NASA claims that polar ice has increased in the past 1979, and that there has been no significant warming over the past 18 years.
However, A memeThe claim that “NASA now acknowledges that polar Ice has increased beyond its 1979 volume, and there’s not been significant warming in 18 year” began to circulate again in late 2021.
One example of the meme was originally posted on Facebook in October 2020This article circulated again last month, and has received hundreds of shares.
USA TODAY could find no evidence that NASA made the claims. NASA data shows that Arctic sea ice and ice sheets at both poles have been steadily losing ice for decades and that warming has continued over the last 18 years. Since 1979, Antarctic sea ice has not shown a strong overall trend in either gain or loss.
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USA TODAY reached out to Facebook and Twitter users as well as a blogger who shared the meme for comment. Reddit could not reach the user.
NASA claims that there has been significant warming in the last 18 years
Tylar Greene, a NASA spokesperson, told USA TODAY via email that she wasn’t aware of any official statement to the meme.
“Human-driven heat has continued Over the past 18 years, which is evident not only in the surface instrumental record, but also in satellite temperature records, melting glaciers, Rising sea levels, increased ocean heat contentGreene stated that there are many other signs of a warming planet, including a number of other indicators.
NASA global temperature data is publicly available on the organization’s Vital Signs of the Planet website.
“Nineteen of the hottest years (on record) have occurred since 2000, with the exception of 1998, which was helped by a very strong El Niño,” According to the site.
Gavin Schmidt, director of NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, also told USA TODAY significant warning trends have continued over the last 18 years.
“The years 2016 and 2020 were tied for the warmest year on record,” he said in an email.
NASA claims significant polar ice losses since 1979
The meme asserts that the volume of polar ice has increased beyond its 1979 volume.
NASA does not provide comprehensive data on the volume of polar ice in the Arctic. Vital Signs of the Planet website. However, other types of data on the site show significant ice loss at Earth’s poles since the late 1970s.
NASA researcher Eric Rignot told USA TODAY that between 1980-2019, the Antarctic ice sheet lost nearly 5.4 trillion metric tons of ice. Greenland lost more than 5.6 trillion metric tons during that same time frame.
These estimates are based on a combination of satellite data, physical models, weather data and field measurements.
Though NASA ice researchers tend to report these losses in terms of mass, their results can be mathematically converted to volume losses. Volume scales with mass, assuming density is more or less constant.
Schmidt said “there is no doubt” there has been significant ice volume loss from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets since 1979.
NASA reports that Arctic sea-ice has decreased since 1979
NASA website also indicates that Arctic sea ice extent, or size, has declined steadily since 1979.
The graph on NASA’s site specifically shows data for the “minimum extent,” the time each year when Arctic sea ice reaches its smallest size after summer melting.
The Arctic sea ice minimum extent was at its lowest point since 1979, which was 2001. The graph can be viewed here.
Further, the yearly average extent in 1979 was more than 12 million km², whereas the average yearly extent for 2020 was just over 10 million km², according to Claire ParkinsonNASA’s senior climatologist,
The yearly average extent for 2021 was not yet available.
While there are good satellite-based records for sea ice extents dating back to 1979, mass and volume estimates are less certain, Parkinson told USA TODAY in an email.
She stated that “it is reasonable to conclude that Arctic sea-ice volume likely has declined” based on satellite altimetry data over the past 20 years, and submarine and in situ data before then.
NASA doesn’t claim that Antarctic sea-ice has increased beyond 1979 levels
Both the Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets have seen significant ice loss since the late 1970s. However, Antarctic seaice has shown a different behavior.
“There had been a trend in the Antarctic toward increased sea ice coverage from the late 1970s to 2014, but with the decreases from 2014 to 2017, the record from the late 1970s until now does not show a strong overall trend,” said Parkinson.
Antarctic sea ice extent calculations for 2021 are incomplete, but the average yearly extent for 2020 was a little smaller than in 1979, according to Parkinson.
Even though Antarctic sea ice reached its highest point in 2014, it didn’t erase losses from other ice masses. Overall polar ice losses continued.
USA TODAY previously debunked false statements that polar ice reached record highsIn 2021 and the Greenland’s ice sheets are gaining ice. In fact, both Arctic sea ice as well as ice sheets at the poles are in decline.
Our rating: False
Based on our research we rate FALSE NASA’s claim that polar ice has grown since 1979 and denies the warming over the last 18-years. NASA spokesperson denied that they knew of such a statement. NASA data shows significant warming over the last 18 years and overall polar ice losses since 1979.
Our fact-check sources:
- USA TODAY, December 21, 2021 Fact check: False claim Arctic and Antarctic ice reached record heights
- USA TODAY, December 30, 2021 Fact check: Greenland continues to lose ice. There is no trend reversal
- NASA, accessed January 19, Ice sheets
- NASA, accessed January 19, Arctic sea ice extent
- NASA, accessed January 19, Climate change: How can we know?
- NASA, accessed January 19, The vital signs of the planet
- NASA, accessed January 19, Global temperature
- TylarGreene, Dec. 29, 2021 – Jan. 7, Email exchange with USATODAY
- Gavin SchmidtJanuary 6-19, Email exchange with USA Today
- Claire ParkinsonJan. 17-18, Email exchange between USA TODAY
- Walt MeierEmail exchange with USA TODAY, Jan. 18,
- Eric RignotEmail exchange with USA TODAY, Jan. 18,
- Eric Rignot, Jan. 19, Phone interview with USA TODAY
- NASA, Jan. 14, 2021, NASA Analysis shows 2020 tied for warmest year on record
- NASA, accessed January 7, Sea
- NASA, accessed January 7th, Ocean heat content
- Axel Schweiger, Jan 11-18, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Andrew SheperdJanuary 10-17, Email exchange with USA Today
- Bonnie LightJan. 10-11. Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Jinlun Zhang, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Ian JoughinJan.11-12. Email exchange with USA TODAY
- The Washington Post Jan. 25, 2021 Earth is losing 1.2 trillion tons of glaciers each year. And it’s going to get worse.
- NASA, accessed Jan. 10, Scientific Consensus: Earth’s climate is warming
- Polar Science Center, accessed Jan. 12, PIOMAS Arctic Sea Ice Volume Review
- The Cryosphere Jan. 25, 2021 Review article: Earth’s ice imbalance
- PNAS, Jan. 14, 2019, Four decades of Antarctic Ice Sheet mass balance from 1979–2017
- PNAS, Apr. 22, 2019, Greenland Ice Sheet mass Balance from 1972 to 2018: Forty-six Years
- NASA, Feb. 11, 2015, Global Sea Ice is Shrinking Despite Antarctic Gains
- Nature, Dec. 10, 2019, The Greenland Ice Sheet Mass Balance from 1992 to 2018
- NASA, accessed January 19, Mission GRACE-FO
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