Telling Half the Story 100% of the Time

By now, I think most readers of this site have seen the asymmetry in reporting of changes in sea ice extent between the Arctic and the Antarctic.  On the exact same day in 2007 that seemingly every paper on the planet was reporting that Arctic sea ice extent was at an “all-time” low, it turns out that Antarctic sea ice extent was at an “all-time” high.  I put “all-time” in quotes because both were based on satellite measurements that began in 1979, so buy “all-time” newspapers meant not the 5 billion year history of earth or the 250,000 year history of man or the 5000 year history of civilization but instead the 28 year history of space measurement.  Oh, that “all time”.

It turns out there is a parallel story with land-based ice and snow.  First some background

As most folks know, melting sea ice has no effect on world ocean heights — only melting of ice on land affects sea levels.   This land-based ice is distributed approximately as follows:

Antarctica:  89%

Greenland: 10%

Glaciers around the world: 1%

I won’t go into glaciers, in part because their effect is small, but suffice it to say they are melting, but they have been observed melting and retreating for 200 years, which makes this phenomenon hard to square with Co2 buildups over the last 50 years.

I am also not going to talk much about Greenland.  The implication of late has been that Greenland ice is melting fast and such melting is somehow unprecedented, so that it must be due to modern man.  This is of course slightly hard to square with the historical fact of how Greenland got its name, and the fact that it was warmer a thousand years ago than it is today.

But I am sure you have heard panic and doom in innumerable articles about 11% of the world’s land ice.   But what about the other 89%.  Crickets?

This may be why you never hear anything:

From World Climate Report: Antarctic Ice Melt at Lowest Levels in Satellite Era

Where are the headlines? Where are the press releases? Where is all the attention?

The ice melt across during the Antarctic summer (October-January) of 2008-2009 was the lowest ever recorded in the satellite history.

Such was the finding reported last week by Marco Tedesco and Andrew Monaghan in the journal Geophysical Research Letters:

A 30-year minimum Antarctic snowmelt record occurred during austral summer 2008–2009 according to spaceborne microwave observations for 1980–2009. Strong positive phases of both the El-Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and the Southern Hemisphere Annular Mode (SAM) were recorded during the months leading up to and including the 2008–2009 melt season.


Figure 1. Standardized values of the Antarctic snow melt index (October-January) from 1980-2009 (adapted from Tedesco and Monaghan, 2009).

The silence surrounding this publication was deafening.

By the way, in case you think there may be some dueling methodologies here – ie that the scientists measuring melting in Greenland are professional real scientists while the guys doing the Antarctic work are somehow skeptic quacks, the lead author of this Antarctic study is the same guy who authored many of the Greenland melting studies that have made the press.  Same author.  Same methodology.  Same focus (on ice melting rates).  Same treatment in the press?   No way.  Publish the results only if they support the catastrophic view of global warming.

So — 11% of world’s land ice shrinking – Front page headlines.  89% of world’s land ice growing.  Silence.

UPDATE: Followup  here

  • LoneSnark

    It sounds like you are getting paranoid. Have you asked anyone at your local paper why they have not covered this? I’m sure plenty of theories exist, here is another one. Lots of people live in Greenland and near land glaciers. Similarly, lots of people visit as tourists. Not many either live near nor visit Antarctica. Journalists tend to write about what they know and experience, either through family connections or vacations. As such, Journalists should write about the ice in Greenland, whatever is happening to it, more often than they write about Antarctica, whatever is happening there.

  • AnonyMoose

    Lots of people live in Greenland… Similarly, lots of people visit as tourists.

    I disagree. I don’t think there are enough relatives of journalists randomly visiting Greenland to affect their awareness. I think many tourists to Greenland already have an awareness of the place, however skewed that awareness may be.

    On the official Greenland site: “The Giant Ice Sheet
    See what’s all the fuzz is about and learn more about climate change at first hand.”

    Indeed, the fuzz is all about.

  • Hunter

    “This is of course slightly hard to square with the historical fact of how Greenland got its name”

    Yes, it’s this choice slice of pathetic ignorance, yet again! The Norse actually wrote down the reason that they named Greenland. Clearly you don’t know what that reason was. You fail, again.

    “and the fact that it was warmer a thousand years ago than it is today.”

    Oh, that’s a “fact”, is it? You hold onto that thought, if you like. Maybe it makes you feel better, for some reason. You probably believe in Santa Claus and the tooth fairy as well. Up to you.

  • Alex 2

    Warren, you need to tighten up your ship here a little bit more. This is the second time in a few weeks that you’ve said flat-out incorrect things. Greenland got its name for being green? Come on man. I know you’re smarter than this. When you’re arguing against the consensus you need to be sure that you don’t leave any unimportant holes in your argument for them to attack.

  • Fred from Canuckistan . . .

    “and the fact that it was warmer a thousand years ago than it is today.”

    Yes, that is factual. There have been many periods in history where it is warmer than today.

    All this proves is that we haven’t found evidence of their Hummers yet. They had to have Hummers to produce all the CO2 that drives our climate.

    And just think, some people outside of the True Believers of the IPCC and Church of St. Al think that things like the Sun, cosmic rays, land use and orbital geometry actually influence our climate. Such frivolous thinking masquerading as science. Have they no shame living a life without hockey stick producing climate models ?

    A pox on all these deniers who think CO2 is plant fertilizer.

    Us smart folks know it is pollution

    The UN has told us so. And the UN would never lie to us, it exists only to make our lives better, to make sure everyone is happy and we all get to have a free Unicorn.

  • John M

    Re Etymology of Greenland:

    “The name Greenland comes from Scandinavian settlers. In the Icelandic sagas, it is said that Norwegian-born Erik the Red was exiled from Iceland for murder. He, along with his extended family and thralls, set out in ships to find the land that was rumoured to be to the northwest. After settling there, he named the land Grœnland (“Greenland”) in the hope that the pleasant name would attract settlers.[37][38] Greenland was also called Gruntland (“Ground-land”) and Engronelant (or Engroneland) on early maps. Whether green is an erroneous transcription of grunt (“ground”), which refers to shallow bays, or vice versa, is not known. The southern portion of Greenland (not covered by glacier) is indeed very green in the summer and was probably even greener in Erik’s time during the Medieval Warm Period. The theory currently held to be most likely is that the etymological origin of ‘Greenland’ is “Hronland”, which means “Land of the Whales” in ancient Norse. The waters around Greenland’s southern tip are indeed full of whales. The words ‘Hron’ and ‘Groen’ sound alike, and when transcribed into Latin characters it is highly possible that the Icelandic Saga was changed from the original.[citation needed]”

    So it seems the origin of the word “Greenland” is as settled and certain as the field of climate science itself.

  • Pidgeons crapping all over global warming morons – for me, it’s a nice, warm visual.

    Back to science, though. Bird’s crap provides evidence of Greenland’s Medieval Warming Period:

    C3H Editor,

  • Mark Fawcett


    It sounds like you are getting paranoid. Have you asked anyone at your local paper why they have not covered this? I’m sure plenty of theories exist, here is another one. Lots of people live in Greenland and near land glaciers. Similarly, lots of people visit as tourists. Not many either live near nor visit Antarctica. Journalists tend to write about what they know and experience, either through family connections or vacations. As such, Journalists should write about the ice in Greenland, whatever is happening to it, more often than they write about Antarctica, whatever is happening there.”

    …wipes coffee from monitor…

    Greenland has a population of ~58,000 which is tiny. Ok, it’s more than Antarctica but it’s still very, very small. How many of the journos who report on Arctic Ice “death spirals” do you really, really think have some connection with Greenland? About 0 I’d say.

    As another example, this time purely based on Antarctica (thus removing any possible Northern bias) – think back to the press coverage whenever an Antarctic ice-shelf “collapses” (i.e. a bit breaks off and floats away – just like they’ve always done) – global press coverage of doom-n-gloom.



  • ron

    Someone wrote that the norse wrote down why they called it Greenland, as some bit of advertising to entice people to settle there and isn’t it amazing how no one managed to ever get word back that the norse were lying once they got there. Or that the norse were lying about Greenland but telling the truth about lying. The norse also wrote about Odin, Loki, Freya, the Valkeryie, Thor. Do you all believe in that, too? Or do you only believe in the norse legend of lying about Greenland to attract colonists because it suits your political agenda?

  • LoneSnark – so, when journalists write about new planetary system being found it is because of what, them having relatives there?

  • commieBob

    Hunter: Are you calling Erik the Red a liar? Just because he gave Greenland a pleasant name doesn’t mean that it wasn’t actually green.

    Compared to some places in Europe, the history of Greenland is well known. Folks settled there and farmed and prospered as long as the climate was good. When the climate turned cold, they left. They suffered from climate change of the Global Cooling sort. The historical and archaeological record are pretty clear that Greenland was at least as warm when Erik was there as it is now.

    In addition, there is some evidence that the Vikings/Norse/Icelanders circumnavigated Greenland. That means the seas around Greenland were almost ice free.

  • hunter

    In pre-AGW history, the history of Greenland clearly stated the island got its name by Erik the Red as a way to make it sound attractive.
    My questions to our AGW true beleiver friends is this:
    1) Why the need to rewrite history?
    2) Why do you think it was called Greenland?
    3) Why is every point that does not fit the AGW narrative, no matter how factual, so heavily attacked?

  • hunter

    In pre-AGW hisstory, before cimate editing, Greenland got its name from the Erik the Red’s eforts to highlight the fertile and abundant farm lands.
    Of course it is likely that Erik over stated the case for ‘green’ in Greenland, just as climate hysterics over state climate dangers today.

  • Loco

    Hunter Oct8 2:19pm
    “Oh that’s a fact is it?”
    Was there a Medieval Warm Period? YES, according to data published by 740 individual scientists from 433 separate research institutions in 41 different countries … and counting!

  • Hunter should read Jared Diamond’s Collapse.

    Unless he doesn’t want Greenland facts clouding the issue.

  • Stonyground

    All this discussion about Greenland seems to be missing the point somewhat. That point being that the media appear to be deliberately misleading the public by only reporting stuff that supports belief in man made global warming and ignoring the stuff that does not. Those of you who post on this site criticising its position need to ask yourselves whether it is possible that your belief in global warming could be a result of this relentless barrage of one-sided information.

    Interestingly a commentator from the BBC has actually come out and said that it is a bit worrying that global warming doesn’t seem to be going quite to plan, admitting that global temperatures seem to have peaked more than ten years ago. After all, if we can’t keep the public on side it might be a bit difficult to justify fleecing them with more green taxes.

  • srla

    Just to clear up one bit of information. Actually it seems melted floating ice might actually raise sea levels to some extent, due to the difference in density of the fresh water in floating ice and salt water in the oceans. If all the floating ice were to melt, it would raise ocean levels about 4 cm, a significant increase, but hardly in line with the “worst case scenarios” floated about. More on the topic can be found here:

    Of course, if the Antarctic ice is actually growing, then perhaps that would compensate for the added water from floating ice. Anyhow just thought I’d mention that before some anthropomorphic climate change fundamentalist does.

  • Ted Rado

    All this talk about the press being biased misses the point. When I studied engineering many years ago, the poorer students took snap courses, such as journalism. Journalists I have known are almost completely devoid of the slightest understanding of scientific or engineering principles. For example, the TV shows a hydrogen powered bus emitting only water vapor, with appropriate idiotic commentary. No mention is made of the source of the H2 (which is from hydrocarbons or water electrolysis). Similarly, CO2 sequestering is made to look like a simple, winning concept.

    I am sure there are journalists who are not snap course dummies, but for the most part, anyone depending on the popular media for their scientific or engineering information is in deep doodoo.

    It is certainly reassuring to know that our technology and science-related laws are promulgated by people who have no pertinent background, and reported to the public by journalists who are equally unqualified. What a wonderful way to run an insane asylum.

  • DocBud

    srla: “it would raise ocean levels about 4 cm, a significant increase”

    How tall are you, srla?

  • Scott

    Lonesnark, tourism numbers for Greenland and Antarctica are virtually the same, 30k+ a year.

    As for whether it was warmer or not, there is lots of documentation pointing to the Vikings withdrawal from Nova Scotia b/c the weather deteriorated (read got colder) to such a level that they could no longer maintain their colonies in Greenland, which were crucial to the voyage.

  • An Inquirer

    Maybe it is the websites that I visit, but I notice a consistent trend in the AGW pessimist camp vs. the skeptics. I seldom see the latter denying history, science, or observations while former does it quite often.

  • Loco
  • TP100

    This is a little off point from this discussion, but I am hoping someone can provide some additional clarification re: info from, their rebuttal to the argument that the earth is currently cooling is that empirical measurements of the Earth’s heat content show the planet is still accumulating heat and global warming is still happening. Surface temperatures can show short term cooling when heat is exchanged between the atmosphere and the ocean, which has a much greater heat capacity than the air.

    The site goes on to say, among other things that the surface temperature is avery noisy signal, which to me implies that it is not a reliable source for measuring climate change.

    So, my question is, are there studies outside of what provides that confirms their empirical evidence?

  • hunter

    OHC is down world wide.
    It is interesting that the alarmist community, when confronted with temps going down, simply flip over to HC, which is what Pielke and other skeptics ahve been calling for some length of time. The alarmists apparently hope to add confusion, but simply following the facts still shows that the AGW predictions of apocalypse are simply wrong.

  • Charles

    Stonyground – I’m not convinced that there is a conspiracy among journalists (although prepared to believe that there are vested interests pushing the AGW story). More likely that “MOVE ALONG FOLKS, NOTHING TO SEE” does’t sell as many papers as “DISASTER! WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!”