Here is the panic piece from the The Independent in the UK:

It seems unthinkable, but for the first time in human history, ice is on course to disappear entirely from the North Pole this year.

The disappearance of the Arctic sea ice, making it possible to reach the Pole sailing in a boat through open water, would be one of the most dramatic and worrying examples of the impact of global warming on the planet. Scientists say the ice at 90 degrees north may well have melted away by the summer. [emphasis mine - CM]

So, according to this article, the North Pole will be ice-free for the first time in human history. Here’s my question: how far back does human history go in this article? Do we start human history 10,000 years ago with the shift from hunter-gatherers to agrarians? Do we peg human history back 6,000 years with the growth of the first major states in Egypt, India, and the fertile crescent? How about starting human history with the year that President Taft became the 27th President of the U.S.? I mention the last because 1909 was also the year that Admiral Peary claimed to be the the first person to reach the North Pole. But I think that this article suggests “human history” began thirty years ago, with the advent of satellite coverage of the North Pole. I believe this because we have only had consistent information about the North Pole for the past thirty years, thanks to satellite data.

Here’s another section from the article that supports this point:

The polar regions are experiencing the most dramatic increase in average temperatures due to global warming and scientists fear that as more sea ice is lost, the darker, open ocean will absorb more heat and raise local temperatures even further. Professor Peter Wadhams of Cambridge University, who was one of the first civilian scientists to sail underneath the Arctic sea ice in a Royal Navy submarine, said that the conditions are ripe for an unprecedented melting of the ice at the North Pole.

“Last year we saw huge areas of the ocean open up, which has never been experienced before. People are expecting this to continue this year and it is likely to extend over the North Pole. It is quite likely that the North Pole will be exposed this summer… it’s not happened before,” Professor Wadhams said.

It’s all global warming’s fault! But here’s the kicker — since the hot year of 1998, the global temperature has pretty much flatlined. So where is the horrific warming that is causing this trouble? And why does Professor Wadhams think the North Pole has never melted before? After all, the Medieval Warm Period, Roman Climate Optimum, and the Holocene Climate Optimum were all warmer than now, so how can the good professor state with any certainty that the North Pole has never melted before when we have no consistent records from more than thirty years ago? The obvious answer is that the good professor cannot state this with any certainty, unless he does so in a firm and pompous voice.

Global warming fanatics say that the North Pole has never melted before. But I would like to see the empirical data that proves their claim. Without that proof, all we have is their hot air.

UPDATE (7/14/2008 5:27:26 PM): Yep. It’s hot air. I found an article written by John Daly in 2004 to refute the “Ah! The North Pole is melting for the first time in human history!” meme. And he used a picture that is worth much more than a thousand words to refute the claim.

During an Arctic summer, the sun is in the sky 24 hours per day, giving the Arctic ocean more total sunlight than anywhere else on the planet, excepting the Antarctic during its summer season. The result is that large areas of the Arctic Ocean are ice free in summer at any one time, with large leads of open water and even larger ‘polynyas’, stretches of open water tens of miles long and miles wide. This photo of three submarines visiting the North Pole in May 1987 shows the whole area criss-crossed with open water leads before the summer had even arrived.

Water at the North Pole
HMS Superb, USS Billfish, and USS Sea Devil in a North Pole rendezvous in 1987
(U.S. Navy Photo)

John Daly link found via The Clue Batting Cage.