When it comes to a discussion of the state of Arctic Sea Ice in the arena of climate change, it seems every decade has its own standout year which sets the boundaries of credulity – though not credibility – as to what is to be believed is happening.
For the ‘noughties’ decade of this still reasonably new century that year was 2007 which at the time set the all-time record (at least in recent times) for loss of Arctic sea ice over the northern summer. That year still (represented by the blue-green line in the image below) holds the record (but only just) for being the second lowest year of remaining annual sea ice.
For the second decade, the ‘teenies’ if you like – just ended with the closing of 2019 – this all-time record was broken by that decade’s standout year of 2012 (the red dashed line in the image) which set the new sea ice melt record. A record which no subsequent year has come anywhere near reaching, let alone breaking.
I will pause here just in case my definition of what year numbers make up a decade is bugging certain pedants who can’t get over the fact that there was no year zero between the BCE system and the CE system of dating. Should it be the years 0 to 9 or 1 to 10?
I take the 0 to 9 view, being someone who has worked with various number systems for decades, and with real numbers – not integers. The idea that the integer numbers 1 to 10 somehow represents the decimal system (or 1 to 8 the octal, or 1 to 16 the hexadecimal systems) is sheer madness – as any mathematician will tell you. Which is also why the integer numbers are not classed as real numbers in mathematics. The simplest expression of that of course is the binary system where the only possible numbers are 0 and 1, in that order of magnitude, not 1 and 2 as some might suggest. If that were not so, then mankind would never have entered the computer age and we would possess no digital devices of any kind. Think on that before you start numbering things from ‘1’. There is always a zero, meaning an absence of something in the simple integer or analog world and the absolute dividing point between things positive and things negative on the measurable continuum of possibilities in the ‘real’ world of mathematics which facilitates our ability to model physical reality (and deliver projectile objects to known points at inter-planetary distances – at least while we still possess the means to do that) and actually and accurately count backwards into time (which was what brought on this discussion) rather than just counting stuff.
For me, the current century (and millennium) began as year zero on the date 01.01.2000 CE. This is because the first year of the current era (year zero CE) having been completed on 31.12.0001 BCE (as currently numbered), the second year (year one) completed on 31.12.0001 CE (exactly one year later) and the first decade of that new era therefore completing in year 9 CE on 31.12.0009 CE.
This confusion all came about as a result of some misguided numbering, not ‘re’-numbering, hundreds of years later. Yes, think about it – before the year numbers were allocated – said to be in 525 CE – the years before the current era did not actually have numbers allocated to them, other than such-and-such year of king so-and so’s reign, or the year after such-and-such happened. So, it was a remarkable effort – though not without a whole lot of guesswork (in the realm of history as in other fields of science) – that the path of man’s journey through time, prior to a little under 2,000 years ago, was laid down for posterity – mistakes and all. We have to live with that – mistakes and all – because as befuddled as it is and has been proven to be, getting any of it shifted to something more resembling the later revealed truth, is like the ant trying to move the elephant, or as in the partial phrase supposedly attributed to Sir Francis Bacon – ‘moving the mountain to Mohammad’.
I fully realise that the year zero of the new era necessarily occupies the same time period as the year 1 BCE immediately prior to year 1 CE but that does not present a problem for me. It just means that the process of counting backwards from the new CE dating system was somehow stupidly mishandled by a monk named Dionysius Exiguus some 525 years after the event. The year zero was omitted, whether by accident or design, or simple ignorance brought on by over five centuries of Christian thought – earlier civilisations having been well aware of the role of zero in number systems. Such stupidity continues to plague our modern civilisation, still encumbered by religious dogma.
This ties in nicely with the fact that the years of the first decade, the ‘noughties’, of any century all begin with a zero in the ‘tens’ position and in the last decade of each century all years begin with a ‘9’ and are known as the ‘nineties’ for that reason. It makes complete sense. No other system of year numbers does.
Just one more thought before this digression reverts back to the story. The date 31.12.01 BCE – supposedly the last day of the previous era – relates to absolutely nothing of any note. It is supposedly meant – in the murky realms of Christianity – to somehow be related to the birth of the central figure of that religion. This is patently untrue – just one untruth among a great many clung to by devoted but mistaken or misguided adherents of that cult (well, that’s basically what it is). That person’s actual birth, as far as is known, was sometime – an exact date, based on the beliefs of the ascetic Jewish sect that he was a high ranking member of (and would never have dreamed or entertained the idea of leaving to found his own religion – especially to include unclean non-Jews), has been calculated – though whether authentic or not is anyone’s guess (but it wasn’t 25th December, which didn’t exist at the time and in any case, the calculated date being based on the Jewish calendar, would be a moving date in the normal Western calendar). That work was done by, I think, Australian author and historical researcher, Barbara Thiering (though I would need to re-validate that – which I don’t have time to do) as being in the years 6 or 7 BCE (as currently numbered). Wow! There’s something (a lot of things actually) to discuss at length around the old campfire.
So. The point of all this, if I haven’t already lost you, is to make the point – just revealed today – that the brand new decade, the ‘twenties’, is starting off with its own standout year (being the only one for now) which is clearly setting the pace for the continuing decline of Arctic sea ice. As of today, 2020 (see the blue line in the image) is clearly to be the second lowest year of remaining sea ice in the Arctic. I have been waiting for 8 years to be able to say that.
While 2020, back in July, had the makings of setting an overall record, that is not now likely or even remotely possible. But I am happy to settle for second lowest. After all, there are another 9 years of this decade left to challenge that. An exciting prospect, isn’t it? But at the same time quite frightening if you care to think about what that will mean for our civilisation. But cheer up, our children’s children’s children may get the opportunity to begin another brand new dating system post our era. Maybe they will make a better job of it than our ancestors did, unencumbered by religious thought.