edit – September 19th]

Northabout has just left Ilulissat, en route for Nuuk:



[Edit – September 22nd]

Northabout has crossed the Arctic Circle and has just reached Nuuk, the capital of Greenland:


En route from Ilulissat her crew have seen some amazing sights:




Previous Polar Ocean Challenge articles:

Non Fiction:

Northabout Braves the Northwest Passage

Northabout Races for the Date Line

Northabout Meets Some Serious Sea Ice

Northabout Bides Her Time

Northabout’s Great Adventure


Could Northabout Sail to the North Pole?


Is the Polar Ocean Challenge About to End in Disaster?

Santa Extends His Secret Summer Swimming Pool

The Swedish icebreaker Oden and the Canadian icebreaker Louis S. St. Laurent recently met up at the North Pole on a joint scientific expedition. To be more precise the Oden’s Captain’s log recorded her position at 11:03 UTC on August 22nd as N 89° 59,998´ W 046° 40,558´.

Take a look at who was waiting for them:


and then take a look at his newly extended swimming pool:


What could be more refreshing after a long voyage than a quick dip followed by a Piña colada by the pool?


Santa’s secret summer swimming pool is obviously big enough this year to accommodate all the icebreakers and nuclear submarines on the planet. All his little helpers have a giant pool of their very own too:

NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the North Pole on September 8th 2016, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite
NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the North Pole on September 8th 2016, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite