Contrary to what Didier Raoult said, satellite photos show major changes in the ice surface

In an interview with the newspaper l’Express in 2020, Professor Didier Rouault said: “Me, I look at satellite photos, and I haven’t seen any major changes in the ice surface for thirty years! It moved a little at one time and now it doesn’t move much” This statement was published on Twitter from yesterday (here, here where here for example) and seems to have fallen under the fact-checking radar since 2020. Based on satellite images only Over the past thirty years, images from different space agencies have given us completely different versions of the ice seen from space. With climate at the center of the news right now, the editorial staff has decided to retract some statistics taken from satellite observations.

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[NDLR : Le sujet ne porte que sur la visualisation d’images satellite. Les causes anthropiques, les conséquences sur le long terme et les rapports des différentes organisations (comme le GIEC) ne seront donc pas traités]

Arctic and Antarctic

Antarctica, at the South Pole, is a continent covered with an ice cap about 1700 m thick (1300 m in the west, 2200 m in the east). The Arctic at the North Pole is an ocean covered by a mantle of 1 to 3 m of pack ice with a depth of 3100 to 5000 m. Two large frozen laboratories for which it is easy to observe whether major changes have occurred in the last thirty years.

For decades, these two poles have been observed from space by NASA (USA) and ESA (Europe). So the two poles will be compared with their satellite images.

NASA satellite image

for the Arctic

Annual Arctic sea ice minimums 1979–2021 (with area charts). Source: climate.nasa.gov. Source with archive: https://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/5002

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NASA images in 2012 show that the polar ice caps are shrinking by about 15% per decade.

The images above show sea ice cover in 1980 and 2012, as observed by passive microwave sensors on NASA’s Nimbus-7 satellite and the Defense Special Sensor Microwave Imager/Sounder (SSMIS). Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP). Multiyear ice* is shown in bright white, while average sea ice cover is shown in light blue to milky white. The data shows the snow cover for the period from November 1 to January 31 of their respective years.

* Multi-year ice is defined by the WMO (World Meteorological Organization) as ice that survives at least two summers and is the thickest component of the multi-year ice cover, including the relatively thin second-year ice cover.

On February 25, 2022, Arctic sea ice reached its annual maximum extent of 14.88 million square kilometers, the tenth lowest extent in the satellite record. Prior to 2019, four minimum high ranges occurred from 2015 to 2018.

for Antarctica

According to NASA, Antarctica loses an average of 125 to 150 gigatons of ice Every year since 2002. That’s the equivalent of 125 Empire State Buildings.

Mapping 36 years of ice loss observed with several satellites.

Antarctic ice sheet height changes from 1985 to 2021
Antarctic ice sheet height changes from 1985 to 2021. Source: climate.nasa.gov. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech. Melting of ice caps due to contact with seawater reduces ice height (in red);
It rises (in blue) where accumulation exceeds fusion.
Ice shelves are shown in gray.
Missions to provide information are listed below.

ESA satellite image

With its Earth Explorer Cryosat mission, ESA measures the thickness of the polar ice caps and monitors changes in the ice caps covering Greenland and Antarctica. His observation is similar to that of the American space agency: the Arctic and Antarctica are losing ice and contributing to rising seas.

In Antarctica:

In the Arctic region:

Changes in the Arctic. Source: ESA.

Fact check

Confirmation : I have not seen any great change in the surface of the ice for thirty years. It moved a little at one point and now it’s not moving much.

judgment : Fake. Although this statement may be opinion, it is presented as fact. NASA and ESA satellite images clearly show major changes in both polar surfaces.


More details on Arctic and Antarctic states at the University of Colorado’s NSIDC (National Snow and Ice Data Center) website.


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