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The Book in PDF

Black & White Edition in U.S.A
Arctic Heats Up.
Spitsbergen 1919 to 1939

Colored Edition in Europe
How Spitsbergen Heats the World
The Arctic Warming 1919-1939
ISBN: 978-1-4401-4087-7 ISBN 978-3-8370-9524-1
Ca.116 pages and 100 b/w figures. More details in right column. Ca. 116 pages and 100 color figures. Details see column.
Chapter 1

Reviewing the past to understand the future -An Introduction

A. Arctic Warming - What Warming?

The claim that the summer of 2007 was apocalyptic for Arctic sea ice has recently gone around the globe, because the coverage and thickness of the sea ice in the Arctic has been declining steadily over the past few decades[1] . For many scientists this situation appears to be related to global warming (Bronnimann, 2008). In 2003 a USA research center formulated it this way already: "Recent warming of Arctic may affect worldwide climate"[2] Not everyone agreed but quarrel: What Arctic Warming?[3]

Although there is hardly a convincing reason to neglect the recent warming in the Arctic and the extent of ice melt during the summer season, it is not necessarily clear yet, whether the current discussion is based on a sound and comprehensive assessment. Climate research should not only deal with Arctic warming based on observations made during the last few decades, but at least be extremely interested in other climatic events that occurred in modern times, especially if somehow in connection with the situation in the Arctic. Why?

Special Page- PDF


Graversen et al.,
2008, on: Vertical structure of recent
Arctic warming

Book page 2
Chapter 1

On the 2nd of November 1922, The Washington Post published the following story: Arctic Ocean Getting Warm; Seals Vanish and Icebergs Melt". The corresponding report in the Monthly Weather Review of November 1922 had also stated that the ice conditions in the Northern North Atlantic were exceptional; in fact, so little ice has never before been noted[4]. Only 16 year later the meteorologist C.E.P. Books thought it necessary to explain the situation more complex:

In recent years attention is being directed more and more towards a problem which may possibly prove of great significance in human affairs, the rise of temperature in the northern hemisphere, and especially in the Arctic regions. (Brooks, 1938)

At the time of the writing of these lines in 1938, the Arctic had got as warm as in the first decade of the 21st Century. How much do we know about the mechanism that caused the previous arctic warming? Not very much, as Bronnimann et a. acknowledged:

"Our understanding of the climate mechanism operating in the Arctic on different timescales is still limited" (Bronnimann, 2008). Is it reasonable and fair to dramatize the shrinking sea ice during a recent time period, if one is not fully aware of what happened in the early years of the last century?

Before the next chapter, we will insist on the question: why climatology should be able to explain the earlier arctic warming. Some phrases currently used are briefly presented in order to keep a context between the two warming periods, although this book primarily deals with the warming that The Washington Post reported already in 1922. Because the Where, When, and Why are still quite open, and by far not settled.One could actually describe the purpose of the book to answer a question that V.F. Zakharov (1997) submitted a decade ago:

  • Why are the maximum climate fluctuations confined to the Atlantic sector of the Arctic?
  • Why are these fluctuations pronounced, first of all, right here?
  • Should the Atlantic sector of the Arctic be considered as a center of some kind, a source of climate change over the Hemisphere?

The focus is clear: What role did the ocean play? The investigation will prove that it had been substantial, by time, intensity and duration. But once these aspects have been thoroughly elaborated, the discussion will be extended to the question: Why? After all, the first arctic warming began at the end of the World War One in the winter of 1918-19, and died away when the Second World War began on the 1st of September 1939. That is worth a discussion, even if it is not the purpose of this paper to offer conclusive evidence in this respect.

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Arctic Warming started - 90 years ago - January 1919 - Does the Arctic scream, and why?

Book page 4
Chapter 1

B. The Arctic Is Screaming?

The world should know: The Arctic is Screaming noted newspapers recently. No one had heard the Arctic crying, but was there something that should have signaled horror? It is true; the annual arctic sea ice cover had been decreasing during the summer season for a couple of years. The remaining minimum ice cover around September produced record after record: the record from 2005 was beaten by 2006, which was beaten by 2007. That was the point when the emigre in polar science Mark Serreze informed the press: "The Arctic is screaming"[5] . As a senior scientist at the government's snow and ice data Center in Boulder, Colorado, Mark Serreze should know what he is talking about, or had it been his scream? At least the time for setting a scream was timely. Special legislation for polar bears was already on the way, as it was assumed that the dwindling sea ice would not leave the bears without ice floats but affecting wildlife widely.

"Greenland's ice sheet melted nearly 19 billion tons more than the previous high mark, and the volume of Arctic sea ice at summer's end was half what it was just four years earlier[6]. At this rate, the Arctic Ocean could be nearly ice-free at the end of summer by 2012, much faster than previous predictions", the NASA climate scientist Jay Zwally was cited. But even this prediction could be topped by arctic experts claim to a conference meeting that, if the Arctic sea ice was melting so rapidly, as it recently did, than any sea ice throughout the Arctic Ocean could have entirely disappeared by the summer of 2040.

In this context, the CNN could observe that scientists have been asking themselves these questions: Was the record melt seen all over the Arctic in 2007 a blip amid relentless and steady warming? Or has everything sped up to a new climate cycle that goes beyond the worst case scenarios presented by computer models? Nobody has given any answer. But Mark Serreze says: the Arctic is screaming. Is it impossible to find out?

It s hould not be impossible, as the present arctic warming since 1980 is not the only one. There was another warming period for the region north of 62o North since 1920 until 1945, for which the high-latitude temperature increase was stronger in the late 1930s early 1940s than in recent decades (Polyakov, 2002). The first Arctic warming started 90 years ago, from about 1920 to 1940[7]. In winter 1918-19 the air temperatures exploded at the remote archipelagos Spitsbergen, which the Norwegian call: Svalbard. In 1930 the Norwegian scientist .B. J. Birkeland[8] regarded the rise as maybe the biggest ever observed in one place. Birkeland could presumably repeat the claim today with justification. But would he or his colleagues come up with the exclamation the Arctic is screaming today? Definitely not, although he and his colleagues might wish to scream: How could it be that you know so little about "our arctic warming" to understand "your arctic warming".

C. Tipping Point, Climatic Revolution, Apocalypse Now

Few years ago scientists called for "cutting emissions now to avoid climate tipping point"[9] . The phrase has reached the Arctic. The phrase actually refers to the fact that in physics, if a small amount of weight is added to a balanced object, it can topple the balance completely and very suddenly. After the ice season in September 2007 had been the lowest since the Little Ice Age around 1850. Is the decreasing seasonal sea ice extent during the summer season the tipping point? At least it could be the imminent example of a tipping point in the climate system that has been argued[10].

The Russian Revolution took place 90 years ago. At a tipping point communism replaced the monarchy. Only one year later a pronounced warming started in the Atlantic-Arctic region, lasting for two decades. Its impact on temperatures, sea ice and glaciers had been so significant that the Norwegian scientist Ahlmann estimated that this warming period had been a 'climatic revolution' (Ahlmann, 1946). Which of the phrases is more serious? We do not know? We know too little about the earlier warming. We do not know whether the earlier warming of the Arctic is a precondition for the situation in the Arctic now. In one way or another, it will be the case, and therefore the identification of any tipping point in the previous arctic warming is as much required as talking about the recent situation.

Special Page- PDF


Fridjof Nansen - 1928
The Oceanographic Problems of the Still unknown Arctic Region1

Book page 7
Chapter 1

Also the NASA scientist James Hansen suggests that the Earth may have hit the tipping point, which, according to his interpretation, means: "We have not passed a point of no return. We can still roll things back in time - but it is going to require a quick turn in direction"[11]. To Hansen, who is regarded as the godfather of global warming since he presented the subject to the US Senate in 1988: "the 'point of no return' is in being, when climate reaches a point with unstoppable irreversible climate impacts (irreversible on a practical time scale)" as he explained recently at a presentation[12] that Hansen exemplifies with the disintegration of large ice sheet in the Arctic.

Is the "Tipping Point" in the Arctic? Not necessarily, but according to some commentators' view after saying: "The summer of 2007 was apocalyptic for Arctic sea ice". It was not for the first time that the phrase had been used in climate research, but it is of a recent date. In 2005 a newspaper story was entitled: "Apocalypse Now: How Mankind is Sleepwalking to the End of the Earth Floods, storms and droughts. Melting Arctic ice, shrinking glaciers, oceans turning to acid. The world's top scientists warned last week that dangerous climate change is taking place today, not the day after tomorrow. You don't believe it?"[13].

Although the 'climatic revolution' is on record for more than 80 years, the current knowledge on: Where, When, and Why, is rather limited, as recently acknowledged that "one of the most puzzling climate anomalies of the 20th century" (Bengtsson, 2004), while other offer merely the conclusion "that the earlier warming was natural internal climate-system variability" (Johannessen, 2004).

Special Page- PDF


J.T.Houghton, et al. (ed), 1990, Climate Change

Book page 9
Book page 10
Chapter 1

That seems too little and too superficial to deal with an unprecedented 'climatic revolution'. Much worse is the behavior of Oscar price winner Al Gore with his claim that men have put so much carbon dioxide in the thin shell of air surrounding the world that literally the Earth heat has been changed, causing a universal threat of cosmic in scale[14]. Back in the late 1910s men released only a small amount of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Here is certainly not the place to challenge the greenhouse thesis, respectively assessing its possible impact, but discussing the climate change issue in Al Gore’s way seems irresponsible as long as a 'climatic revolution' that occurred under the eyes of modern meteorology has not thoroughly analyzed and the causation has been convincingly explained.

To put it clear, raising any reasonable concern on matters affecting human welfare, whether by tipping point or apocalyptic images is one thing, but sleepwalking the profound arctic warming during the early years of the last century is irresponsible. As long as this event is not well understood, any apocalyptic or tipping point talking is reckless and not very helpful.

D. Natural Variables versus Anthropogenic

The last 100 years are marked by the changeover of a climate system dominated by natural forcing to a climate system dominated by anthropogenic influences (Bronnimann 2008). This shall be understood as attributing the warming trend before the 2. World War to "natural variability" and the subsequent warming after the war to anthropogenic forcing, particularly due to the increasing release of carbon dioxide (CO2). This is so easily said and if we look thoroughly at every aspect, this may prove worthless.For example, try to find a founded explanation for the meaning of "natural climate variability", respectively corresponding phrases. The glossaries of the leading international organizations as WMO and UNFCCC secretariat are blank on this subject. The AMS however provides the following[15]:

    climate variability - temporal variations of the atmosphere- ocean system around a mean state. Typically, this term is used for timescales longer than those associated with synoptic weather events (i.e., months to millennia and longer). The term "natural climate variability" is further used to identify climate variations that are not attributable to or influenced by any activity related to humans.

But it can come along even more confusing[16]:

    The relatively short instrumental record of climate (the last 50 to 100 years), which reflects anthropogenic change as well as natural variations, does not represent a stationary or steady record. Instead, climate fluctuations over the past few millennia or so will need to be analyzed to establish a baseline of natural variability against which future (and present) variations can be gauged.

With reference to other work elsewhere that discusses the definition crux in meteorology in detail[17], the subject is circumvented here, to concentrate on the first arctic warming, but if deemed useful the matter will be raised again.

All this talking about 'natural variability' says nothing of substance about the mechanism and causation of the first arctic warming in modern times. It even makes little effort to ensure a full assessment and understanding about the earlier event. One may only recall a report by the New York Times in 1932 to realize what it could mean when the substance of claims are not clear: "Next great deluge forecast by scientists - Melting polar ice caps to raise the level of the seas and flood the continents"[18]. Is that very different from current claims? At least, C.E.P. Brooks (1938) had that to say with regard to this warming period: "There have been great climatic oscillations before this, even since the last Ice Age, about the causes of which we are quite ignorant". It seems little has changed when now confronted with the mere allegation, that the warming the NYT and Brooks are talking about has been due to natural variability, even without explaining which part of nature did something, and which did not.

But the phrase 'natural variability' seems not to be the end of terms which may cause more confusion than clarification as this example may illustrate: "The recent dramatic loss of Arctic sea ice appears to be due to a combination of a global warming signal and fortuitous phasing of intrinsic climate patterns" (Overland, 2008). How to make sense out of this?

The following investigation will show that the 1st Arctic warming was not understood in the 1930s, and that little has changed to better at the end of the first decade of the 21st century, about seven decades later. What is needed is a better understanding of what had happened almost a century ago in the high northern hemisphere, and this work does not agree with NASA expert Waleed Abdalati notion: "The first step in understanding why things happen is observing what is happening"[19].

1 Realclimate (web log); david: "Arctic sea ice: is it tipped yet", the 13th of December 2007.

2 NASA; 23 Oct. 2003;

3 Milloy, Steve, 13 Oct. 2005;,2933,172188,00.html

4 Ifft; George N., 1922, "The Changing Arctic", Monthly Weather Review, Nov 1922,

5 This was widely reported, e.g. Associated Press; 12 Dec.2007 by Seth Borenstein; "Ominous Arctic Melt Worries Experts".

6 CNN; 11th of December 2007:

7 M. Serreze (Serreze, 2006) acknowledges that "Substantial high-latitude warming from about 1920 to 1940 was followed by cooling until about 1970, then another period of marked warming that extends through the present", but makes little effort to understand the early warming in the first place, but provides as conclusion: "One important piece of evidence supporting an enhanced GHG (Green House Gas) contribution is that while the earlier 20th century warming is only seen at higher latitudes, indicative of natural variability in the climate system, the recent warming is apparent in all latitude zones." Concerning 'the piece of evidence' Serreze sees now, a couple of years ago he and some colleagues claimed the opposite (Kahl, 1993).

8 Birkeland, B.J. (1930) , Temperaturvariationen auf Spitzbergen, Meteorologische Zeitschrift, Juni 1930, p. 234-236.

9 The Guardian/UK, 2005, Ian Sample, "Warming hits 'tipping point", Thursday, the 11th of August 2005

10 Realclimate (web log); David: "Arctic sea ice: is it tipped yet", the 13th of December 2007

11 The Associated Press: Ominous Arctic Melt Worries Experts, by Seth Borenstein, the 12th of December 2007.

12 Hansen in his: Bjerknes Lecture, to the American Geophysical Union, San Francisco, the 17th of December 2008; PowerPoint slide 26.

13 Independent/UK, the 6th of February 2005; by Geoffrey Lean

14 Al Gore, Moving Beyond Kyoto, The New York Times, July 1, 2007, WK 13.

15 Glossary of Meteorology, 2000, 2nd ed.; by the American Meteorological Society (AMS).

16 CGER (1995) Commission on Geosciences, Environment and Resources; "Natural Climate Variability on Decade-to-Century Time Scale";


18 New York Times; the 15th of May 1932

19 Cited by: Stofer, Kati, (23rd of October 2003), "Seasons of Change: Evidence of Arctic Warming Grows",

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20th PACON Conf. 2007
FROM 1918 to 1940 BE EXPLAINED?"

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General Material

Annex B I - Colored Sea Ice 1910-1919
Annex F - Air Temp.(Jan - Feb) 1912-1930; North Atlantic Region.
Annex G - Annual Mean Temperatures from app. 1880-1947 in the Northern Atlantic Region.