Santa’s Secret Summer Swim

This weekend the Mail on Sunday admitted that the headline numbers in David Rose’s  “And now it’s global COOLING!” article published on September 8th were inflated by a factor of approximately two. This is how they explained that discrepancy to their faithful readers:

Scan of the bottom of page 31 in the September 29th 2013 edition of the Mail on Sunday
The bottom of page 31 in the September 29th 2013 edition of the Mail on Sunday

Can you spot the MILLION square km blunder by the Mail on Sunday? For the benefit of the scientifically illiterate amongst you I’ll explain, as I did yesterday in an email to the Mail on Sunday’s Managing Editor:

It appears that whoever writes your headlines is unaware of the difference between “A MILLION km” and “a million square km”. The former is a distance, and hence has no area. The latter IS an area.


As you can clearly see, the Mail reported yesterday that:

On September 4, NSIDC, based at the University of Colorado, stated on its website that in August 2013 the Arctic ice cover recovered by a record 2.38 million sq km – 919,000 sq miles – from its 2012 low.

News of this figure was widely reported – including by MailOnline – on September 8.


The headline of the report published on the NSIDC website on September 4th reads as follows:

A real hole near the pole

The related text reads as follows:

A large hole (roughly 150 square kilometers or 58 square miles) of near-zero ice concentration appears to have opened up at about 87 degrees North latitude. Small areas of open water are common within the ice pack, even at the North Pole, as the ice pack shifts in response to winds and currents, resulting in cracks (called leads) in the ice. The current opening seen in our satellite imagery is much larger.

and the relevant area of the accompanying satellite imagery looks like this:

University of Bremen colour visualisation of Arctic sea ice concentration for September 2nd 2013
University of Bremen AMSR2 colour visualisation of Arctic sea ice concentration for September 2nd 2013


Since the Mail’s intrepid reporter evidently read those words and looked at that picture, why on Earth do you suppose that the Mail on Sunday printed these words four days later?

Days before the annual autumn re-freeze is due to begin, an unbroken ice sheet more than half the size of Europe already stretches from the Canadian islands to Russia’s northern shores.

Even more to the point, why on Earth do you suppose that the Mail on Sunday left those words unaltered following their September 28th edit of the online version of that article?


Here’s our latest video update on the 2013 Arctic sea ice refreeze. The “Polar Polynya” is prominent by its presence, as is the broad band of open water between the “broken ice sheet” and “Russia’s northern shores”:

3 thoughts on “Santa’s Secret Summer Swim

  1. I raised the issues mentioned above with the Mail’s Managing Editor by email last weekend. Having not received a reply I telephoned him. He informed me my emails hadn’t reached the top of his “to do list” yet, because one of his reporters had suffered a terrible lapse of judgement and absent-mindedly wandered into a private memorial service.

  2. Just noticed, wouldn’t that hole have to have been bigger than 150km 2 since thats only 10 by 15km and its clearly about 100 by 150 km so more like 15000 km 2 ??

    1. Welcome Tom,

      It depends on exactly when you choose to look at the 2013 “Polar Polynya”, and exactly how you choose to define “near-zero ice concentration”. The ice was moving around a lot at the time, and the “industry standard” delineation of the ice edge is 15% concentration, which isn’t exactly “near zero”.

      Here’s another picture we took earlier. What do you reckon?

      NASA Worldview “true-color” image of the North Pole area on September 2nd 2013

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