There are a lot of stories doing the rounds at the moment about the demise of Arctic sea ice in the summer. These predictions come along on a fairly regularly basis – someone, somewhere, hears about how sea ice extent is declining and decides its his time for 15 minutes of fame. Of course they have the (lock down) time to do it and access to a supercomputer that doesn’t do a lot, in this case it’s the one the Met Office have down in Exeter. They also find a fancy climate model – you know the one, it’s based on the model the UKMO use so successfully use to run their seasonal forecasts with – and then they run it year after year until bingo ! Arctic summer sea ice is no more in 2035. They then publish it in one of those fancy scientific papers that cost you $8.99 to read, at the same time leaking a few titbits about the research with a catchy headline on Twitter, I come along, read it and the rest is history as they say. Of course the same kind of research has been done countless times before over the years by expert scientists.
We’ve heard it all before
Here’s a snippet announcing a piece of similar research done in 2009 which rather unwisely predicted the total demise of Arctic summer sea ice by 2015.
A simpler approach
My approach to finding when Arctic summer sea ice would disappear is very much simpler. Download the sea ice extent data from NSIDC and write a program to parse the data and generate a few graphs. Construct a linear trend from 1979-2020, and then extrapolate it forwards until the line crosses the Y axis at zero – answer 2070. If memory serves the answer was 2070 when I wrote the application in 2012 and surprisingly still is. To do that I didn’t need to collaborate with Maria-Vittoria Guarino, Louise C. Sime, David Schröeder, Irene Malmierca-Vallet, Erica Rosenblum, Mark Ringer, Jeff Ridley, Danny Feltham, Cecilia Bitz, Eric J. Steig, Eric Wolff, Julienne Stroeve or Alistair Sellar. I had no need of a fancy climate model or a supercomputer, I just needed a desktop PC running Windows 10 and a Delphi application.
So all that remains is to come back in fifteen years to see how respective predictions are doing – will it be 2035 or 2070?