Arctic sea ice *is* melting fast

by Stephanie Chasteen on September 1, 2008

There have been several posts around the blogosphere of late regarding a report from journalist Steven Goddard that the arctic sea ice isn’t melting as quickly as we thought. In particular he was calling into question the validity of the data reported from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado — I’ve included that graph below.

However, his analysis was not well-founded, and he’s since admitted his mistake. The Island of Doubt has posted a nice summary of what was wrong with his arguments. They write:

Goddard’s article is rife with scientific errors and evidence of his lack of familiarity with the science. His main argument, that the ice area up there is 30% larger than last year, not just 10%, is the product of the fact that Goddard based his story on his own analysis of images from the NSIDC and other sources. That analysis… consisted entirely of counting white pixels…. It turns out that Goddard got confused because he didn’t take into account map-projection distortion differences between competing images.

Once that little problem is dispensed with, it turns out that there is no discrepancy, the arctic is melting faster than normal, and may yet break last year’s record. Or not. Even if Goddard had been right, though, that says nothing about long-term trends. The point is, as Goddard proved, if you’re going to argue that an entire field of scientists got it wrong, you really should know something about the subject.

To Goddard’s credit, though, he admitted his mistake.

Sadly, the story has already started to make its way around the internet. So, just like myths like polar bear fur being a fiber optic (it’s not), or cats which grow wings (they don’t) it may be hard to get this one to go away. Why is it so much easier to spread rumors that something false is true than to fix the problem by telling people that something they think is true is actually false?  It’s made worse by the fact that some folks want to have fodder to fuel denialist claims, so they don’t have a lot of reason to correct erroneous information.

Deltoid also blogs about Goddard’s article here.


David Gerard September 4, 2008 at 10:47 pm

Just think of the future of arctic tourism! Nome Tropicana, drinks are free!

(oh ghod, we’re all fried)

Ben September 4, 2008 at 11:20 pm

I saw that referred to gleefully a lot a couple weeks ago. Reminds me of a thing I saw once on a blog “proving” that the US was building a big secret pipeline to steal oil out of Iraq. They posted a satellite photo showing this big string of lights running through what was apparently the middle of desert. The problem was that the overlaid outline of the political boundaries was shifted by several hundred miles, and if you used the light clusters of the major cities as reference points instead, it was obviously the main highway from Kuwait. People just can’t read maps.

Monica February 20, 2013 at 3:47 am

Love your blog! I searched a few years ago for an explanation for blood looking blue (I have even heard doctors perpetrating the oxygenated/not myth!) and it took me a while…that one is one everyone wants to believe.

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