Not surprisingly, the National Ice Centre released news this past weekend that prompted the flurry of media hype immediately after. It was something that this Ice Navigator has already noted in his daily briefings onboard, that the Arctic ice reached its annual minimum on Friday the 13th, a week ago. But still, in our area of operation the ice has remained resolutely further south than in previous years, making original plans for passage and research unachievable.

2013 is being rated as the “6th lowest” on record in what has become the standard media alarmist manner the last few years. The alarmist reports scream of continued evidence of global warming with this new “record low”, but fail to mention or do so extremely briefly, that the ice cover over this past navigational season has been greater than previous years, a fact we all to well have experienced on this ship, unable to occupy science stations that had been clear of ice in previous years. Only the most balanced media reports have said that the label of 6th lowest on record is a relative term. It is based on comparing relatively recent data available since satellite measurements have been available that provide a more broad view of the polar ice pack. The measurable satellite date has really only been available over the past 10-15 years. Data previous to that is a collection of isolated observations, in some forms anecdotal at best.

Looking at very large numbers with three or fours numbers after decimal points, it is not difficult to take this “science” as truth and take everything said after quoting the number as just as accurate. They can calculate the total ice lost in hundreds of decimals, that MUST be accurate. It may be precise, but relative to what? What value is there comparing one precise or accurate number or series of numbers to others that have far less accuracy, that are say guesses at what over all ice coverage was thirty, forty or fifty years ago? In the 19th century experienced Ice Masters worked on the premise that Arctic ice seemed to run in cycles, in their anecdotal evidence roughly 50 and 11 year cycles. These estimated cycles between good and bad years had stood the test of time. In the mid 19th century the infamous Franklin Expedition came to grief in a year that was part of the “bad year” peak while a just a few decades before Parry made a furthest west into McClure Strait in a peak of “good Ice”years. In the media hype around the latest series of low ice years the overall variability of ice conditions is most often ignored or played down. There is no doubt that we have been experiencing an gradual and measurable reduction in overall ice cover that is most likely attributable to global climate change. But we must not forget that within that change there still exists cycles where the amount of sea ice waxes and wanes and its location changes back and forth.

The point to this post is to simply say, it isnt all down hill up here. Every year does not see another drastic reduction in ice coverage.

Capt David (Duke) Snider
Ice Navigator
RV Mirai