What Arctic Warming?

Not by Fire but by Ice



 Updated 17 October 2005      


What Arctic Warming? 

October 13, 2005 - By Steven Milloy

Don’t let the Times’ Oct. 10 report on the economic upside of Arctic melting confuse you -- there still isn’t any evidence that human activity is melting the polar regions.

If you look at the temperature trends for the Arctic region since 1880, it appears that the Arctic generally warmed somewhat until about 1938. From 1938 until about 1966, the Arctic cooled to about its 1918 temperature level. Then, between 1966 and 2003, the Arctic warmed up to just shy of its 1938 temperature. But in 2004, the Arctic temperature again spiked downward.

Now if the 1880-1938 warming trend had continued up until this day, there certainly would be some significant warming in the Arctic region to talk about. From 1918 to 1938, alone, the Arctic warmed by 2.5 degrees Centigrade. But the actual temperature trend is much different, showing that there’s been hardly any overall temperature change in the Arctic since 1938.

Not only does the temperature data contradict the claim that global warming is overtaking the Arctic , but data on greenhouse gas concentrations ought to drive a spike through the heart of the claim.

During the warming period from 1880 to 1938, it’s estimated that the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide – the bugbear of greenhouse gases to global warming worriers – increased by an estimated 20 parts per million. But from 1938 to 2003 – a period of essentially no increase in Arctic warming – the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide increased another 60 parts per million. It doesn’t seem plausible, then, that Arctic temperatures are significantly influenced by atmospheric levels of greenhouse gases.

Global warming worriers can take no comfort from South Pole data either.

Over the last 30 years, atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide increased by about 15 percent, from about 328 parts per million to about 372 parts per million. But the Antarctic temperature trend for that period indicates a slight cooling. This observation contrasts sharply with the relatively steep Antarctic warming observed from 1949 to 1974, which was accompanied by a much more modest increase in greenhouse gas concentrations.

The hypothesis of global warming alarmism posits that increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide should lead to increasing temperatures, particularly with respect to Antarctica ’s super-cold, super-dry air mass. But the data seem to indicate just the opposite.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and CSRwatch.com, is adjunct scholar at the Cato Institute, and is the author of Junk Science Judo: Self-defense Against Health Scares and Scams.

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