We all make mistakes. And even the most humble among us can be a little self-righteous when it comes to our pet projects. But when was the last time you came across a self-righteous pseudo-skeptic who had the decency to admit to getting it completely wrong? Meet Steven Goddard of The Register, a peculiar little news outlet published in London. Sort of. Goddard wrote a piece that appeared on Aug. 15 under the bold headline "Arctic ice refuses to melt as ordered." As anyone who has been following the plunging arctic sea-ice extent graphs at the National Sea Ice Data Center can attest, this is a rather peculiar interpretation of the data.Goddard's article was riddled with errors of science and made clear his lack of familiarity with the subject. This prompted actual experts at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) to offer a rebuttal:
The author asserts that NSIDC's estimate of a 10% increase in sea ice compared to the same time as last year is wrong. Mr. Goddard does his own analysis, based on images from the University of Illinois' Cryosphere Today web site, and comes up with a number of ~30%, three times larger than NSIDC's estimate. He appears to derive his estimate by simply counting pixels in an image. He recognizes that this results in an error due to the distortion by the map projection, but does so anyway. Such an approach is simply not valid.Thankfully Steven Goddard had the intellectual honesty to admit his error in an addendum to the original article:
The proper way to calculate a comparison of ice coverage is by actually weighting the pixels by their based on the map projection, which is exactly what NSIDC does.
"Dr. Walt Meier at NSIDC has convinced me this week that their ice extent numbers are solid. So why the large discrepancy between their graphs and the UIUC maps? I went back and compared UIUC maps vs. NASA satellite photos from the same dates last summer. It turns out that the older UIUC maps had underrepresented the amount of low concentration ice in several regions of the Arctic. This summer, their maps do not have that same error. As a result, UIUC maps show a much greater increase in the amount of ice this year than does NSIDC. And thus the explanation of the discrepancy.Unfortunately the original error-riddled article was immediately seized as evidence that the science of global climate change is built on shaky ground and the myth rapidly metastasized around the internet. A quick Google search reveals 55,300 hits for the phrase "Arctic ice refuses to melt as ordered".
"it is clear that the NSIDC graph is correct, and that 2008 Arctic ice is barely 10% above last year - just as NSIDC had stated."
I wonder how many of those denialists who trumpeted the original article will have Steven Goddard's intellectual honesty and will print a retraction...