January 30, 2009

Antarctica Again

Filed under: Antarctic, Polar

We have reported on many occasions about the climate history of Antarctica, basically concluding that the frozen continent was not warming up during the most recent couple of decades, despite expectations that it should have been.

At first glance, a new paper by the University of Washington’s Eric Steig and colleagues, published in last week’s Nature magazine and featured as its cover story, may seem to challenge our understanding—at least that is how it was spun to the press (see here and here, for example).

But a closer look at what the paper really says—as opposed to what is said about the paper—shows that there is not much in need of changing with the current understanding of Antarctica’s temperature history.

We’ll show you why.


January 23, 2009

Glacier Slowdown in Greenland: How Inconvenient

In this week’s Science magazine, science writer Richard Kerr reports on some of the goings-on at this past December’s annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

While he didn’t cover our presentation at the meeting in which we described our efforts at creating a reconstruction of ice melt across Greenland dating back into the late 1700s (we found that the greatest period of ice melt occurred in the decades around the 1930s), Kerr did cover some other recent findings concerning the workings of Greenland’s cryosphere in his article titled “Galloping Glaciers of Greenland Have Reined Themselves In.”


January 19, 2009

Dead On Arrival: EPA/CCSP Sea Level Rise Report Already Outdated

[update 1/20/09: for more on sea level rise see our post over at the new blog masterresource.org]

On Friday, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report on the implications of future sea level rise on the mid-Atlantic coast (from North Carolina to New York). The report was one of the series of 21-reports commissioned by the U.S. Climate Change Research Program (recall our less than favorable reviews of another recent CCSP product). As with most climate change “assessment reports” from large government and intergovernmental efforts, the science in the report is stale and out-of-date by the time the report is finally published (the EPA’s recent documents in support of its “Advanced Notice of Propsed Rulemaking: Regulating Greenhouse Gas Emissions under the Clean Air Act” is a prime example).


January 12, 2009

Global Warming’s Rare Bird?

Filed under: Adaptation, Animals

While having coffee and reading through the paper on Sunday morning, I came across an AP article about the recent sighting of a LBB (little brown bird in birder’s parlance) in southern Texas. It turns out that everyone was atwitter that the LBB was actually a pine flycatcher—a species which usually inhabits that high elevation mountains of Mexico and Guatemala much further to the south and which had never before been documented in the United States.

I kept reading waiting for the explantion that was sure to come—that “global warming” was likely responsible for the pine flycatcher’s visit as now the climate of the low Texas scrubland was on its way to becoming a possible suitable habitat. But, as I continued to read about the large numbers of bird watchers who had flocked to the area from miles around who could barely contain their enthusiasm, I soon realized that the requisite “blame it on global warming” content was absent.

Then it dawned on me why…this was a story in which people were happy about seeing a cute animal species farther north than it is usually found!


January 8, 2009

Science Fiction Down on the Farm

Filed under: Adaptation, Agriculture

The January 9th, 2008 issue of Science, the official publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, contains a remarkable article by University of Washington atmospheric scientist David Battisti and Stanford co-author Rosamond Naylor. Science reputedly is the world’s most prestigious refereed science journal in the world.

Not in this case. The article is remarkably bad. A colleague of mine, looking at an advance copy asked, in all seriousness, if this was an editorial rather than a scientific paper. Sorry, I replied, it’s the real deal.

Actually it’s pretty bad science fiction. Good science fiction is at least plausible.

Battisti’s argument seems straightforward. Take all 23 of the climate models used by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Over a substantial portion of the moist tropics and desert subtropics, there is a 90% chance that average summer (June-August) temperatures in 2100 will exceed today’s record values, resulting in massive rises in commodity prices as a result of extreme food shortages.

You know the paper’s going to be bad from the first sentence: “The food crisis of 2006-2008 demonstrates the fragile nature of feeding the world’s human population.”

Never mentioned is that this “crisis” was largely due to a knee-jerk political reaction—huge ethanol mandates—in response to climate science alarmism. That crisis was caused by papers like this.


January 7, 2009

U.S. Temperatures 2008: Back to the Future?

Filed under: Surface, Temperature History

The data are just in from the National Climatic Data Center and they show that for the year 2008, the average temperature across the United States (lower 48 States) was 1.34ºF lower than last year, and a mere one-quarter of a degree above the long-term 1901-2000 average. The temperature in 2008 dropped back down to the range that characterized most of the 20th century.

Figure 1 shows the U.S. temperature history from 1895 to 2008. Notice the unusual grouping of warm years that have occurred since the 1998 El Niño. Once the 1998 El Niño elevated the temperatures across the country, they never seemed to return to where they were before. Proponents of catastrophic global warming liked to claim that is was our own doing through the burning of fossil fuels, but others were more inclined to scratch their heads at the odd nature of the record and wait to see what happened next.

Figure 1. U.S. average annual temperature history 1895-2008 (source: National Climatic Data Center, http://climvis.ncdc.noaa.gov/cgi-bin/cag3/hr-display3.pl)

You see, prior to 1998, there was little of note in the long-term U.S. temperature record. Temperatures fluctuated a bit from year to year, but the long-term trend was slight and driven by the cold string of years in the late 19th and early 20th century rather than by any warmth at the end of the record. In fact, from the period 1930 through 1997, the annual average temperature actually declined a hair—despite the on-going build-up of atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations. The only suggestion that “global warming” had involved the U.S. was to be found in the post-1997 period—a period unusual in that the temperatures went up and stayed up at near-record levels year after year. It was not so much that temperatures continued to climb after 1998, but just that they never fell. This grouping of warm years nearly doubled the apparent overall warming trend in U.S. temperatures (starting in 1895) from 0.07ºF/dedade (ending in 1997) to 0.13ºF/decade (ending in 2007). And with this doubling of the warming trend came the big push for emissions restrictions.

But now, 2008 comes along and has broken this warm stranglehold. Perhaps this is an indication that the conditions responsible for the unusual string of warm years have broken down—and maybe they weren’t a sudden apparition of anthropogenic global warming after all.

Only time will tell for sure. But, at least for now, things seem like they have returned to a more “normal” state of being.

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