February 27, 2008

Antarctica Ain’t Cooperating!

Filed under: Antarctic, Polar, Sea Level Rise

We have kidded from time to time about renaming World Climate Report to World Hurricane Report given all the evidence we encounter in the professional literature discrediting the claim of more frequent and intense hurricanes. If we decided to never again report on hurricanes, our next most popular topic would be Antarctica.

Literally thousands of websites on global warming claim that the icecaps are melting at an unprecedented rate due to emissions of greenhouse gases (particularly from the United States), and in case you cannot picture what that looks like, the sites feature an endless number of pictures of blocks of ice floating away from Antarctica (the really effective pictures have a few penguins floating away as well). National Geographic magazine featured a cover story entitled “The Big Thaw,” and based on what you would see in that issue, you would think there is absolutely no debate about rapid and undesirable changes occurring in Antarctica all due to the dreaded global warming phenomenon. As we have shown over and over, nothing could be further from the truth!

When discussing changes (or the lack thereof) in Antarctica, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) most clearly states in their 2007 summary report “Antarctic sea ice extent continues to show inter-annual variability and localized changes but no statistically significant average trends, consistent with the lack of warming reflected in atmospheric temperatures averaged across the region.” Furthermore, IPCC just as clearly states “Current global model studies project that the Antarctic ice sheet will remain too cold for widespread surface melting and is expected to gain in mass due to increased snowfall.” It would take anyone with internet access no more than a few seconds to download the summary from the IPCC website, but once again, the facts are too inconvenient regarding what is reportedly happening in Antarctica according to the greenhouse advocates.

Another major article on temperature trends in the Antarctic has appeared in a recent issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research by a team of scientists from Ohio State University, the University of Illinois, and the Goddard Space Flight Center; the research was funded by the National Science Foundation Office of Polar Programs Glaciology Program. Monaghan et al. begin their lengthy (21 pages – quite long for geophysics) article noting that a previous research team studying Antarctica examined “station temperature records for the past 50 years and report statistically insignificant temperature fluctuations over continental Antarctica excluding the Antarctic Peninsula, with the exception of Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, which cooled by -0.17 K decade-1 for 1958–2000.” That is correct – despite all you have heard elsewhere on the subject, the South Pole has been cooling over the past half century. The previous research team also reported that any warming in Antarctica has slowed and the cooling has accelerated in the more recent three decades.

According to Monaghan et al., yet another team previously examined Antarctic temperatures and “note that prior to 1965 the continent-wide annual trends (through 2002) are slightly positive, but after 1965 they are mainly negative (despite warming over the Antarctic Peninsula).” One of the authors of the Monaghan et al. group had previously examined trends in temperature “inferred from skin temperatures from Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) instruments on polar orbiting satellites” and found “a statistically insignificant cooling trend over continental Antarctica from 1982 to 1998.” Monaghan et al. further note “recent literature suggests there has been little overall change in Antarctic near-surface temperature during the past 5 decades” and “the absence of widespread Antarctic temperature increases is consistent with studies showing little overall change in other Antarctic climate indicators during the past 50 years such as sea ice area and snowfall.” OK, you get the message – Antarctica is definitely not cooperating with this greenhouse scare!

Monaghan fairly note that there is still uncertainty “because of the sparse network of continuous, long-term near-surface temperature records (about 15 stations on a continent 1 1/2 times as large as the United States), there is still considerable uncertainty as to (1) the spatial and temporal variability of Antarctic near-surface temperature trends and (2) whether the existing network of stations provides a temperature record that is representative of the entire continent.” Accordingly, they introduce a new method for using existing temperature records, atmospheric circulation variables, topography, and a sophisticated interpolation method to build a better temperature representation for the continent.

Now for the bottom line relevant to us. As seen in the figure below (Figure 1), the various Antarctic-wide temperature patterns are very highly correlated (the new datasets are the “RECON” designation). The authors have various versions of their “RECON” time series depending on several decisions made by the team, but the bottom line is obvious, the is little evidence for warming in Antarctica! They state “All records correlate significantly with all other records during all seasons from 1982 to 2001. Near-surface temperature trends are statistically insignificant (p >0.05) on annual timescales within every data set analyzed, for both the longer (1960–2002) and shorter (1982–2001) periods.”


Figure 1. Annual Antarctic near-surface temperature (K) anomalies (with respect to the 1980–1999 mean) for various data sets for (a) 1950–2005 and (b) 1980–2005. The new temperature datasets developed in the 2008 article are labeled “RECON” (from Monaghan et al., 2008).

Literally hundreds of articles could appear tomorrow re-confirming their results, the IPCC could continue to report emphatically that Antarctica is not warming (and may well be cooling), and somehow, this will all translate into claims that “Antarctica is warming and melting.” The truth from Antarctica is hard for the greenhouse crusade to accept (although certainly they try hard to fit it in), and in the long run, the truth from Antarctica might melt away the flimsy, well-publicized claims about global climate change—especially the concerns of a rapid sea level rise.

Reference:

Monaghan, A. J., D. H. Bromwich, W. Chapman, and J. C. Comiso (2008), Recent variability and trends of Antarctic near-surface temperature, Journal of Geophysical Research, 113, D04105, doi:10.1029/2007JD009094.




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