The Arctic and the talking about the “Apocalypse Now”

Extract from Chapter 1 at: and Comment

By on 2nd June 2009

 The claim that the summer of 2007 was apocalyptic for the Arctic sea ice has recently gone around the globe, because the coverage and thickness of the sea ice in the Arctic has been declining steadily over the past few decades[1]. For many scientists this situation appears to be related to global warming (Brönnimann, 2008). 

On the 2nd of November 1922, The Washington Post published the following story: Arctic Ocean Getting Warm; Seals Vanish and Icebergs Melt”. The corresponding report in the Monthly Weather Review of November 1922 had also stated that the ice conditions in the Northern North Atlantic were exceptional; in fact, so little ice has never before been noted. Only 16 year later the meteorologist C.E.P. Books thought it necessary to explain the situation more complex:

In recent years attention is being directed more and more towards a problem which may possibly prove of great significance in human affairs, the rise of temperature in the northern hemisphere, and especially in the Arctic regions. (Brooks, 1938) 

At the time of the writing of these lines in 1938, the Arctic had got as warm as in the first decade of the 21st Century. How much do we know about the mechanism that caused the previous arctic warming? Not very much, as Brönnimann et a. acknowledged: “Our understanding of the climate mechanism operating in the Arctic on different timescales is still limited” (Brönnimann, 2008). Is it reasonable and fair to dramatize the shrinking sea ice during a recent time period, if one is not fully aware of what happened in the early years of the last century? 

(End of excerpt; for more see the NOTE below)

 Comment: Those who are talking about “Apocalypse Now” seem to have never done even the most basic research. Only 90 years ago the temperatures exploded in the Northern North Atlantic and at Spitsbergen (see Fig. Isfjord Radio). It was noted in the news press only three years later. The warming continued so that Brooks emphasized the great significance of the warming in human affairs in 1938. Despite all this and the wealth of data available, more than 70 years later this extraordinary warming is little understood, as admitted by Brönnimann (see above). The following box compares the winter temperatures[2] at Spitsbergen from 1933-39  (Isfjord) with those from 2003 to 2009 (Svalbard Luft). However, as the station has been moved by about 50 km more inland in the mid 1970s it is said that a substantial correction of about 3°C is required.[3]. The shown result of +3° for the time prior WWII is thus equalized. The result would still be astonishing, as the winters before 1940 had been as warm as the recent winters. 

Winter air temperature at Spitsbergen  (D/J/F)
Had been as warm from 1933 to 1939 as from 2003 to 2009

Data source and figure Svalbard Luft: Nasa/Giss  (

70 years

YEAR D-J-F      1933    -5.7    
1934    -9.1    
1935   -9.5    
1936    -9.1 
1937    -7.5    1938    --6.0    1939    -6.1
= - 7.6°

Corr. -1 (Fn3)

Annual mean 1912-1945
1938 = -2.36


Annual mean 1978-2008
2008 = -4.04


2003   -18.6
2004   -17.0

2005    -7.5
2006    -2.7
2007    -9.0
2008    -8.3
2009   -10.7

= -10.4°

Corr: +2° (Fn3)

 Would it not be time to analyze the Arctic warming from 1919 to 1939 before talking about an apocalyptic situation? The earlier warming of the Arctic had been presented at the PACON-Conference-2007 in Honolulu (the conference paper is HERE) and recently by a book (see the following NOTE).   

The excerpt is from the recently published book:
“How Spitsbergen Heats the World The Arctic Warming 1919 –1939”
Details about the book at:

[1] Realclimate (web log); david: “Arctic sea ice: is it tipped yet”, the 13th of December 2007. 
Notes from The Gathering #5: Arctic sea ice: is it tipped yet?

[2] The winter temperatures comprise the month December, January and February (D/J/F)    

[3] The recording station moved  from Isfjord Radio to Svalbard Luft about ca 50 km eastward and further inland in the mid 1970s, causing a substantial lower recording of about 3°C, so that it is suggested to make an adjustment  by moving Isfjord Radio  down by 1°C and Svalbard Luft up by 2°C.  For details see: