The only thing we can be sure of about the future is that it will be absolutely fantastic. So if what I say now seems to you to be very reasonable, then I have failed completely. Only if what I tell you appears absolutely unbelievable, have we any chance of visualizing the future as it really will happen.

- Arthur C. Clarke (h/t Brin)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

WSJ Over the Top Again

The Wall Street Journal has never been a reliable source on climate news, but usually they are among the Polyannas and not the Chicken Littles; the latter group being the ones who make things appear even worse than they actually are.

Here is the WSJ saying:
Images from NASA satellites, stitched together by scientists at the University of Bremen, show that both the Northwest Passage around Canada and Northeast Passage around Russia are simultaneously free of ice for the first time in at least 125,000 years, making it theoretically possible to circumnavigate the North Pole in a ship.
Now how on earth could the "first time in 125,000 years" statement possibly be justified? Sure, it's likely enough to be true, but this statement definitely deserves a weasel word or two. Perhaps the passages were open during the optimum at 6 KA? Is there any reason to assert they weren't? Joe Romm has a similar story, but has the sincerity to put a "most likely" in there, which might well be within bounds; I for one can't say. Romm references The Herald, which has no such qualifier.

It's odd to see the WSJ out-panicking Climate Progress to say the least.

Is there a substantive basis for this strong assertion?

Update: Some of the expected bickering seems to be happening over at Tamino's.

6 comments:

Penguindreams said...

The two passages being open at the same time ... that's a hard one to figure where anyone would have gotten meaningful data regarding. As an educated guess, I'd say it's likely to have happened during the peak warm period ca. 6 kya.

What is likely true, and testable by examining sea floor sediments (plankton shells), is that the Arctic hasn't been seasonally ice free since the previous interglacial, 100-125 kya.

digress: your link to my blog is broken. It's got http://ttp/.

Michael Tobis said...

Thanks, Bob. Link to "Grumbine" is fixed. Best regards and welcome back to the zoo.

bi -- International Journal of Inactivism said...

The weaseling is already done by the phrasing "Images [...] show that [...]". Any acts of Chicken Little are entirely the fault of the images, not of the WSJ.

And the WSJ hastens to remind us that even if even if even if the Arctic ice is indeed melting away -- which, of course, is only what the images say -- the melting may not be so bad after all, and of course, even if even if even if it's bad, it'll only affect polar bears and Kivalina Inuits, who don't matter anyway, because...

"The melting of the Arctic ice caps - which reach their peak in March and begin retreating thereafter - is a potential boon for European and U.S. shipping companies looking to cut their journey times."

Wheee!

EliRabett said...

Eli pointed this out a week ago. It was not very surprising given that last year the only thing between the Northeast Passage (PS: I think I originated this, but there is another, more proper name which I forget).

However, the more interesting thing, which the Bunny was also the first to notice, see link above, is how close we are to having a thin ice free passage along Greenland's northern coast.

David B. Benson said...

Some posit that the unusual melt is (partially) due to black carbon, i.e., "soot".

The peak temperature in central Greenland, from GISP2, was reached around 7820 ybp.

Penguindreams said...

Thanks Michael. A zoo indeed. Makes one long for the days of tilting with John McCarthy. In the mean time, I'm also starting to do serious writing again. Should be things appearing next year.