October 30, 2007

Arctic Sea-Ice: Another Hockey Stick?

Filed under: Arctic, Polar

This figure, labeled as “Sea-ice Extent: Northern Hemisphere” was presented by Al Gore in the book version of his science (fiction) movie An Inconvenient Truth. But is this depiction of the Arctic sea ice extent over the course of the 20th century even close to reality?

Probably not.


Figure 1. Arctic sea-ice extent as depicted by Al Gore in An Inconvenient Truth. (source: An Inconvenient Truth, p. 143)

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October 26, 2007

Settling on an unstable Alaskan shore: A warning unheeded

Filed under: Arctic, Polar

An intense storm struck the northwestern tip of Alaska during the fall of 1963. This storm caused over 3 million dollars in damage, primarily to the U.S. Government research camp that was located at Barrow, AK, as 55mph winds (gusting to 75mph) and waves topping 10 feet pushed a storm surge over the 10 foot high protective beach. The storm hit during an unusual ice-free period in early October—the primary reason why the seas grew to such damaging heights. During most months there, near shore sea ice coverage is sufficient to dampen (or prevent entirely) the build up of significant wave heights. James Hume and Marshall Schalk, described the damage from the 1963 storm in an article written for the journal Arctic in 1967 and based upon historical weather records and the recollection of Inuit elders, reckoned that the storm was about a “200 year” storm.

This storm, and others like it, should have served as ample warming against settling on the unstable coastline of much of Alaska. Instead, today we here repeated reports of recently-established native Alaskan villages having to be moved inland because of an encroaching ocean—and the culprit is always anthropogenic global warming, never lack of foresight.

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October 24, 2007

Tropical Cyclones of China

Recently, former Vice President Al Gore won a share of the Nobel Peace Prize for his contributions to our understanding of the global warming problem. His film was seen as a masterpiece that certainly sealed the deal on his Nobel Prize. However, on the same day the Nobel committee honored Gore, world renowned hurricane specialist Dr. William Gray told a packed lecture hall at the University of North Carolina that humans were not responsible for the warming of the Earth and not responsible for alter hurricane patterns, as strongly suggested in the Gore film. Gray told the crowd “They’re going to the Gore movie and being fed all this,” and “It’s ridiculous. The human impact on the atmosphere is simply too small to have a major effect on global temperatures.” Dr. Gray said there were 101 hurricanes from 1900 to 1949 in a period of cooler global temperatures compared to 83 hurricanes between 1957 and 2006. Don’t look for Dr. Gray to receive a Nobel Prize anytime soon.

As we sit through a ho-hum year in terms of hurricanes (a.k.a., tropical cyclones) in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean Sea, another article has appeared in the professional literature with results that call into question any prediction about more tropical cyclones in the future. The latest work comes from a team of scientists with China’s Shanghai Typhoon Institute and is published in the Chinese journal Acta Oceanologica Sinica (you may notice a few misspelled words and odd phrases in some quotes from the article). The work was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the Special Climate Project of China’s Meteorological Administration.

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October 22, 2007

A million square miles of open water

A couple of weeks ago, New York Times science writer Andrew Revkin wrote a piece titled “Arctic Melt Unnerves the Experts” in which he described this year’s record low Arctic summer sea ice extent and the how the dramatic decline over last year had caught many sea-ice scientists by surprise. Revkin goes on to interview a variety of experts on the topic of sea ice, most of which realize that some (most) of the sea ice decline observed over the past several decades is likely related to anthropogenic changes to the earth’s climate, while admitting that undoubtedly, some natural (non-human-influenced) processes likely contributed to the decline as well.

Revkin starts out by noting “astonished by the summer’s changes [in ice extent], scientists are studying forces that exposed one million square miles of open water—six Californias—beyond the average since satellites started measurements in 1979.”

And then he continues:

Proponents of cuts in greenhouse gases cited the meltdown as proof that human activities are propelling a slide toward climate calamity.

Arctic experts say things are not that simple. More than a dozen experts said in interviews that the extreme summer ice retreat had revealed at least as much about what remains unknown in the Arctic as what is clear. Still, many of those scientists said they were becoming convinced that the system is heading toward a new, more watery state, and that human-caused global warming is playing a significant role.

For one thing, experts are having trouble finding any records from Russia, Alaska or elsewhere pointing to such a widespread Arctic ice retreat in recent times, adding credence to the idea that humans may have tipped the balance. Many scientists say the last substantial warming in the region, peaking in the 1930s, mainly affected areas near Greenland and Scandinavia.

Depending on what Revkin meant by “recent times,” perhaps we could help him out as to where he may look in order to find out some information indicating that “widespread Arctic ice retreat” has occurred without any human help. If Revkin meant “since satellites started measurements in 1979” then, he probably has that covered, but if by “recent” he meant within the past 100 years or so, then maybe we could suggest a few other avenues to investigate.

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October 18, 2007

Sensational

Filed under: Climate Politics

The findings by the UK judge announced last week that Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth failed to tell the whole truth on more than a few occasions received a fair degree of press coverage and, of course, a great deal of outcry from Gore defenders worldwide.

Now, “the Gore Team” has come to its own defense on a Washington Post blog site. In running down the list of supposed “errors” in An Inconvenient Truth, it is the basic contention of the Gore team that the scientific issues that Gore was trying to get a cross to a lay audience were far more complex than he had the time (or desire?) to adequately explain in a 90-minute feature film (or in the accompanying 328 page book; hint, use a smaller, albeit less dramatic, typeface next time).

For instance, concerning Gore’s use of the glacier recession on Africa’s Mt Kilimanjaro (through a series of historic photographs and flowery language) to illustrate the effects of global warming, despite the fact that the majority of scientific evidence is that factors other than temperature (such as exposure, humidity, and precipitation) are primarily responsible to the loss of ice atop the mountain, the Gore Team justifies that, well, global warming is undoubtedly making things worse there.

This sentiment, that, well, even though it may not be the primary cause, anthropogenic global warming is making things worse, is used in their justification of the Gorey pictures of the damage from Hurricane Katrina (even though we showed picture after picture of the damage from Katrina we never “ascribe any single weather event to climate change”), destruction of coral reefs, drowning polar bears, the drying of Lake Chad, and the flooding of low-lying Pacific islands.

Ultimately, the Gore Team has the following to say, acting dismayed at the state of media coverage these days, “To conclude, it’s unfortunate that news coverage of the UK decision was so sensational and, once again, directed conversation away from a broader and much-needed discussion and debate about solutions to the climate crisis.”

So sensational?!

Apparently showing photo after photo of current and potential future environmental catastrophe (carefully ignoring instances of similar catastrophes in the past) while talking and writing in grave tones about climate change and mankind’s role in it, but never admitting that many other factors are also at play and in many cases are the dominant ones, is a perfectly acceptable way of conveying issues to the public. But, pointing out that this is what is going on is “sensational.”

It seems to us, that the Gore Team is just a bit miffed that someone stole a page out of their playbook and successfully ran it against them.




Drunken Trees

Filed under: Arctic, Climate Politics, Polar

The other week the busy little bees who are working on Nobel Al’s new book… what, you didn’t know Gore was working on a new book? Yep, apparently in the works is a book on climate change and its solutions, supposedly titled “A Path to Survival” in which Gore lays out, well, you can probably figure that out. As we have detailed previously Gore is more than just a little out there when he starts talking about the climate change threats to human’s survivability on Earth. So, we don’t yet know whether his new title will be shelved in the science or science fiction section.

But, as we were saying, the other week the busy little bees who are helping out on Al Gore’s new book sent a call out looking for photographs or other particularly useful information that could be used to illustrate the impacts of melting permafrost and changes to the environment that may result. The request was for images or charts that could be incorporated in a chapter on “permafrost melting” (as a technical point, because we’re sure that Gore will be paying more attention to the details this time around, permafrost—any type of soil that spends most of its time below freezing, whether or not any water is present—doesn’t ‘melt’ but rather, it ‘thaws’). And although it wasn’t specifically mentioned, we’re sure they meant “The more dramatic the better!”

Always interested to help out, we thought that we’d offer up a few images that we recently came across in our on-going effort to compare current conditions in the Arctic with conditions earlier in the 20th century.

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October 16, 2007

Greenland Climate: Now vs. Then, Part I. Temperatures

Filed under: Arctic, Polar

We at World Climate Report have been spending some time over at the local library digging through some old journals looking for information about climate conditions in Greenland during the early-to-mid 20th century—a time when it pretty well established that much of Greenland was as warm, or warmer, than it is presently. This fact, however, seems largely ignored by alarmist scientists and the media who continue to turn up the volume on rhetoric claiming that Greenland is experiencing events that have not been experienced there for time immemorial. Knowing what we do about the climate history of Greenland, we can’t help to wonder whether time immemorial only extends back about 50 years or so.

We will present what we uncover through a multi-part series of World Climate Reports under the general title, “Greenland Climate: Now vs. Then.”

In our first installment, we’ll briefly review the temperature history of Greenland over the course of the 20th century, setting the stage for future articles in which we’ll visit topics that have been in the news recently such as record levels of surface melt extent, rapidly retreating glaciers, surface mass balance estimates, and “warming islands.”

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October 10, 2007

Drought Update

Filed under: Droughts, Precipitation

Have you been hearing a lot about drought recently? Or maybe you’ve been hearing a lot about flooding recently? Probably depends on where you live. The map below (Figure 1) shows the current state of drought (and extreme moisture) across the United States as of a few days ago, and the map shows “Extreme Drought” in much of the American West (a pattern that extends well into Canada), “Extreme Drought” in the Southeast, but “Extreme Moist” conditions in Texas and parts of the middle of the country. Add in some record-breaking high temperatures in October in the Northeast, and the global warming crowd is once primed to blame everything you see on the dreaded build-up of greenhouse gases. This week, we even learned that the fashion industry is gearing up for a world with milder winters, orangutans are feeling the heat, presidential hopefuls are pledging to do something about the changing climate, and who knows what else?


Figure 1. Moisture status across the United States.

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October 5, 2007

Big Apple Hurricanes

Imagine if a large hurricane struck New York City during this tropical cyclone season – the devastation would be incredible and during and following the disastrous event, global warming would undoubtedly be blamed for the all that happened to the Big Apple. Believe it or not, this will happen sometime in the not-so-distant future, it’s a virtual lock! New York City has been struck many times in the past by tropical cyclones, and it is just a matter of time before another hurricane passes directly over the city. Officials there are fully aware of the threat, as this brochure attests, providing plenty of information about hurricane evacuation zones located throughout the metropolitan area.

As we have detailed many times in the past, there is a considerable debate in the climate community regarding the future of hurricane activity. There are several prominent scientists arguing that recent global warming has increased tropical sea surface temperatures (SSTs) that can support more hurricanes, stronger events with much higher destructive powers, and hurricanes that simply last longer. These scientists and their many followers have suggested that Katrina and other recent hurricanes have been made more destructive given the ongoing buildup of greenhouse gases. Many others have raised substantial doubts about the proposed link between greenhouse gases and hurricane activity (we have covered many of their research papers, for the latest, see here). Nonetheless, should a large hurricane pass over downtown Manhattan, scientists promoting the greenhouse link would breathlessly appear on our televisions 24 hours a day.

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October 2, 2007

Hurricane/Global Warming Link Weakened

Filed under: Climate Extremes, Hurricanes

“Given this state of affairs, projections of changes in [tropical cyclone] intensity due to future global warming must be approached cautiously.”

This is the concluding sentence of a just-published article by University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Kyle Swanson in which he carefully examined the historical relationship between sea surface temperatures and tropical cyclone intensity in the Atlantic and western Pacific ocean.

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