The Northwest Passage in 2017

The time has come to start speculating about if, and when, the Northwest Passage will become navigable for the host of small vessels eager to traverse it this summer. The west and east entrances are clearing early this year. Lancaster Sound and Prince Regent inlet already reveal only a few area of white amongst the deep blue open water:

NASA Worldview “true-color” image of Lancaster Sound and Prince Regent Inlet on July 8th 2017, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Aqua satellite
NASA Worldview “true-color” image of Lancaster Sound and Prince Regent Inlet on July 8th 2017, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Aqua satellite

To the west the route is already opening up all the way from the Chukchi Sea to Cambridge Bay:

NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the Beaufort Sea on July 12th 2017, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite
NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the Beaufort Sea on July 12th 2017, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite

The problems on the southern route seem likely to arise in the central section this year, where far more old ice is present this year than in 2016:

Canadian Ice Service sea ice stage of development on July 10th 2017
Canadian Ice Service sea ice stage of development on July 10th 2017

The remaining sea ice in Queen Maud Gulf doesn’t look like it will last long, but the ice in Victoria Strait and Larsen Sound is made of much sterner stuff:

NASA Worldview “true-color” image of Victoria Strait and Larsen Sound on July 10th 2017, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite
NASA Worldview “true-color” image of Victoria Strait and Larsen Sound on July 10th 2017, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite

The cruise liner Crystal Serenity is anticipating navigating those waters once again this year, on August 29th. However much smaller craft are already heading for the Northwest Passage. Celebrate and Alkahest are already sailing north along the west coast of Greenland. Meanwhile Yvan Bourgnon is due to depart Nome, Alaska tomorrow, sailing his catamaran single handed in the opposite direction.


[Edit – July 22nd]

According to the United States Coast Guard web site:

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Maple, a 225-foot seagoing buoy tender home ported in Sitka, Alaska, departed [July 12th] on a historic voyage through the Northwest Passage.

This summer marks the 60th anniversary of the three Coast Guard cutters and one Canadian ship that convoyed through the Northwest Passage. The crews of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutters Storis, SPAR and Bramble, along with the crew of the Canadian ice breaker HMCS Labrador, charted, recorded water depths and installed aids to navigation for future shipping lanes from May to September of 1957. All four crews became the first deep-draft ships to sail through the Northwest Passage, which are several passageways through the complex archipelago of the Canadian Arctic.

The crew of the cutter Maple will make a brief logistics stop in Nome, Alaska, to embark an ice navigator on its way to support marine science and scientific research near the Arctic Circle. The cutter will serve as a ship of opportunity to conduct scientific research in support of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

The Maple crew will deploy three sonographic buoys that are used to record acoustic sounds of marine mammals. A principal investigator with the University of San Diego embarked aboard the cutter will analyze the data retrieved from the buoys.

The Canadian Coast Guard Ship Sir Wilfrid Laurier will rendezvous with the Maple later this month to provide icebreaking services as the Maple makes it way toward Victoria Strait, Canada. The Maple has a reinforced hull that provides it with limited ice breaking capabilities similar to Coast Guard 225-foot cutters operating on the Great Lakes.

There doesn’t seem to be any up to date tracking information for the Maple, but CCGS Sir Wilfrid Laurier has recently arrived off Utqiaġvik (Barrow as was):



[Edit – August 18th]

Another article by Chris Mooney in the Washington Post includes this image of the eastern entrance to Bellot Strait on August 11th:

According to Chris:

After we’d passed through safely, Claude Lafrance, the ship’s commanding officer, took some time to explain how the strait worked with the help of a navigational chart. In the process, he lent credence to some of the observations made by Larsen over 70 years ago, while also explaining how modern knowledge has made navigating it safe with a proper tidal understanding.

The essence is that depending on when you are in Bellot Strait, the waters can be flowing either westward or eastward at and around high or low tide, respectively. So timing your crossing makes a great deal of difference.

The danger is that if you’re coming from the west (as we were) with the current to your back, you can be moving too fast, and have difficulty steering your vessel as you approach rocks at the end of the strait.

“We always want to go through where it’s more difficult, with the current against you, because it’s a lot easier to control the movement of your ship,” Lafrance said.

Therefore, the two-hour wait was quite intentional: The CCGS Amundsen stayed put until the tide began to shift and the waters to flow back westward, in effect neutralizing the current. Then the ship steamed out easily. “We just passed at the ideal time to go through,” Lafrance said.


[Edit – August 20th]

Another view of Bellot Strait, this time from Ernest Shackleton yesterday:


Here’s Sentinel 2A’s view of what he should expect to see in Larsen Sound after emerging at the other end:



[Edit – August 21st]

From the RRS Ernest Shackleton in Franklin Strait or thereabouts:



[Edit – August 22nd]

From the C3 expedition, also in the Franklin Strait area by the look of things:


[Edit – August 24th]

The latest CIS ice chart reveals a circuitous route via McClintock Channel that is ALMOST <= 6/10 concentration. Meanwhile Larsen Sound is still refusing to open up for the imminent arrival of the Crystal Serenity:



[Edit – August 27th]

At long last the CIS concentration map reveals a <= 6/10 concentration path along the entire southern route via Bellot Strait: Maud-Conc-20170827


[Edit – August 29th]

It is now possible to squeeze through Roald Amundsen’s route through the Northwest Passage without encountering over 6/10 concentration sea ice:



Coincidentally Amundsen’s Maud has started the long journey back to Norway from Cambridge Bay. Thanks to Matthew for the heads up


[Edit – September 3rd]

David Scott Cowper sought shelter for Polar Bound in the welcoming arms of Booth Island for a couple of days. Now they’re off again and have taken another close look at Cape Bathurst, but which route will they take now?



[Edit – September 10th]

David Scott Cowper has left Cambridge Bay in Polar Bound and is heading east:


here’s what lies ahead of him:


Watch this space!

Reanalysis of Arctic Climate

For years now I’ve been using the convenient tools provided at the NCEP/NCAR reanalysis web site to generate custom maps and time series illustrating the climate of the Arctic. By way of example see last December’s “Post-Truth Global and Arctic Temperatures“:

Prompted in part by the obvious difficulty the different models are currently having in generating accurate short term forecasts for the “New Arctic”, I’ve been recently been comparing assorted reanalysis products. For example the UCAR Climate Data Guide points out that:

NCEP Reanalysis (R2) is better than NCEP-NCAR (R1) but still a first generation reanalysis. It is best to use 3rd generation reanalyses, specifically, ERA-Interim and MERRA.

I recently discovered that Richard James has performed a similar analysis for the Arctic, which can be viewed at:

Arctic Winter Warmth

wherein I mentioned the NOAA ESRL Web-based Reanalysis Intercomparison Tool, which allows you to produce plots and timeseries for arbitrary areas of Planet Earth using NCEP/NCAR, ERA Interim, MERRA-2 and numerous other reanalysis products. Here’s one little example:


which makes it evident that NCEP-NCAR (R1) and ERA Interim have different ideas about surface temperatures in the Arctic. So does MERRA-2!


For a graphic example of the differences between the three products here is my version of Richard’s Arctic winter temperature comparison (note that currently ERA data is only available up to January 2017):




Can you spot the difference? In conclusion, here’s the Era Interim version of the High Arctic autumnal 925 hPa temperature trend graph at the top:


Facts About the Arctic in June 2017

After a comparatively cool May, surface air temperatures in the high Arctic are back up to “normal”:


The condition of the sea ice north of 80 degrees is far from normal however. Here’s what’s been happening to the (normally) land fast ice north west of Greenland:

NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the sea ice north west of Greenland breaking up on June 2nd 2017
NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the sea ice north west of Greenland breaking up on June 2nd 2017

Further south surface melt has set in across the southern route through the Northwest Passage:

NASA Worldview “false-color” image of the Coronation Gulf on June 1st 2017, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite
NASA Worldview “false-color” image of the Coronation Gulf on June 1st 2017, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite

Whilst the gap with previous years has narrowed during May, PIOMAS Arctic sea ice volume is still well below all previous years in their records:


The PIOMAS gridded thickness graph suggests that a large area of thick ice is currently sailing through the Fram Strait to ultimate oblivion:


Here’s the latest AMSR2 Arctic sea ice area graph:


and just in case melt ponds are now affecting those numbers here is extent as well:


The rate of decrease is inexorably increasing! 2012 extent is currently still well above that of 2017, but those positions may well be reversed by the end of June? Here’s NSIDC’s view on the matter:



[Edit – June 8th]

As requested by Tommy, here’s the current Arctic Basin sea ice area:UH-Basin-Area-2017-06-07

This includes the Beaufort, Chukchi, East Siberian and Laptev Seas along with the Central Arctic. It excludes the Atlantic periphery, which currently looks like this:UH-Atlantic-Area-2017-06-07


[Edit – June 10th]

At long last a clear(ish) image of water from the Lena Delta spreading out across the fast ice in the Laptev Sea:

NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the Lena Delta on June 10th 2017, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite
NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the Lena Delta on June 10th 2017, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite

Compare and contrast with June 1st last year:

and June 10th 2012:

NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the Lena Delta on June 10th 2012, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite
NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the Lena Delta on June 10th 2012, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite


[Edit – June 11th]

DMI’s daily mean temperature for the Arctic area north of the 80th northern parallel has reached zero degrees Celsius almost exactly on the climatological schedule:


We calculate our freezing degree days on the basis of the freezing point of Arctic sea water at -1.8 degrees Celsius. On that basis this winter’s grand total of 3740 was reached on June 1st:


Despite the “coolish” recent weather total FDDs are way below the climatology and other recent years. Consequently there’s a lot less sea ice in the Arctic left to melt at the start of this Central Arctic melting season than in any previous year in the satellite record. However whilst there are some melt ponds visible in the Arctic Basin on MODIS, in that respect 2017 is lagging behind both last year and 2012.

Here’s the latest JAXA surface melt map:AM2SI20170610A_SIT_NP


[Edit – June 13th]

JAXA/IJIS/ADS Arctic sea ice extent for 2017 is now above 2012:


Meanwhile there are finally signs of some surface melt on the fast ice in the Laptev Sea:

NASA Worldview “false-color” image of the Laptev Sea on June 13th 2017, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Aqua satellite
NASA Worldview “false-color” image of the Laptev Sea on June 13th 2017, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Aqua satellite


[Edit – June 14th]

An animation of the latest Arctic sea ice age data from Mark Tschudi:

Further confirmation that in 2017 the older, thicker ice is gathered together on the Atlantic side of the Arctic Ocean.


[Edit – June 15th]

The Mackenzie River melt waters have now breached the fast ice off the delta:

NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the Mackenzie on June 14th 2017, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite
NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the Mackenzie on June 14th 2017, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite


[Edit – June 16th]

Thanks to the sterling work of Wipneus on the Arctic Sea Ice Forum, here’s a regional breakdown of PIOMAS Arctic Sea Ice volume for the month of May:


Note the caveat – “No checks, but the data looks plausible”.


[Edit – June 17th]

The AMSR2 data feed from the University of Hamburg suffered from a “brief hiatus” a few days ago, but is now back in action:



Yesterday’s data still hasn’t arrived, but it certainly looks as though 2017 extent will soon drop below 2016.


[Edit – June 18th]

The PIOMAS mid month volume update has arrived. The gap between 2012 and 2017 is closing fast:


Here’s the regional breakdown:



[Edit – June 23rd]

Here is the ECMWF MSLP forecast for 96 hours time:


A sub 970 hPa cyclone is starting to enter the realms of realistic possibility, and also forecast are some significant waves in the Chukchi Sea and the expanding 2017 “Laptev Bite”:

Significant_height_of_combined_w in multi_1.glo_30mext.20170623_00016


[Edit – June 27th]

The forecast cyclone was nowhere near as deep as predicted. According to the analysis by Environment Canada it bottomed out at 980 hPa yesterday:



[Edit – June 29th]

O-Buoy 14 is currently firmly embedded in the fast ice of Viscount Melville Sound, deep in the heart of the Northwest Passage. Here’s the view from the buoy’s camera:


and here’s the view from space:


Watch this space!

Facts About the Arctic in May 2017

Before we got on to the more usual Arctic metrics let’s bear in mind that the beginning of May is the time when the ice on the mighty Mackenzie River begins to break up, ultimately sending a surge of (comparatively!) warm water rushing into the Beaufort Sea. The patches of open water visible in the Beaufort Sea off the Mackenzie Delta in early April refroze, but have recently opened up once again:

NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the Beaufort Sea on May 2nd 2017, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite
NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the Beaufort Sea on May 2nd 2017, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite

Meanwhile Northern Hemisphere snow cover is falling fast, albeit still above last year’s levels:


Here’s the current view of the Liard River in northern Canada, with the Mackenzie River running bottom to top on the right hand side:

NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the Liard and Mackenzie Rivers on May 2nd 2017, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite
NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the Liard and Mackenzie Rivers on May 2nd 2017, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite

The break-up of the Liard leads the Mackenzie, and taking a look at last year’s view of the same area it’s apparent that this year there’s somewhat more snow on the ground, and that this years Mackenzie break-up will therefore be a few days later than last year:

NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the Liard and Mackenzie Rivers on May 2nd 2016, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Aqua satellite
NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the Liard and Mackenzie Rivers on May 2nd 2016, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Aqua satellite

Whilst early melt in the Beaufort Sea is currently behind last year, the reverse is most certainly the case next door in the Chukchi Sea. The skies are rather cloudy there at the moment, but using the Suomi NPP day/night band to peer through the gloom reveals this:

NASA Worldview “day/night band” image of the Chukchi Sea on May 2nd 2017, derived from the VIIRS sensor on the Suomi satellite
NASA Worldview “day/night band” image of the Chukchi Sea on May 2nd 2017, derived from the VIIRS sensor on the Suomi satellite

Whilst sea coverage on the Pacific periphery has continued to fall, extent on the Atlantic side has not been following suit. Hence overall Arctic sea ice area is no longer lowest in the satellite record:


Finally, until the new PIOMAS numbers are released at least, here’s how DMI freezing degree days look at the moment:



[Edit – May 4th]

The April PIOMAS numbers have been published: Arctic sea ice volume is yet again by far the lowest on record:




[Edit – May 5th]

Greenland ice sheet surface melt has started early this year:




[Edit – May 12th]

The ice break-up of the Mackenzie River is now visible as increased flow at the junction with Arctic Red River just south of the delta:

Mackenzie River flow at Arctic Red River up to May 12th 2017
Mackenzie River flow at Arctic Red River up to May 12th 2017

Meanwhile the sea ice in the Lincoln Sea north the Nares Strait is coming apart at the seams:

NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the Lincoln Sea on May 12th 2017, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite
NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the Lincoln Sea on May 12th 2017, derived from the MODIS sensor on the Terra satellite


[Edit – May 17th]

May seems to be shaping up as month of two halves, both spatially and temporally. Here’s an overview of the current state of play:


On the Pacific side of the Arctic sea ice area has been declining rapidly courtesy of the expanding areas of open water visible in the Beaufort, Chukchi and East Siberian Seas. It’s currently tracking below other recent years:


However over on the Atlantic side area has been flatlining, and is currently above other recent years:


Ice mass balance buoy 2017A is now located near the boundary between the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas and as the melting season in that vicinity rapidly approaches it reveals that thermodynamic thickening has thus far achieved a mere 119 cm:2017A-2017-05-15

Arctic wide sea ice area has recently started to decline at an increasing rate:


During the second half of the month it will be interesting to see whether the forecast high temperatures produce significant melt ponding. If so it’s conceivable that 2017 area could drop below 2016 again by the beginning of June. There already signs of surface melt at places as far apart as Franklin Bay, Chaunskaya Bay and even the Great Bear Lake!

Watch this space!


Muhammad, P., Duguay, C., and Kang, K.-K.: Monitoring ice break-up on the Mackenzie River using MODIS data, The Cryosphere, 10, 569-584, doi:10.5194/tc-10-569-2016, 2016.

Rood S. B., Kaluthota S., Philipsen L. J., Rood N. J., and Zanewich K. P. (2017) Increasing discharge from the Mackenzie River system to the Arctic Ocean, Hydrol. Process., 31, 150–160. doi: 10.1002/hyp.10986.

Kwok, R., L. Toudal Pedersen, P. Gudmandsen, and S. S. Pang (2010), Large sea ice outflow into the Nares Strait in 2007, Geophys. Res. Lett., 37, L03502, doi:10.1029/2009GL041872.

The 2 Degrees North Pole Expedition

An experienced team of polar explorers set off on April 4th intending to ski from a latitude of 88° North to 90° North, better known as the North Pole!

According to the expedition’s web site those 2 degrees of latitude are symbolic of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change agreement in Paris to “hold the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above pre-industrial levels”, and are thus part of the expedition’s name.

Here’s the team of Bernice Notenboom, Martin Hartley and Ann Daniels pictured shortly before departing on their arduous journey via the Russian Barneo ice camp near the North Pole:


Apart from hauling their sleds across some very challenging terrain they will also be doing lots of “citizen science” en route, including stopping regularly to measure the depth of snow covering the sea ice:

2 Degrees Snow Depth. Photo: Martin Hartley
Photo: Martin Hartley

As part of that scientific mission the NASA Operation IceBridge Orion P3 aircraft overflew the team, and amongst other things took this picture:

Photo: NASA
Photo: NASA

Bernice announced on the 2 Degrees expedition’s blog this morning that:

A milestone today – skied 1/2 degree of latitude.

Victor Serov who I call into every night with our position is really happy with our progress: ” You are doing very well Bernice and you are doing science” is his encouraging response every time I call in.

I imagine he is sitting in a tent in Barneo with a giant map, North Pole in the middle, and plotting all routes towards the pole. Each team on the ice has to call in coordinates at night so if something happens, they are standby with 2 MI8 helicopters to assist. Like yesterday somebody had to get evacuated because of frostbite.

To get a compliment from a Russian scientist who has spend a year in Vostok in Antarctica [coldest place on earth] as well as being an accomplished polar explorer, we should be proud of ourselves to have skied 1/4 of the way on day 5. But it hasn’t come easy. The half degree has been really hard work temperatures dipped to -41C too cold to film, do science, all we can do is keep moving until we need to eat and drink.

The sleds weigh over 80 kilo’s and new pains and aches show unexpectedly in places you don’t want them, like my back. On the odd break, I would get the notebook out, jot down the GPS position while Ann pokes into the snow and yells the various snow depths to me. The rest of the day we are doing cold management: toes we don’t feel anymore and need nurturing or placing your thumb between the fingers to warm them up inside your mitt, and worse letting your arm hang so the blood can race back to the extremities.

If you are cold all blood flows to your heart and core to protect it, so to call it back is playing a trick with your mind. Despite this careful nursing, I still end up with frost nip on all fingers. I now need to be extra careful with exposure to cold.

Meanwhile Ann Daniels published this image of the sort of terrain they’ve been crossing on her Twitter feed:

Ann Daniels 20170409 Photo: Martin Hartley
Photo: Martin Hartley

The expedition’s current position is reported as as 88.52 N, 147.75 E. Only another 1 1/2 degrees to go! As this map of the drift of the Barneo ice camp shows, the winds are currently somewhat in the team’s favour:


Every little helps!

Facts About the Arctic in April 2017

Particularly in view of all the balderdash concerning “climate science” being spouted in Washington DC on Wednesday lets first of all run through some Arctic sea ice facts from April 1st 2017 or thereabouts:

Northern Hemisphere Snow Extent:


Arctic Sea Ice Area:


Arctic Sea Ice Extent:


Arctic Sea Ice Concentration:


Thin ice map from the University of Bremen SMOS:


Thick ice map from CPOM CryoSat-2


Beaufort Sea ice thickness growth graph:


DMI sea ice temperature map:


DMI atmospheric temperature graph:


DMI Arctic Freezing Degree Days:


PIOMAS volume for March will follow in a few days, but it’s extremely unlikely to be anything other than “lowest for the date”.

What preliminary conclusions can we draw from this plethora of pretty pictures? First of all the Arctic hasn’t suddenly gone into “deep freeze” mode. Temperatures above 80 degrees north are rising again and are well above the climatology. Freezing degree days are still the lowest on record by a wide margin. Northern hemisphere snow cover is falling fast and is currently just above last year.

In contrast to last year, and thanks to lots of cyclones and very little in the way of anticyclones, there’s plenty of sub half meter sea ice in the Laptev and East Siberian Seas and hardly any in the Beaufort Sea. There’s also plenty of thin ice to be seen on both the Atlantic and Pacific peripheries.

The usual southerly arch hasn’t formed in the Nares Strait between Greenland and Ellesmere Island, and as SMOS shows the sea ice in the strait is consequently very thin. That leads one to wonder when the northern arch in the Lincoln Sea might give way.

It’s not immediately apparent from the still images above, but there’s been relatively large amounts of “old ice” exported from the Central Arctic on the Atlantic side, hence the recent increase in overall extent which is now second lowest for the date (since satellite records began). Area has been creeping up as well over recent days, but is still lowest for the date, as it has been for most of the last year. Sea ice “compactness” has decreased somewhat and given all the thin ice around the edges extent will soon start dropping once again.

All in all, the Arctic sea ice prognosis is not good. Are you watching Lamar Smith? (Pun intended!)


[Edit – April 4th]

The March PIOMAS update is out! As suspected, Arctic sea ice volume is still by far the lowest on record:


Volume on March 31st 2017 was 20.398 thousand cubic kilometers. The previous lowest volume for the date was 22.129 thousand km³ in 2011.

Here too is the PIOMAS modelled Arctic sea ice thickness map:

PIOMAS daily gridded thickness for March 31st 2017
PIOMAS daily gridded thickness for March 31st 2017


[Edit – April 12th]

The latest edition of the NSIDC’s Arctic Sea Ice News confirms that their monthly extent metric for March 2017 was the lowest in the satellite record for the month:


As well as highlighting the anomalously warm temperatures across much of the Arctic:


the NSIDC article includes this telling pressure anomaly map:


There’s also mention of a new paper:

New work by an international team led by Igor Polyakov of the University of Alaska Fairbanks provides strong evidence that Atlantic layer heat is now playing a prominent role in reducing winter ice formation in the Eurasian Basin, which is manifested as more summer ice loss. According to their analysis, the ice loss due to the influence of Atlantic layer heat is comparable in magnitude to the top down forcing by the atmosphere.

Stale News? Mail on Sunday Corrects Yet Another David Rose “Porky Pie”

Our continuing campaign against the Daily Mail Group porky pie production line has just borne some slightly less low hanging fruit!

Perhaps Lamar Smith, Chairman of the United states’ House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, would like to play “spot the difference” with us once again? Here are three different versions of David Rose’s February 19th article in the Mail on Sunday, entitled “US Congress launches a probe into climate data that duped world leaders over global warming“:

Version 1:


Version 2:


Version 3:


Which version do you like best Lamar? 1, 2 or 3?

What do you make of Michael Mann’s written testimony yesterday?

Answers on a postcard please, to the usual address:

Snow Y. White,
Great White Con Ivory Towers,
Nr. Santa’s Secret Summer Swimming Pool,
Central Arctic Basin

The House Science Climate Model Show Trial

The show is over, and it went pretty much as Alice F. predicted it would. Lamar Smith has passed his verdict on the morning’s proceedings in strangely untheatrical style:

My own mileage certainly varied from Lamar’s! Here’s a hasty summary of events via the distorting lens of Twitter:


A more detailed analysis of United States’ House Committee on Science, Space and Technology’s “show trial” of climate models will follow in due course, but for now if you so desire you can watch the entire event on YouTube:

I’ll have to at least watch the bit where my live feed cut out as Dana Rohrabacher slowly went ballistic with Mike Mann:

Please bear in mind that correlation does not necessarily imply causation!


I wonder whether at this juncture Mike wishes he’d taken David Titley’s advice?

Nevertheless, given our long running campaign against the climate science misinformation frequently printed in the Mail on Sunday it gives us great pleasure to reprint in full the following extract from his written testimony today:

For proper context, we must consider the climate denial myth du jour that global warming has “stopped”. Like most climate denial talking points, the reality is pretty much the opposite of what is being claimed by the contrarians. All surface temperature products, including the controversial UAH satellite temperature record, show a clear long-term warming trend over the past several decades:


We have now broken the all-time global temperature record for three consecutive years and a number of published articles have convincingly demonstrated that global warming has continued unabated despite when one properly accounts for the vagaries of natural short-term climate fluctuations. A prominent such study was published by Tom Karl and colleagues in 2015 in the leading journal Science. The article was widely viewed as the final nail in the “globe has stopped warming” talking point’s coffin.

Last month, opinion writer David Rose of the British tabloid the Daily Mail — known for his serial misrepresentations of climate change and his serial attacks on climate scientists, published a commentary online attacking Tom Karl, accusing him of having “manipulated global warming data” in the 2015 Karl et al article. This fake news story was built entirely on an interview with a single disgruntled former NOAA employee, John Bates, who had been demoted from a supervisory position at NOAA for his inability to work well with others.

Bates’ allegations were also published on the blog of climate science denier Judith Curry (I use the term carefully—reserving it for those who deny the most basic findings of the scientific community, which includes the fact that human activity is substantially or entirely responsible for the large-scale warming we have seen over the past century — something Judith Curry disputes). That blog post and the Daily Mail story have now been thoroughly debunked by the actual scientific community. The Daily Mail claim that data in the Karl et al. Science article had been manipulated was not supported by Bates. When the scientific community pushed back on the untenable “data manipulation” claim, noting that other groups of scientists had independently confirmed Karl et al’s findings, Bates clarified that the real problem was that data had not been properly archived and that the paper was rushed to publication. These claims too quickly fell apart.

Though Bates claimed that the data from the Karl et al study was “not in machine-readable form”, independent scientist Zeke Hausfather, lead author of a study that accessed the data and confirmed its validity, wrote in a commentary “…for the life of me I can’t figure out what that means. My computer can read it fine, and it’s the same format that other groups use to present their data.” As for the claim that the paper was rushed to publication, Editor-in-chief of Science Jeremy Berg says, “With regard to the ‘rush’ to publish, as of 2013, the median time from submission to online publication by Science was 109 days, or less than four months. The article by Karl et al. underwent handling and review for almost six months. Any suggestion that the review of this paper was ‘rushed’ is baseless and without merit. Science stands behind its handling of this paper, which underwent particularly rigorous peer review.”

Shortly after the Daily Mail article went live, a video attacking Karl (and NOAA and even NASA for good measure) was posted by the Wall Street Journal. Within hours, the Daily Mail story spread like a virus through the right-wing blogosphere, appearing on numerous right-wing websites and conservative news sites. It didn’t take long for the entire Murdoch media empire in the U.S, U.K. and elsewhere to join in, with the execrable Fox News for example alleging Tom Karl had “cooked” climate data and, with no sense of irony, for political reasons.

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chair of this committee has a history25 of launching attacks on climate science and climate scientists. He quickly posted a press release praising the Daily Mail article, placing it on the science committee website, and falsely alleging that government scientists had “falsified data”. Smith, it turns out, had been planning a congressional hearing timed to happen just days after this latest dustup, intended to call into question the basis for the EPA regulating carbon emissions. His accusations against Karl and NOAA of tampering with climate data was used in that hearing to claim that the entire case for concern over climate change was now undermined.

That’s pretty much the way we see things too Mike!


[Edit – March 31st]

In the aftermath of Wednesday’s hearing, the accusations are flying in all directions. By way of example:

No clarification has yet been forthcoming from Dr. Pielke.

The denialosphere is of course now spinning like crazy attempting to pin something, anything, on Michael Mann. Over at Climate Depot Marc Morano assures his loyal readers that:

Testifying before Congress, climate scientist Michael Mann denies any affiliation or association to the Climate Accountability Institute despite his apparent membership on the Institute’s Council of Advisors.

Whilst correctly quoting Dr. Mann as saying:

I can provide – I’ve submitted my CV you can see who I’m associated with and who I am not.

Here’s the video Marc uses to support his case:

Meanwhile over on Twitter:


[Edit – April 1st]

Today is All Fools’ Day, but this is no joke. Last night Judith Curry posted an article on her “Climate Etc.” blog entitled “‘Deniers,’ lies and politics“. Here is an extract from it:

Mann ‘denies’ being associated with the Climate Accountability Institute [link to above Marc Morano video]. Julie Kelly writes in an article Michael Mann Embarrasses Himself Before Congress:

“Turns out Mann appears to be a bit of a denier himself. Under questioning, Mann denied being involved with the Climate Accountability Institute even though he is featured on its website as a board member. CAI is one of the groups pushing a scorched-earth approach to climate deniers, urging lawmakers to employ the RICO statute against fossil-fuel corporations. When asked directly if he was either affiliated or associated with CAI, Mann answered “no.” [JC note: Mann also lists this affiliation on his CV]

Some additional ‘porkies’ are highlighted in an article by James Delingpole.

Now the first thing to note is that I’d already explained the context of Mr. Mann’s “interrogation” by Rep. Clay Higgins on Judith’s blog several times:

At the risk of repeating myself Mann said, and I quote:

“I’ve submitted my CV. You can see who I’m ‘associated’ with”

His CV states, quoted by McIntyre:


Why on Earth Judith chose to repeat the “CAI” allegation is beyond me.

Secondly, Prof. Mann is NOT featured on the CAI website as a board member. He is instead listed as a member of their “Council of Advisors”.

Thirdly, quoting James Delingpole as a source of reliable information about anything “climate change” related is also beyond me. Needless to say Mr. Delingpole also repeats the CAI nonsense, whilst simultaneously plagiarising our long standing usage of the term “Porky pie“!

All of which brings me on to my next point. In the video clip above Rep. Higgins can be heard to say:

These two organisations [i.e the Union of Concerned Scientists & the Climate Accountability Institute], are they connected directly with organised efforts to prosecute man influenced climate sceptics via RICO statutes?

to which Dr. Mann replied:

The way you’ve phrased it, I would find it extremely surprising if what you said was true.


Now please skip to the 1 hour 31:33 mark in the video of the full hearing to discover what Marc Morano left out. Rep. Higgins asks Dr. Mann:

Would you be able to at some future date provide to this committee evidence of your lack of association with the organisation Union of Concerned Scientists and lack of your association with the organisation called Climate Accountability Institute? Can you provide that documentation to this committee Sir?

This is, of course, a “when did you stop beating your wife” sort of a question. How on Earth do you prove a “lack of association with an organisation”. Supply a video of your entire life? Dr. Mann responded less pedantically:

You haven’t defined what “association” even means here, but it’s all in my CV which has already been provided to Committee.

So what on Earth are Rep. Higgins and ex. Prof. Curry on about with all this “RICO” business? With thanks to Nick Stokes on Judith’s blog, the document he refers to seems to be the only evidence for the insinuations:

It turns out that what the congressman was probably referring to was a workshop they mounted in 2012 (not attended by Mann), which explored the RICO civil lawsuit mounted against tobacco companies.

It does mention for example “the RICO case against the tobacco companies” but it never mentions anything that might conceivably be (mis)interpreted as “pushing a scorched-earth approach to climate deniers”.

That being the case, why on Earth do you suppose Judith Curry chose to mention that phrase on her blog last night and why did Clay Higgins choose to broach the subject on Wednesday?


[Edit – April 2nd]

Perhaps this really is an April Fools’ joke? Over on Twitter Stephen McIntyre continues to make my case for me. Take a look:

And he’s not the only one! Alice F.’s sixth sense tells her that another Storify slideshow will be required to do this saga justice!

Censorship Down Under by Senator Malcolm Roberts

Senator Malcolm Roberts is live streaming “a public forum in Parliament House tonight where we will be deconstructing climate data from over 250 data sets” via his Facebook page. Allegedly:

You can listen in and see the empirical evidence for yourself which disproves the AGW hypothesis.

An invitation has also been extended to the Chief Scientist, CSIRO Chief Executive and staff, and the Director of the Bureau of Meteorology to attend and engage in these discussions.

Malcolm asked:


so I obliged with a few. They all seem to have disappeared:





Aren’t “One Nation” advocates of “free speech”? A prime prize of a packet of peanuts to the first person to spot one or more of the above in the wild on Facebook.


[Edit – March 30th]

Additional news on this story arrives via Twitter:

Should Climate Scientists Boycott Congressional Hearings?

In answer to the question posed in our title for today, retired Rear Admiral David Titley certainly seems to think so. According to his article for the Washington Post‘s “Capital Weather Gang”:

Unless you’ve been living under a (melting) ice shelf recently, you know by now the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science Space and Technology is holding a climate science hearing Wednesday to probe the “assumptions, policy implications and scientific method.”

This hearing, whose witnesses consist of one mainstream climate scientist and three other witnesses whose views are very much in the minority, is remarkably similar in structure and scope to the climate hearing Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) conducted in December 2015 titled “Data or Dogma”? So similar that two of the five witnesses from the Cruz hearing will also testify on Wednesday.

In the past, the science community has participated in these hearings, even though questioning the basics of climate change is akin to holding a hearing to examine whether Earth orbits the sun.


As our regular reader(s) will be aware we have been characterising today’s hearing as a “show trial“, and David Titley agrees:

For years, these hearings have been designed not to provide new information or different perspectives to members of Congress but, rather, to perpetuate the myth that there is a substantive and serious debate within the science community regarding the fundamental causes or existence of human-caused climate change.

Quite so David, but next comes a more controversial message seemingly aimed at his Penn State colleague Michael Mann, who is due to appear before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology later today:

We should no longer be duped into playing along with this strategy.

Despite sending many skilled science communicators to testify at the hearings over the years and even when scoring tactical victories, the strategic effect of participating at these hearings has been to sustain the perception of false equivalence, a perception only exaggerated by the majority’s ability to select a grossly disproportionate number of witnesses far removed from mainstream science (it’s not coincidence that Judith Curry, professor emeritus, Georgia Institute of Technology, and John Christy, professor of atmospheric sciences, University of Alabama at Huntsville, are called upon so often by the Republicans).

A better response would be to simply boycott future hearings of this kind and to call out these hearings for what they are: a tactic to distract the public from a serious policy debate over how to manage both the short- and long-term risks of climate change. These hearings are designed to provide theatrics, question knowledge that has been well understood for more than 150 years, and leave the public with a false sense that significant uncertainty and contention exist within the science community on this issue.

“Boycott future hearings” then, but perhaps not today’s? We will discover what Michael Mann has to say later today, assuming he turns up! Ex Rear Admiral Titley does have experience of similar “show trials”. Here is a recording of what he said to Senator Ted Cruz’s so called “Data or Dogma: Promoting Open Inquiry in the Debate over the Magnitude of Human Impact on Earth’s Climate” hearing:

According to David Titley’s written testimony:

A combination of multiple, independent sources of data provide the basis to the latest conclusion from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change:

“Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950’s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia…
Human influence on the climate system is clear. This is evident from the increasing greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere, positive radiative forcing, observed warming, and understanding of the climate system.”

We should not be surprised; these conclusions rest on science discovered in the 19th century by Fourier, Tyndall, Arrhenius and their colleagues and validated by many scientists in the subsequent decades.

It is worth noting that private industry independently arrived at these same conclusions decades ago. t is worth noting that private in
dustry independently arrived at these same conclusions decades
ago. Recently released documents show that in 1980 Exxon researchers projected the impacts on global temperature due to increasing greenhouse gasses with astonishing accuracy.

From David Titley’s verbal testimony:

The more we looked at the data, the more we saw that not only were the air temperatures coming up, but the water temperatures were coming up, the sea level was coming up, the glaciers were retreating, the oceans were acidifying. When you put all those independent lines of evidence together, coupled with a theory that was over 100 years old that had stood the test of time, it kinda made sense.

Does it mean we know everything? No, but does it mean we know enough that we should be considering this and acting? Yes, it’s called risk management and that’s what we were doing.

Apparently David thinks Ted Cruz wasn’t listening particularly carefully in December 2015, and that Lamar Smith won’t be listening carefully to Prof. Mann today.