Two scientists from the National Snow and Ice Data Center have written to the Santa Fe New Mexican to confirm that the wanna-be head of the New Mexico Department of Energy Minerals and Natural Resources was pontedly inaccurate when he claimed in a NASA white paper that “Artic [sic] sea ice has returned to 1989 levels of coverage.”
Walt Meier and Mark Serreze, who help manage and update the daily satellite measurements of Arctic ice, point out (with patience that Schmitt hardly deserves) that there was, indeed, a moment in 2009 when sea ice extent was greater than it had been – in the same week – in 1989, but that this was in no way a fair, accurate or helpful reflection of the state of ice in the Arctic, then or since. ( The graph at left shows the fully-year comparison of 2009 and 1989 and if you click on the NSIDC graphic for yesterday, you will see that extent continues to be at its lowest level in recorded history.)
Unlike the former astronaut and New Mexican Senator Schmitt, Meier and Serreze are in no way political players in this game. You would be hard-pressed to find their names on anything other than the dozens of excellent scientific papers emanating from the NSIDC. So their measured correction is itself extraordinary.
The bottom line is that Schmitt offered advice to NASA on the basis of an unrepresentative high point in ice extent. And he either picked that high point accidentally – in which case he has clearly lost any semblance of scientific rigour and should be denied any position that demands scientific expertise – or he picked it on purpose – in which case he should be denounced as a scoundrel and dismissed from candidacy for any public position.