Arctic Cooling Has Begun

What follows is the first guest post on Talking About The Weather. I chose Peter Taylor‘s short essay on the Arctic out of respect for Peter’s research, his calm during intense debates, and the focus he brings to the issues. As Peter makes clear, those “banking” on rapid Arctic sea ice deterioration in the decades ahead seem to know very little about climate cycles. — Harold

I hope to be around in 2020, when some have suggested those of us on the sceptics’ side should have been vindicated, but I think we will prevail much sooner. The Arctic heat-wave of 1920-1940 is of course well-known to real Arctic climate scientists. I reviewed 32 temperature data sets for Arctic stations to 2004 some with very long records. In 2006 I could find only one with higher temperatures in 2004 than in the late 1930s or early 1940s – that was on the eastern

Fear-mongering regarding Arctic sea ice is the most acute of all that brought forward by global warming doomsayers. Image courtesy of the USGS.

Fear-mongering regarding Arctic sea ice is the most acute of all that brought forward by global warming doomsayers. Image courtesy of the USGS.

coast of Greenland. Since then I have reviewed dozens of papers on surface air temperature, sea surface temperatures, ice-mass, glacier speeds and sea-ice, and all show a clear cyclic pattern of roughly 70 years. Some Greenland and Alaskan temperatures peaked in 2006-2008, but the pattern looks set to repeat.


The latest Arctic heat wave is not identical to the last – firstly it is higher, by maybe 20% in some places, and secondly, the hot-spots are different. But one thing is clear – it is driven by two distinctive factors – a 14% increase in clouds over the North Pole and Beaufort Sea between 1980-2000, and the incursion of warm Atlantic water under the ice and into the Beaufort Gyre. The rapid summer ice loss is due to melting from above (infra red from the clouds) and below (warm Atlantic water).

The strength of the Beaufort Gyre determines how far Atlantic water penetrates the Arctic – when the Pacific Decadal Oscillation is warm and Alaskan Shelf winds are low, the gyre weakens and may reverse flow; when cold (as it has been since late 2006), the Alaskan interior cools, the winds strengthen and the gyre strengthens accordingly – there is a lag of a few years.

Thus, this domino effect from the Pacific will eventually reach the area between Greenland and Norway and summer sea-ice ought to return to the long-term norm (unless there really is a strong greenhouse element – which I can’t see it greater than the difference between this warm period and the last – ie about 20%) and unless there is an even steeper decline in global temperatures due to the quiet sun effect.

On the latter – there is a body of evidence that during quiet solar periods, the jetstream is shifted along with Arctic pressure systems that lead to blocking high pressure over Iceland – sending the jetstream further south and cooling western Europe. The eastern seaboard of the USA gets a little warmer, but the mid-West suffers late springs, dry summers, and bitter winters – not good for the breadbasket of the world!

We should get to see this play out over the next five years.


About Harold Ambler

I am a lifelong environmentalist. I started my journalism career at The New Yorker, where I worked as a copy editor. Since then, my own work has appeared in The New York Daily News, The National Review Online, The Atlantic Wire, The Huffington Post, The Berkeley Daily Planet, The Providence Journal, Brown Alumni Monthly, The Narragansett Times, Rhode Island Monthly, and Providence Business News.
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7 Responses to Arctic Cooling Has Begun

  1. ab says:

    Subject: Reference to the Arctic heat-wave 1920-1940 in “Arctic Cooling Has Begun”:

    YES: The Arctic heat-wave of 1920-1940 is of course well-known to real Arctic climate scientists. But all recent papers (e.g. Polyakov, Bengtsson, Johannessen, Overland, etc) relate the early warming in the 1920s partly or primarily to:
    · natural variability in the weather system;
    · atmospheric variability or “climate noise”;
    · natural fluctuations internal to the climate system;
    · considerable internal variations;
    · feedbacks internal to the climate system.
    These references explain nothing.
    See :,
    which says in the Chapter 6 Summary:
    “The question was, whether modern science is able to provide reasonable explanations on the reasons for the Arctic warming. This is definitely not the case for the warming that occurred 90 years ago. The assessments and conclusions remain superficial and hypothetic. The current arctic warming can presumably only reasonably be understood and explained by a thorough understanding of the warm and cold periods of the last century. It surprises that the sudden warming of the Arctic, although widely acknowledged, has never been seen as the presumably best study field, under the most promising circumstances, to reach evident results. Instead the matter is side stepped and made scientifically irrelevant by claiming that there is nothing to investigate due to the fact that it happed as a natural fluctuation. The next chapter shall show that this is not a sustainable approach, but that it is possible to prove that the causation can be named.”
    CHAPTER 7: Where did the early Arctic Warming originate?
    CHAPTER 8: Cause Naval War the Arctic Warming?
    CHAPTER 9: Conclusion (here the first paragraph of the one page conclusion):
    “To many climate scientists the Arctic warming remains “one of the most puzzling climate anomalies of the 20th century” (Bengtsson, 2004). Yet, the phenomenon discussed here is not as puzzling as claimed. This investigation could establish that only the seas in the realm of Spitsbergen could have generated the sudden increase of the observed air-temperatures, and indicate the precise time period, namely the winter of 1918/19. This timing stands in extremely close relation with the naval war activities in Europe.”

    • climatesight says:

      Have you seen my blog? It has to do with climate change in the context of bigger ideas such as credibility, risk management, and responsible journalism.

      You can probably just click on my name and it’ll take you there.


  2. Julius says:

    On a different time scale. Looking at the Vostok and EPICA ice cores, it seems as if the temperature normally falls about 5 C in the ten housand years following an interglacial maximum. Since the most recent maximum temperatures have only fallen by 1 C.

    See and select “ice cores”.

  3. Thomas Wiita says:

    I find Taylor’s article incomprehensible and self-contradictory. I wish it wasn’t so. He says he “reviewed 32 data sets” and he “could only find one with higher temperatures in 2004 than in the late 1930’s or early 1940’s”. Then he says the “latest Arctic heat wave is higher.. maybe by 20% in some places”.

    Well, which is it? Did he review data showing only one higher temperature in 2004, or did he review data showing temperatures 20% higher “in some places?” I don’t see how both statements can be true.

    • Harold Ambler says:

      Taylor responds:

      Yes, I see, it was not clear that by ‘the latest heat wave’ I meant that which extends beyond most of the data sets I looked at that ended around 2004, many ending in 2002, or even late 90s. Of those data sets, only one showed higher in 2004 than in the 1940s. But there was a late surge in Arctic temperatures between 2005 and 2008, and it is this late surge – or at least the combined sets of station data for the whole Arctic, that shows 20% higher than the other peaks. I was not able to get the updates for the station data and see whether this late part of the cycle – the peak, was seen right across the Arctic, or was more pronounced in certain regions. In 2008-2009 the surface air temperatures temperatures started to fall, as expected from reduced sea temperatures.

  4. Sean says:

    I liked the article. but what do those percents mean.

    “The latest Arctic heat wave is not identical to the last – firstly it is higher, by maybe 20% in some places”.

    Percents is/are a ratio, and you need to know what two things. Are you saying the number of degrees F is now 80% of the degrees in another period. If you do the calculation in C, or K, it will not be the same.

    Less troublesome, but still problematic is the 14% increase in cloud. What is the base period used for 100%, mean cover the 70 year cycle.

    AB, a similar remark apples to the url you supplied. We do not put angles on graphes when the units in each direction are different. The 40° angle changes depending on how you scale the time and temp axis.

  5. Mike says:

    Sean, the use of angles on is valid beause it is a comparison of the slope of the trend lines of the two indicated periods.

    You are correct about using percentages of temperature because their zero values are all different and thus percentages are not equivalent. However, Peter is applying percentage to melting ice not temperature – one ice cube melted 20% more than the other.. etc.

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