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The Northwest Passage Opens:

From the NYT:

Leading ice specialists in Europe and the United States for the first time have agreed that a ring of navigable waters has opened all around the fringes of the cap of sea ice drifting on the warming Arctic Ocean.

By many expert accounts, this is the first time the Northwest Passage over North America and the Northern Sea Route over Europe and Asia have been open simultaneously in at least half a century, if not longer.

While currents and winds play a role, experts say, the expanding open water in the far north provides the latest evidence that the Arctic Ocean, long a frozen region hostile to all but nuclear submariners and seal hunters, is transforming during the summers into more of an open ocean.

ed (mail) (www):
Hmmmm.

*Yawn*

Call me when you can actually sail a non-icebreaker civilian ship along this "passage".
9.7.2008 11:17am
Barbara Skolaut (mail):
In half a century, they say? If that's the case, then half a century ago (i.e., 1958), it must have been a global-warming warm as it is now, so according to current predictions, in another half-century we should be as warm as we are now. (Equally, in another 15-20 years or so, we'll be seeing articles in Time the MSM - assuming they're still around - threatening a new "coming ice age."

What was that "global warming" problem again?
9.7.2008 11:45am
johnw:
The key here is that all the measurements of net change in sea ice have, I believe, been based on year 1979, which is the first year that quantitative measurements were taken. The mid to late 1970's may also have been some of the coolest in that century, and was a period in which many of the popular news magazines were reporting predictions of a coming ice age. Thus, that year may have had arctic sea ice extents much greater than preceding or subsequent decades.

The biggest problem is we don't have a long term record of arctic sea ice area or volume prior to that time; our long term records are anecdotal.
9.7.2008 12:22pm
Angus:
Read a little more closely.

simultaneously in at least half a century, if not longer.

Last month, news reports said that satellites showed navigable waters through both fabled Arctic shipping routes.
In other words, it has only been in the satellite era that we've been able to continuously monitor that passage.
9.7.2008 12:24pm
Norman Bates (mail):
Shouldn't the headline be
NORTHWEST PASSAGE REOPENS!
9.7.2008 12:24pm
johnw:
While currents and winds play a role, experts say, the expanding open water in the far north provides the latest evidence that....

Dang, I am mightily impressed with one of the commas in that sentence.
9.7.2008 12:37pm
pmorem (mail):
Satellites show, yes...
In theory, it's open.
Ground reality is a bit different.
9.7.2008 12:38pm
johnw:
Thanks for the link pmoren. Funny article, and comments.
9.7.2008 12:42pm
Gabriel Malor (mail):
Let's also keep in mind that "experts" predicted that Arctic sea ice would disappear from the North Pole this year. Fortunately, reality did not oblige their fantasies.
9.7.2008 1:09pm
JB:
Pmorem,
That's why it's a passage and not an ocean. The "passage" is one shipping lane devoid of ice, and since these kayakers are heading to the North Pole they're not going along that path.
9.7.2008 1:16pm
JB:
Gabriel Malor,
Experts also predicted we'd have won the Iraq War already. Does the fact that we've made progress but aren't done yet mean that those experts are discredited and we should listen to their adversaries who say we've lost?
9.7.2008 1:18pm
Malvolio:
Experts also predicted we'd have won the Iraq War already.
Do the climate experts make actual testable predictions? Saying the average global temperature will be 1°C warmer in 2100 is not a testable prediction. Even if we were willing to wait 102 years, there would still be arguments about what it means to be "average" or "global".

If you want me (or I would think, anyone of ordinary caution) to believe anything about climate change, the experts are going to have be able to make routine, accurate weather predictions, e.g.:
• Will the temperature go down to 0°C this New Year's Eve in San Diego?
• How many hurricanes will there be 2009?
• How many days will reach about 40°C in New York next summer?

Until these kind of questions can be answered correctly 9 times out of ten, I'm not even listening to fantasies about "the average global temperature in 2100".
9.7.2008 1:52pm
matt b (mail):
how many times is somebody going to prove something about global warming, only for it diminish the very same argument? wow, somebody did a study.
9.7.2008 2:00pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
It being Sunday, music day at the VC, let me recommend to those who are not familiar with it (meaning most non-Canadians), Stan Rogers' classic song Northwest Passage.
9.7.2008 2:17pm
Curt Fischer:

If that's the case, then half a century ago (i.e., 1958), it must have been a global-warming warm as it is now, so according to current predictions, in another half-century we should be as warm as we are now.


Great logic there! Because there are no random year-to-year fluctuations in climate. Instead we have long, hundred-year-plus monotonic, noise-free trends in global temperatures, rainfall patterns, and cloud cover. I don't know why anyone ever debates climate change when all they have to do is check the noise-free and unambiguous trend you've identified.

Anyway, this thread is another example of why anyone looking for reliable and informative commentary and analysis of climate change should not trust the uninformed commenters here. And I say that as someone who is fairly skeptical of many claims for AGW. The general pattern in the comments here, though, is that AGW "believers" overstate their case with shoddy data, and then AGW "deniers" debunk them, but then unfortunately pile on ridiculous claims about how CO2 is "plant food" and has never been correlated with global temperature*. It makes my brain hurt.

A place I like for reliable information is the blog Prometheus.

* Smokey, can you post a link to one of your charts? That way everyone could see what I mean.
9.7.2008 2:27pm
Cornellian (mail):
You mean it's open subject to Canadian sovereignty claims.

And speaking of Canada, doesn't it seem like a bit of global warming isn't exactly all downside for them?
9.7.2008 2:39pm
Harry Eagar (mail):
Curt, in 1828, a SAILING SHIP made it nearly through the Northwest Passage from the east. Might have been able to do it all if it had been faster but it was a SAILING SHIP and had to turn back in order to SAIL home before winter.

If lack of ice is a sign of warming, we've been cooling ever since.
9.7.2008 3:02pm
Curt Fischer:
Harry Eagar:

Can you teach me how you do all these statistics when n = 1? It would make my life alot easier.
9.7.2008 3:16pm
Clint:
Didn't they report the same thing a few months ago?

And didn't a ship then get stuck in the nonexistent ice?
9.7.2008 6:54pm
Hey Skipper (mail) (www):
Since the Anchorage Daily News apparently has an editorial policy to print at least one AGW story per day, this prominent among them, I decided to see what, if anything, was behind it.

Not much, as it turns out.

The University of Alaska, Fairbanks, determined a statistically valid temperature series for the Arctic. It goes back 133 years. There has been some warming in the Arctic over that period, nearly all of it in the 19th century. In the twentieth century, the warmest years were in 1930s and 40s.

So, it strikes me as singularly odd that not one story of how global warming is about to create an ice free Arctic Ocean don't include the most obvious thing of all: actual temperatures.
9.7.2008 7:50pm
Bill McGonigle (www):
@JB: No, we should listen to historians, who told us at the beginning these things take 7-8 years.
9.7.2008 8:57pm
CLS (mail):
I have read numberous stories, going back several years, all claiming the Passage "opened" for "the first time". The BBC made that claim last year forgetting they had said the same thing a few years earlier on their web site. In fact non-ice breaking ships have gone through the passage on numerous occassions, the first time over a century ago. See this for more information.
9.8.2008 6:47am