The shot of the polar bear marooned on a small piece of floating ice was the most potent weapon in the armory of the global warming zealots. Despite the fact that the shot was contrived and the fact that polar bear numbers are actually increasing, (from 5000 in 1950 to 25,000 now) in May concerns over disappearing sea ice led the U.S. to officially list the polar bear a threatened species, over objections from experts.
Earlier this year, predictions were rife that the North Pole could melt entirely in 2008. Instead, the Arctic ice saw a substantial recovery. Thanks to a rapid rebound in recent months, global sea ice levels now equal those seen 29 years ago, when the year 1979 also drew to a close. Ice levels had been tracking lower throughout much of 2008, but rapidly recovered in the last quarter. In fact, the rate of increase from September onward is the fastest rate of change on record, either upwards or downwards.
Bill Chapman, a researcher with the University of Illinois's Arctic Climate Research Center, claims that this was due in part to colder temperatures in the region. Chapman says wind patterns have also been weaker this year. Strong winds can slow ice formation as well as forcing ice into warmer waters where it will melt.
Why were predictions so wrong? Researchers had expected the newer sea ice, which is thinner, to be less resilient and melt easier. Instead, the thinner ice had less snow cover to insulate it from the bitterly cold air, and therefore grew much faster than expected, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.