WSJ Over the Top Again

The Wall Street Journal has never been a reliable source on climate news, but usually they are among the Polyannas and not the Chicken Littles; the latter group being the ones who make things appear even worse than they actually are.

Here is the WSJ saying:

Images from NASA satellites, stitched together by scientists at the University of Bremen, show that both the Northwest Passage around Canada and Northeast Passage around Russia are simultaneously free of ice for the first time in at least 125,000 years, making it theoretically possible to circumnavigate the North Pole in a ship.

Now how on earth could the “first time in 125,000 years” statement possibly be justified? Sure, it’s likely enough to be true, but this statement definitely deserves a weasel word or two. Perhaps the passages were open during the optimum at 6 KA? Is there any reason to assert they weren’t? Joe Romm has a similar story, but has the sincerity to put a “most likely” in there, which might well be within bounds; I for one can’t say. Romm references The Herald, which has no such qualifier.

It’s odd to see the WSJ out-panicking Climate Progress to say the least.

Is there a substantive basis for this strong assertion?

Update: Some of the expected bickering seems to be happening over at Tamino’s.

Don’t Major in Sea Ice

The New York Times has a story about the astonishing decline in sea ice this summer.

An interesting twist appears. If sea ice continues to vanish, it’s a fertile research topic, likely to be funded, likely to be published. Unless, that is, it goes away altogether. When the ice cover becomes purely seasonal, it becomes a less interesting phenomenon for field study or modeling. The problem is that this may happen sooner than expected.

A sardonic quote from an Alaskan geophysicist about this is nevertheless not entirely a matter of grim humor:

At a recent gathering of sea-ice experts at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, Hajo Eicken, a geophysicist, summarized it this way: “Our stock in trade seems to be going away.”

Anyway, even if Eicken isn’t serious, I am. Should we be as concerned about the glaciologists as about the polar bears who are under the same threat? More so? Less so?

How much risk should scientists be taking in the event that their field goes out of fashion (or, in this case, out of existence)? There are a lot of intrinsic reasons to do science, but there are some extrinsic reasons not to bother. What should be the fate of the person who bets on the wrong scientific horse?

Scientists historically traded off the possibility of wealth for a life of calm contemplation, not one of personal financial risk. If the deal gets worse, fewer people will become scientists. This matters.