Antarctic Sea Ice Expansion Labelled A “Processing Error”

Today has been a bad day for climate-change deniers, as two pieces of research they previously relied on to support their claims about the earth’s climate have been debunked by recent scientific papers. According to research released by the European Geosciences Union, the widely held belief that ice at the Antarctic was expanding at a high rate may have relied on a technical error in the satellite system studying the phenomenon.

Antarctic Sea Ice Expansion Labelled A "Processing Error"

According to a press release from the group, a study of the data about the expansion of Antarctic Sea Ice debases the conclusions of a 2013 study. Researchers went out to attempt to resolve the discrepancy in their study and found that an error in the processing of satellite data measuring Antarctic sea ice growth is likely to blame. The research was published in The Cryosphere, a journal operated by the European Geosciences Union.

Antarctic sea ice expansion collapses

The research found that the conclusions of a previous study on the growth of Antarctic sea ice were unfounded, and the difference between them and a more recent study needed to be explained. The report, called AR5, was released last year and concluded that Antarctic ice cover was growing at a rate of about 16 thousand kilometers per year. Scientists had been confused by the numbers which didn’t appear to go along with previous ideas about the working of the southern polar regions.

According to Ian Eisenman, who led the team that authored the report, the problem was caused by incorrect processing of data, “It appears that one of the records did this calibration incorrectly, introducing a step-like change in December 1991 that was big enough to have a large influence on the long-term trend.”

The change was not immediately visible in the data because of massive variation and noise from year to year, according to the researchers. “You’d think it would be easy to see which record has this spurious jump in December 1991, but there’s so much natural variability in the record – so much ‘noise’ from one month to the next – that it’s not readily apparent which record contains the jump. When we subtract one record from the other, though, we remove most of this noise, and the step-like change in December 1991 becomes very clear.”

Climate change rests easier

The backing for climate change, and the dangers of melting ice caps, has become marginally more solid on the back of this news from the European Geosciences Union. Claims about the extent to which Antarctic sea ice had been growing were being used to debase the importance of the disastrous decline in ice cover at the northern pole. If the error is found to be contained in the 2013 report, the idea that the Antarctic is growing at anything like the rate of the Arctic’s disappearance will have to go away.

The study shows the issues that can be caused by the increasing automation of the scientific process, and the long term nature of any scientific research. Drawing conclusions on data that has not been properly reviewed is not a worthwhile way to respond to scientific research.