Dire predictions that the Arctic would be devoid of sea ice by September this year have proven to be unfounded after latest satellite images showed there is far more now than in 2012.
Scientists such as Prof Peter Wadhams, of Cambridge University, and Prof Wieslaw Maslowski, of the Naval Postgraduate School in Moderey, California, have regularly forecast the loss of ice by 2016, which has been widely reported by the BBC and other media outlets.
Prof Wadhams, a leading expert on Arctic sea ice loss, has recently published a book entitled A Farewell To Ice in which he repeats the assertion that the polar region would free of ice in the middle of this decade.
As late as this summer, he was still predicting an ice-free September.
Yet, when figures were released for the yearly minimum on September 10, they showed that there was still 1.6 million square miles of sea ice (4.14 square kilometres), which was 21 per cent more than the lowest point in 2012.
For the month of September overall, there was 31 per cent more ice than in 2012, figures released this week from the National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC) show. This amounts to an extra 421,000 (1.09 million square kilometres) of sea ice, making the month only the fifth lowest since records began.
Although a quick glance at NSIDC satellite data going back to 1981 shows an undeniable downward trend in sea ice over the past 35 years, scientists have accused Prof Wadhams and others of “crying wolf” and harming the message of climate change through “dramatic”, “incorrect” and “confusing” predictions.
Dr Ed Hawkins, associate professor in the Department of Meterology, at the University of Reading, said: “There has been one prominent scientist who has regularly made more dramatic, and incorrect, in my view predictions suggesting that we would by now be in ice-free conditions.
“There are very serious risks from continued climatic changes and a melting Arctic, but we do not serve the public and policy-makers well by exaggerating those risks.
“We will soon see an ice-free summer in the Arctic, but there is a real danger of ‘crying wolf’ and that does not help anyone.
“As global temperatures rise, we will see a continuing decline in Arctic sea ice extent, although this will happen somewhat erratically, rather like a ball bouncing down a bumpy hill.
“Without substantial reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the ball will reach the bottom of the hill, meaning the Arctic is ‘ice-free’, starting with a few days one summer, a few weeks another summer and gradually becoming more and more frequent over the next few decades.”
It is the latest example of experts making alarming predictions which do not come to pass. Earlier this week environmentalists were accused of misleading the public about the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” after aerial shots proved there was no “island of rubbish” in the middle of the ocean. Likewise, warnings that the hole in the ozone layer would never close were debunked in June.