Andrea Mitchell hosted a segment on her Tuesday program where she promoted the meme that a recent gathering of 35,000 walruses in Alaska was due to global warming and the Arctic ice cap melting. If Ms. Mitchell had done her research, she would have known that the walrus gathering happens every few years; the ice cap has grown during the past two years; and the earth hasn't warmed for over 18 years.
Mitchell began the segment with this:
Global warming has become a hot issue lately literally and figuratively. This recent photo incredibly shows 35,000 walruses stranded on an Alaskan beach. Would normally be on the sea ice year, of course, the ice has melted. Starting this month, the State Department is launching a new Fulbright Scholarship program focusing on the arctic climate change.
The remainder of the segment consisted of Ms. Mitchell agreeing with everything her global-warming believing guests said. Not once did she challenge her guests' "facts."
The association of the walruses with global warming was originally made by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), a group that advocates for the Global Warming hypothesis:
"The World Wildlife Fund said walrus have also been gathering in large groups on the Russian side of the Chukchi Sea. It's another remarkable sign of the dramatic environmental conditions changing as the result of sea ice loss," said Margaret Williams, managing director of the group's Arctic program, by phone from Washington, D.C.
"The walruses are telling us what the polar bears have told us and what many indigenous people have told us in the high Arctic, and that is that the Arctic environment is changing extremely rapidly and it is time for the rest of the world to take notice and also to take action to address the root causes of climate change."
The blog "Polar Bear Science" explained that Walrus gatherings such as the one Ms. Mitchell reported have happened before:
At least two documented incidents like this have occurred in the recent past: one in 1978, on St. Lawrence Island and the associated Punuk Islands and the other in 1972, on Wrangell Island (Fay and Kelly 1980)
Additionally, if a global-warming created ice melt was indeed occurring, the total population of walruses would shrink because many would tire and drown in the ocean. Yet as Polar Bear Science explains, the walrus population is increasing:
Walrus numbers are up considerably from the 1960s, although they are notoriously difficult to count (Garlich-Miller et al. 2011)
Population sizes may fluctuate for a number of reasons that have little to do with the low ice levels: note these very recent incidents of large walrus herds and associated mortality events (2009, 2011 and 2014) have not coincided with the lowest levels of summer sea ice in the area, which occurred in 2007 and 2012.
Mitchell spoke about the melting Arctic ice cap, but he problem is the ice cap isn't melting. In the past two years the Arctic ice cap has grown 43%. Despite Andrea Mitchell's claims, the walruses are able to take their winter vacations on the ice.
Two months ago, the UK Daily Mail reported:
The Mail on Sunday can reveal that, far from vanishing, the Arctic ice cap has expanded for the second year in succession – with a surge, depending on how you measure it, of between 43 and 63 per cent since 2012.
To put it another way, an area the size of Alaska, America’s biggest state, was open water two years ago, but is again now covered by ice.
The most widely used measurements of Arctic ice extent are the daily satellite readings issued by the US National Snow and Ice Data Center, which is co-funded by NASA. These reveal that – while the long-term trend still shows a decline – last Monday, August 25, the area of the Arctic Ocean with at least 15 per cent ice cover was 5.62 million square kilometres.
This was the highest level recorded on that date since 2006 (see graph, right), and represents an increase of 1.71 million square kilometres over the past two years – an impressive 43 per cent.
Other figures from the Danish Meteorological Institute suggest that the growth has been even more dramatic. Using a different measure, the area with at least 30 per cent ice cover, these reveal a 63 per cent rise – from 2.7 million to 4.4 million square kilometres.
The final piece of science Ms Mitchell ignores? There hasn't been warming in the past 18 years and one month.