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05 Oct 2023, 01:29 HRS IST
  • PTI
June 16, 2022

PTI Fact Check:Long term trends show Arctic ice not ‘making a comeback’, say climate scientists

Three adult polar bears walk in Southeast Greenland in April 2015 over sea ice. Two-thirds of the Greenland lies within the Arctic Circle: For representational purpose (AP Photo)

 New Delhi, Jun 16 (PTI) A report in a news site claiming that Arctic sea ice is increasing and suggesting climate change is therefore not a reality is misleading, say scientists, stressing that climate trends can be estimated using long-term data and not single-year reports.

The report in The Daily Sceptic, based on official data from the European Union's Earth observation programme Copernicus, was widely circulated on social media platforms, including on Facebook and Twitter, where the post received over 4,300 likes and over 2,000 retweets.
“Whisper it quietly, but Arctic ice is making a comeback. The coverage is now very close to the 1991-2020 average, well above a 2012 low point and higher than 2020. No sign of an alarmist catastrophe here," the article states.
This para was tweeted and went viral recently, prompting discussion in several quarters.
“The [Arctic sea ice] coverage is now very close to the 1991-2020 average, well above a 2012 low point and higher than 2020. According to the latest report from Copernicus, the EU’s Earth observation programme, the 2021 March sea ice extent was just 3% below the 30-year average. March is the annual maximum extent of sea ice in the Arctic,” the article concludes from the data.
Climate scientists PTI spoke to were in agreement that the Copernicus data looks fine but emphasised that the conclusion drawn by the website is misleading.
According to Roxy Mathew Koll from Pune’s Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, the article is based on a single-year report (2021) while climate change trends are estimated using long-term data spanning 20–50 years or more.
“We do not make conclusive remarks on trends using the data from a single year or a handful of years. This is because variables like temperature, sea-ice, weather events, etc. show year-to-year and decade-to-decade variability,” Koll told PTI.
“The study that the article refers to is a report of the 2021 Arctic sea ice. The information provided in the study is reliable. The conclusions by the DS article are not reliable,” he added.
Saudi Arabia-based climate expert Mansour Almazroui agreed.
He added that the report from Copernicus referred to in the article is not a peer-reviewed study, and the analysis is not drawn at climate time scale.
“It is important to note that climate time scales are considered for a time-period of 20-30 years. There are different modes of variability in our Earth system which may cause changes on a year to year basis,” Almazroui, director, Center of Excellence for Climate Change Research Head, Department of Meteorology, at Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz University, told PTI in an email interview.
“A small increase in Arctic sea ice doesn't refute the findings of state-of-the-art science. However, the conclusion which is drawn in the blog, should have been drawn at climate time scale,” he explained.
Almazroui noted that the same Copernicus report mentions that at its annual minimum in September, the monthly sea ice extent in the Arctic, was 8 per cent below average, and the 12th lowest value in the satellite data record.
“Claiming a 12th lowest value in 1979-2021 period as a ‘comeback’ is nothing but fake news,” he added.
Such misleading information gives the impression that global warming is not real, but there is enough evidence to prove the effects of warming, the scientists said.
“We have sufficient evidence that the Arctic ice and glaciers are melting, oceans are rapidly warming, and that extreme weather events are intensifying in response to increased carbon emissions and global warming,” Koll said.
“Scientists should not be bothered frequently about proving that climate change is happening. Misleading articles like these are a distraction from working towards climate solutions,” he said.
Almazroui said such articles won’t have any impact on policy making but they do lead to confusion in the minds of a few.
“Under the ambit of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), scientists and policy makers have been working for the last three decades to address the problem of climate change,” he said.
According to the Daily Sceptic article, “So far as climate catastrophism is concerned, the Arctic is the gift that keeps on giving.” 
Responding to the article in the comments section, a reader said: “Love these posts Chris! Thanks to you and the DS (Daily Sceptic) for supplying them. Facts to fight off the fairy-tales are very useful.” 
In their overview of 2021 sea ice, the Copernicus authors said: “During the first five months of 2021, the daily Arctic sea ice extent remained below average but generally above all-time minima; a pattern similar to that seen in 2020 … At its annual maximum in March, the monthly average sea ice extent ranked eighth lowest for March in the 1979-2021 satellite data record, at 3 per cent below the average for the 1991–2020 reference period.” 
The claim in an article that Arctic ice is making a comeback and therefore suggesting that climate change is not a reality is ‘misleading’.

Claim: Arctic sea ice is making a ‘comeback’, a suggestion therefore that climate change is not a reality.

Fact: The claim is based on a single year report but climate change trends are estimated using long-term data spanning 20–50 years or more.

Conclusion: Data from Copernicus, the EU’s Earth observation programme, is fine but the conclusion is misleading.

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