On 27 August, the International Arctic Research Centre put out a press release headlined "Arctic Sea Ice Cracks Record Low, and More to Go".
This press release was picked up by Ben Cubby, the indefatigable environmental editor at the SMH. His story, "Arctic ice cap takes a heating, satellites show" How do we know he picked up this press release? Well, his article states:
The ice cap had contracted to just over four million square kilometres, about 77,000 square kilometres smaller than the previous record low in 2007, data from the International Arctic Research Centre and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency indicates.The only reason I knew about the IARC was because I Googled it after reading Ben's article - which was also published on 27 August 2012.
I would have thought that it was reasonably obvious that Ben's article was about sea ice. After all, he quotes Will Steffen as saying:
''Because as the ice melts it uncovers darker water beneath, which traps more heat - it creates feedback.Get that? It uncovers water beneath the ice - not land.
One fascinating point about the press release from the AIRC is that it mentions the WWF. Astute readers may know that the WWF owns 1/3 of Earth Hour, and that Fairfax owns another 1/3. A massive multinational globalised advertising conglomerate owns the last 1/3. It's odd that Ben fails to mention anywhere that this scare mongering about melting sea ice is being pushed by the WWF - a company that his employer has secretly partnered with. Well, it used to be a secret.
The ice loss is also attracting the attention of industrial interests such as oil and gas development and shipping. WWF is concerned that new developments in the region should take into account the ability of already stressed Arctic systems to absorb more change.
This summer, researchers and WWF staff are taking part in the "Sailing to Siku" expedition to the Last Ice Area between northern Greenland and Canada where the last summer sea ice is projected to remain longest. Scientists on the expedition are assessing climate-related changes to this little-studied, but increasingly important region. This in one of several WWF projects to encourage resilience to climate change in the Arctic. WWF is also working of projects to reduce global carbon emissions.When Ben used the press release, he largely managed to omit that it was about sea ice, and he made it about "Arctic ice" instead:
The Arctic sea ice extent has hit its lowest extent since satellite records began, according to data from the IARC-JAXA Information System and the U.S.-based National Snow and Ice Data Center. More melting this year is likely, as the lowest sea ice extent has typically been recorded near the end of September, a month away from now. The shrinking sea ice is one of the most visible early impacts of global climate change.In fact, "sea ice" is mentioned 11 times in the original press release from the AIRC.
"Record-breaking ice minimums are becoming the new normal", says Clive Tesar of WWF's Global Arctic Programme. "We're breaking records on a regular basis as the sea ice continues its decline. ......This summer, researchers and WWF staff are taking part in the "Sailing to Siku" expedition to the Last Ice Area between northern Greenland and Canada where the last summer sea ice is projected to remain longest.
Ben also mentions the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency in his article. Their press release mentions sea ice - wait for it - 20 times!
So I think I am on pretty safe ground when I state that this was all about sea ice - in the Arctic.
Now, to Greenland.
Yes, a lot of Greenland sits above the Arctic Circle. That is true. However, the ice sheet that covers that Greenland land mass is, funnily enough, not used when measuring Arctic sea ice. The picture below from the National Snow & Ice Data Centre makes it pretty clear what they are looking at when measuring sea ice, and the ice sheet covering Greenland ain't included in that white bit. Sure, there is sea ice along the eastern coast of Greenland that is measured; but they don't look for sea ice on land.
So, let's go back to Ben's article. It talks about Arctic ice and has a photo of Greenland - and presumably a photo of ice covering the land bit of Greenland, since it was used in articles elsewhere to illustrate the possibility of the Greenland ice sheet melting.
The source information from IARC and JAXA mention "sea ice" 31 times between them. Ben mentions it once, in the very last line of the article, and an inference to sea ice from Will Steffen:
The US National Snow and Ice Data Centre, which keeps separate satellite records of the extent of sea ice, is expected to publish further results over the next week to confirm record-breaking low.Next time, I'll be more attentive to detail. I'll remember to say "Arctic sea ice" rather than just "Arctic ice".
Anyway, I think we can say that the photo that was used to illustrate this story is a great photo; but it has little or no bearing on what the story is about.
I am now going to write a story about the picking of organic bananas in Queensland, and illustrate it with this picture:
Coffs Harbour is of course in NSW, not Queensland. But who cares about the geographic exactitude - right? (And that's not a real banana by the way).