December 10, 2004

Open Letter To Senator McCain

Open Letter to Senator John McCain concerning the misuse of Science that occurred during the November 16th, 2004 hearing held before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

Dear Senator McCain,

During the Global Climate Change hearing that was held before your committee on Tuesday, November 16th, 2004, you wondered aloud “Who are these people?” who contend that the recently released Arctic Climate Impact Assessment (ACIA) did not tell the whole truth about past, present, and potential future conditions in the world’s Arctic regions. To help answer your question, presented below is a preliminary list of scientists, who, based upon their recently published research results would have provided a more comprehensive picture of arctic climate. For the sake of Science, let’s hope that their exclusion was simply a matter of oversight or scheduling conflict.

Topic: Putting the current climate trends in historical perspective

Over and over, you heard testimony from your panelists concerning the deteriorating state of the Arctic and its ecosystems, including its human inhabitants. Over and over you heard about how these systems got to be in their current condition—decades of warming presumably caused by worldwide reliance on fossil fuels as an energy source. No one told you that conditions in the Arctic were nearly as warm, as warm, or warmer, than they are now a mere 60 years ago. Therefore, if Arctic systems are presently struggling more so than in the past, it points to factors other than anthropogenic climate change as the root cause. Below is an international list of scientists whose published work indicates that the current Arctic warmth is of the same approximate magnitude as that of the 1930s and 1940s.

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Scientist:

Rajmund Przybylak
Department of Climatology
Nicholas Copernicus University
Torun, Poland

Paper:

Temporal and spatial variance of surface air temperature over the period of instrumental observations in the Arctic, International Journal of Climatology, 20, 587-614, 2000.

Key Quote or Synopsis:

“A detailed analysis of the spatial and temporal changes in mean seasonal and annual surface air temperatures over the period of instrumental observations in the Arctic is presented…The presented analysis shows that the observed variations in air temperature in the real Arctic (defined on the basis of climate as opposed to other criteria, e.g. astronomical or botanical) are in many aspects not consistent with the projected climatic changes computed by climatic models for the enhanced greenhouse effect. The highest temperatures since the beginning of instrumental observation occurred clearly in the 1930s and can be attributed to changes in atmospheric circulation. The second phase of contemporary global warming (after 1975) is, at most, weakly marked in the Arctic. For example, the mean rate of warming for the period 1991-1995 was 2-3 times lower in the Arctic than the global average. Temperature levels observed in Greenland in the last 10-20 years are similar to those observed in the 19th century.”

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Scientists:

Igor V. Polyakov
Roman V. Bekryaev
Uma S. Bhatt
Roger L. Colony
Alexander P. Maskshtas
David Walsh
International Arctic Research Center
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, Alaska

Genrikh V. Alekseev
Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute
St. Petersburg, Russia

Mark A. Johnson
Institute of Marine Science
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, Alaska

Paper:

Variability and trends of air temperature and pressure in the Maritime Arctic, 1875-2000. Journal of Climate, 16, 2086-2092, 2003.

Key Quote or Synopsis:

“Arctic atmospheric variability during the industrial era (1875-2000) is assessed using spatially averaged surface air temperature (SAT) and sea level pressure (SLP) records. Air temperature and pressure display strong multidecadal variability on timescales of 50-80 yr. Associated with this variability, the Arctic SAT record shows two maxima: in the 1930s-40s and in recent decades, with two colder periods in between. In contrast to the global and hemispheric temperature, the maritime Arctic temperature was higher in the late 1930s through the early 1940s than in the 1990s.”

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Scientists:

James. E. Overland
Harold O. Mofjeld
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Pacific Marine Laboratory
Seattle, Washington

Michael C. Spillane
Donald B. Percival
Muyin Wang
University of Washington
Seattle, Washington

Paper:

Seasonal and regional variation of pan-arctic surface air temperature over the instrumental record. Journal of Climate, 17, 3263-3282, 2003.

Key Quote or Synopsis:

This paper presents results that show that there are seasonal and regional differences in the patterns of historical temperature in the Arctic. With the exception of spring, the authors report that the current climate in the Arctic is not unique in the in the instrumental record (which begins in the late 1800s).

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Scientists:

Vladimir A. Semenov
Lennart Bengstsson
Max Plank Institute for Meteorology
Hamburg, Germany

Paper:

Modes of the wintertime Arctic air temperature variability. Geophysical Research Letters, 30, 1781-1784, 2003.

Key Quote or Synopsis:

The researchers present results which show that average Arctic temperature undergoes large variations, driven by the dominance of different internal modes. The most recent temperature rise is shown to be related to atmospheric circulation factors in the North Atlantic Ocean while an early 20th century warming of nearly equal magnitude was possibly related to long-term sea ice variations.

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Topic: Recent climate change in Alaska

As a U.S. Senator, you were rightly concerned about the state of the conditions in Alaska, and on repeated instances you asked for specifics about observed climate changes there. On each and every occasion, you only received a partial collection of facts about historical temperature and temperature trends that would lead an interested listener to believe that anthropogenic global warming was responsible for the large change in Alaskan temperatures observed over the past 30 to 40 years. In fact, a natural climate shift in the Pacific Ocean that occurred in 1976 is responsible for the observed climate changes in Alaska. Below is a list of researchers, many from the Alaska Climate Research Center at the University of Alaska, who could have supplied you with these facts that were missing from your hearing:

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Scientists:

Gerd Wendler, Director and Professor Emeritus
Martin Stuefer, Research Associate
Martha Shulski, Climatologist
Brian Hartmann, Assistant Climatologist
Alaska Climate Research Center
University of Alaska Fairbanks
903 Koyukuk Drive
P.O. Box 757320
Fairbanks, AK 99775-7320

Web Site:

Temperature Change in Alaska, 1949-2003, http://climate.gi.alaska.edu/ClimTrends/Change/4903Change.html

Key Quote or Synopsis:

“The topic of climate change has attracted widespread attention in recent years and is an issue that numerous scientists study on various time and space scales. One thing for sure is that the earth’s climate has and will continue to change as a result of various natural and anthropogenic forcing mechanisms.

“This page features the trends in mean annual and seasonal temperatures for Alaska’s first-order observing stations since 1949 (Fig. 1), the time period for which reliable meteorological data are available. The temperature change varies from one climatic zone to another as well as for different seasons. If a linear trend is taken through mean annual temperatures, the average change over the last 5 decades is about 3.0°F. However, when analyzing the trends for the four seasons, it can be seen that most of the change has occurred in winter and spring, with less of a change in summer and even slight cooling in autumn (see Table below).

“Considering just a linear trend can mask some important variability characteristics in the time series. Figure 2 shows clearly that this trend is non-linear: a linear trend might have been expected from the fairly steady observed increase of CO2 during this time period. The figure shows the temperature departure from the long-term mean (1949-2003) for the average of all stations. It can be seen that there are large variations from year to year and the 5-year moving average demonstrates cyclical behavior. The period 1949 to 1975 was substantially colder than the period from 1977 to 2003, however since 1977 no additional warming has occurred in Alaska with the exception of Barrow and a few other locations. In 1976, a stepwise shift appears in the temperature data, which corresponds to a phase shift of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation from a negative phase to a positive phase. Synoptic conditions with the positive phase tend to consist of increased southerly flow and warm air advection into Alaska during the winter, resulting in positive temperature anomalies. Click on the table above to see temperature change after the 1976 shift, and for other time periods.”

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Scientists:

Brian Hartmann
Gerd Wendler
Alaska Climate Research Center
University of Alaska
Fairbanks, Alaska

Paper:

Manifestations of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation shift of 1976 within Alaskan climatology. Seventh Conference on Polar Meteorology and Oceanography and Joint Symposium on High-Latitude Climate Variations. May 12-16, 2003.

Key Quote or Synopsis:

“During the year of 1976, the index of the PDO [Pacific Decadal Oscillation] underwent a shift from one of strongly negative phase to one of strongly positive phase. The general circulation and temperature differences witnessed during each of the phases is generally well known, but a fine scale study to understand specific climatological effects within Alaska, including the differing regional effects and responses to the abrupt change, has not been conducted. The present study is an effort to clearly discern the specific manner in which the regime shift was experienced throughout Alaska.”

“The magnitude and sudden nature of the shift in the PDO Index is paralleled by strong local temperature increases in Alaska, suggesting that significant local changes in other meteorological variables should be seen as well….

[Atmospheric circulation patterns associated with the 1976 PDO regime shift] explain the immense warming of 10°C observed in January from one decade to the next in the Interior, a value far beyond that which can be explained by increased CO2 and other green house gases.”

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Scientists:

Brian Hartmann
Gerd Wendler
Alaska Climate Research Center
Geophysical Institute
University of Alaska
Fairbanks, Alaska

Paper:
On the significance of the 1976 Pacific climate shift in the climatology of Alaska. Journal of Climate, under review.

Key Quote or Synopsis:

“The 1976 Pacific climate shift is examined and its manifestations and significance in Alaskan climatology during the last half-century are demonstrated. The regime shift is quantified by the Pacific Decadal Oscillation Index shift in 1976 from dominantly negative values for the 25-year time period 1951-1975 to dominantly positive values for the period 1977-2001.

Mean annual and seasonal temperatures for the positive phase were up to 3.1°C higher than for the negative phase. Likewise, mean cloudiness, wind speeds, and precipitation amounts increased while mean sea level pressure and geopotential heights decreased. The pressure decrease resulted in a deepening of the Aleutian Low in winter and spring. The intensification of the Aleutian Low increased the advection of relatively warm and moist air to Alaska and storminess over the state.

The regime shift is also examined for its effect on the long-term temperature trends throughout the state. The trends that have shown climatic warming are strongly biased by the sudden shift from the cooler regime to a warmer regime in 1976. When analyzing the total time period from 1951 to 2001, warming is observed, however the 25-year period trend analyses before 1976 (1951-1975) and thereafter (1977-2001) both display cooling. In this paper we emphasize the importance of taking into account the sudden changes that result from abrupt climatic shifts, persistent regimes and the possibility of cyclic oscillations, such as the PDO, in the analysis of long-term climate change in Alaska.”

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Scientists:

Feng Sheng Hu
University of Illinois
Urbana Illinois

Emi Ito
University of Minnesota
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Thomas A. Brown
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
Livermore, California

B. Brandon Curry
Illinois State Geological Survey
Champaign, Illinois

Daniel R. Engstrom
Science Museum of Minnesota
St. Croix, Minnesota

Paper:
Pronounced climatic variations in Alaska during the last two millennia. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 98, 10552-10556, 2001.

Key Quote or Synopsis:

“We conducted multiproxy geochemical analysis of a sediment core from Farewell Lake (62º 33’ N, 153º 38’ W, 320m altitude) in the northwestern foothills of the Alaska Range. These analysis provide the first high-resolution (multidecadal) quantitative record of Alaskan climate variations that spans the last two millennia….Our SWT [surface water temperature] reconstruction at Farewell Lake indicates that although the 20th century, represented by the uppermost three samples, was among the warmest periods of the past two millennia, two earlier intervals may have been comparably warm (A.D. 0-300 and A.D. 850-1200). These data agree with tree-ring evidence from Fennoscandia, indicating that the recent warmth is not atypical of the past 1000 years.”

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Topic: Sea Ice Declines

During your Senate Committee hearing, you also heard testimony about the observed declines in Arctic sea ice during the past several decades and how that in some climate model prognostications, summer sea ice totally disappears from the northern oceans by the end of the 21st century. However, no one told you that a large portion of the observed sea ice declines is related to natural variability, or that in some regions it does not appear that current conditions are any more or less unusual than sea ice condition during the 19th century. Had you invited the scientists below to testify, you would have been made aware of these opinions.

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Scientists:

James E. Overland
Pacific Marine Laboratory
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Seattle, Washington

Kevin Wood
Arctic Research Office
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Silver Spring, Maryland

Paper:

Accounts from 19th-century Canadian Arctic Explorers’ Logs Reflect Present Climate Conditions, EOS Transactions of the American Geophysical Union, 84, October 7,2003.

Key Quote or Synopsis:

“The widely perceived failure of 19th-century expeditions to find and transit the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic is often attributed to extraordinary cold climate conditions associated wit the “Little Ice Age’ evident in proxy records. However, examination of 44 explorers’ logs for the western Arctic from 1818 to 1910 reveals that climate indicators such as navigability, the distribution and thickness of annual sea ice, monthly surface air temperatures, and the onset of melt and freeze were within the present range of variability.”

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Scientists:

Ignatius G. Rigor
John M. Wallace
University of Washington
Seattle, Washington

Roger L. Colony
University of Alaska
Fairbanks, Alaska

Paper:

Response of Sea Ice to the Arctic Oscillation. Journal of Climate, 15, 2648-2663, 2002.

Key Quote or Synopsis:

“Increased advection of the ice away from the coast during winter during high-index conditions of the AO [Arctic Oscillation] enhanced the production of thin ice in the flaw leads of the East Siberian and Laptev Seas. The cyclonic SIM [sea ice motion] anomaly also enhances the production of thin ice during winter because of the increase in divergence over the eastern Arctic. Both of these processes contribute to thinning of sea ice. These changes in SIM have contributed to the observed trends in sea ice, such as the decreases in ice area and extent, and the thinning of sea ice.

The changes in SIM also appear to be at least partially responsible for the trends in SAT [surface air temperature] reported by Rigor et al. (2000); that is, the increased latent heat released during the formation of new ice in the diverging leads, and the increased heat flux through thinner ice have contributed to the pronounced warming that has been observed in the East Siberian and Laptev portions of the warm anomaly. Intuitively, one might have expected the warming trends in SAT to cause the thinning of sea ice, but the results presented in this study imply the inverse causality; that is, the thinning ice has warmed SAT by increasing the heat flux from the ocean.”

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Scientists:

Greg Holloway
Tessa Sou
Institute of Ocean Sciences
Sidney, British Columbia

Paper:

Has Arctic Sea Ice Rapidly Thinned? Journal of Climate, 15, 1691-1701, 2002.

Key Quote or Synopsis:

“Reports based on submarine sonar data have suggested Arctic sea ice has thinned nearly by half in recent decades. Such rapid thinning is a concern for detection of global change and for Arctic regional impacts. Including atmospheric time series, ocean currents and river runoff into an ocean-ice-snow model show that the inferred rapid thinning was unlikely. The problem stems from undersampling. Varying winds that readily redistribute Arctic ice create a recurring pattern whereby ice shifts between the central Arctic and peripheral regions, especially in the Canadian sector. Timing and tracks of the submarine surveys missed this dominant mode of variability.”

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Scientist:

P. Windsor
Department of Oceanography, Earth Sciences Centre
Göteborg University
Göteborg, Sweden.

Paper:

Arctic Sea Ice Thickness Remained Constant during the 1990s. Geophysical Research Letters, 28, 1039-1041, 2001.

Key Quote or Synopsis:

“The ice cover of the Arctic Ocean is considered to be a sensitive indicator of global climate change. Recent research, using submarine-based observations, suggests that the Arctic ice cover was thinner in the 1990s compared to an earlier period (1958-1979), and that it continued to decrease in thickness in the 1990s. Here I analyze subsurface ice thickness (draft) of Arctic sea ice from six submarine cruises from 1991 to 1997. This extensive data set shows that there was no trend towards a thinning ice cover during the 1990s. Data from the North Pole shows a slight increase in mean ice thickness, whereas the Beaufort Sea shows a small decrease, none of which are significant. Transects between the two areas from 76 N to 90 N also show near constant ice thicknesses, with a general spatial decrease from the Pole towards the Beaufort Sea. Combining the present results with those of an earlier study, I conclude that the mean ice thickness has remained on a near-constant level around the North Pole from 1986 to 1997.”

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Scientist:

Torgny Vijne
Norwegian Polar Institute
Oslo, Norway

Paper:

Anomalies and Trends of Sea-Ice Extent and Atmospheric Circulation in the Nordic Seas during the Period 1864-1998. Journal of Climate, 14, 255-254, 2001.

Key Quote or Synopsis:

Vinje constructed a 135-yr time series of sea ice extent in the Nordic Seas and found that while April sea ice extend has declined by about 33 percent during this period, more than half of the decline occurred before 1900. Vinje concluded that “the time series indicates that we are in a state of continued recovery from the cooling effects of the Little Ice Age, during which a maximum sea-ice expansion was observed around 1800, both in the Iceland Sea and the Barents Sea.”

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Scientists:

Igor V. Polyakov
Mark A. Johnson
University of Alaska
Fairbanks, Alaska

Paper:

Arctic decadal and interdecadal variability. Geophysical Research Letters, 27, 4097-4100, 2000.

Key Quote or Synopsis:

“The rapid reduction of arctic ice thickness in the 1990s may be one manifestation of the intense atmosphere and ice cyclonic circulation regime due to the synchronous actions of the AO [Arctic Oscillation] and LFO [low-frequency oscillation]. Our results suggest that the decadal AO and multi-decadal LFO drive large amplitude natural variability in the Arctic making a detection of possible long-term trends induced by greenhouse gas warming most difficult.”

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Topic: Greenland Melting

Another topic one which you heard testimony was the rapid melting of Greenland ice sheets and their potential contribution to rapid global sea level rise. However, none of the panelists told you that there has been an overall decline in Greenland temperatures during the past 60s years, and that despite the warming trend in Greenland during the last decade or so, temperatures still have not reached levels as high there as they were during the 1930s and 1940s.

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Scientists:

Petr Chylek
Space and Remote Sensing Sciences
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Los Alamos, New Mexico

Jason E. Box
New Mexico State University
Las Cruces, New Mexico

Glen Lesins
Dalhousie University
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Paper:

Global Warming and the Greenland Ice Sheet. Climatic Change, 63, 201-221, 2004.

Key Quote or Synopsis:

“The Greenland surface air temperature trends over the past 50 years do not show persistent warming, in contrast to global average surface air temperatures. The Greenland coastal stations temperature trends over the second half of the past century generally exhibit a cooling tendency with superimposed decadal scale oscillations related to the NAO. At the Greenland ice sheet summit, the temperature record shows a decrease in the summer average temperature at the rate of about 2.2ºC/decade, suggesting that the Greenland ice sheet at high elevations does not follow the global warming trend either.

“A significant and rapid temperature increase was observed at all Greenland stations between 1920 and 1930. The average annual temperature rose between 2 and 4ºC in less than ten years. Since the change in anthropogenic production of greenhouses gases at that time was considerably lower than today, this rapid temperature increase suggests a large natural variability of the regional climate.

“High anticorrelations (r = −0.84 to −0.93) between the NAO index and the Greenland temperature records suggest a physical link between these processes. The recent negative shift of the NAO correlates with 1990s warming in Greenland. The NAO may play a crucial role in determining local Greenland climate during the 21st century; resulting in a local climate that may defy the global climate change. This possibility should be considered in models of ice sheet melt and future sea level rise. Forecasting changes in the NAO may be a primary factor in predicting the future Greenland ice sheet mass balance.”

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Scientists:

Edward Hanna
Institute of Marine Studies
University of Plymouth

John Cappelen
Danish Meteorological Institute
Copenhagen, Denmark

Paper:

Recent cooling in coastal southern Greenland and relation with the North Atlantic Oscillation. Geophysical Research Letters, 30, doi:10.1029/2002GL015797, 2003.

Key Quote or Synopsis:

“Analysis of new data for eight stations in coastal southern Greenland, 1958–2001, shows a significant cooling (trend-line change -1.29°C for the 44 years), as do sea-surface temperatures in the adjacent part of the Labrador Sea, in contrast to global warming (+0.53°C over the same period). The land and sea temperature series follow similar patterns and are strongly correlated but with no obvious lead/lag either way. This cooling is significantly inversely correlated with an increased phase of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) over the past few decades (r = -0.76), and will probably have significantly affected the mass balance of the Greenland Ice Sheet.”

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All of the above facts and findings were known by some, if not all of your panelists, yet none of them saw it fit to tell you. This is especially shameful because panelist Robert Corell, the lead scientist of the ACIA, and a senior figure in American science concluded by telling you that the ACIA report was unique because “it was all facts, no advocacy.” However, the process of carefully selecting some facts and excluding others, in an effort to tell a particular story, is advocacy, pure and simple. This is precisely the course taken in your hearing. The selective statements by your panelists and the personal and belittling attacks that you made during the course of the hearing can be construed as little more than a concerted and organized effort to quell open scientific discourse on this issue of climate change. While you, and your panelists, may defend these actions by claiming that you are doing this for the betterment of the planet and its future ability to support the human race, the fact of the matter is that in suppressing the freedoms to pursue Science and Truth, you imperil our future more than any climatic change possibly could.




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