October 5, 2012

A Classic Tale of Global Warming Alarmism

Filed under: Antarctic, Arctic, Polar

In his New York Times “Green” blog article “Running the Numbers on Antarctic Sea IceTimes reporter Justin Gillis generates a new index of sea ice melt that hypes the loss of Arctic sea ice relative to the gains in Antarctic sea ice. As you’ll see below, perhaps a more appropriate title would have been “Torturing the Data on Antarctic Sea Ice.”

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September 10, 2012

Sea Level Acceleration: Not so Fast

Filed under: Sea Level Rise

Sea level rise is a topic that we frequently focus on because of all the gross environmental alterations which may result from anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions, it is perhaps the only one which could lead to conditions unexperienced by modern societies. A swift (or accelerating) sea level rise sustained for multiple decades and/or centuries would pose challenges for many coastal locations, including major cities around the world—challenges that would have to be met in some manner to avoid inundation of valuable assets. However, as we often point out, observational evidence on the rate of sea level rise is reassuring, because the current rate of sea level rise from global warming lies far beneath the rates associated with catastrophe. While some alarmists project sea level rise of between 1 to 6 meters (3 to 20 feet) by the end of this century, currently sea level is only inching up at a rate of about 20 to 30 centimeters per hundred years (or about 7 to 11 inches of additional rise by the year 2100)—a rate some 3-4 times below the low end of the alarmist spectrum, and a whopping 20 to 30 times beneath the high end.

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July 26, 2012

Wild Speculation on Climate and Polar Bears

Filed under: Adaptation, Animals, Polar

Here is another big one from PNAS.

For those who don’t know, PNAS stands for the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and it has gained the unfortunate reputation for publishing scientific research articles that regularly get knocked out of the park within hours of their release. The lack of rigor stems from its rather unique “peer-review” process in which National Academy members can submit articles for publication that the authors themselves have had “peer-reviewed”—that is, they passed the article by a couple of friends of theirs for comments. It’s more like “pal review.”

It is hard to imagine many papers being rejected under this system, although it can happen. For example, a contributed article by National Academy member Dr. Richard Lindzen that argued that the climate sensitivity to anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions isn’t as large as commonly thought was rejected by the PNAS editor in change, overruling the recommendations of the reviewers chosen by Lindzen. But such occurrences are quite rare.

Instead, papers with rather speculative conclusions can be regularly found in the pages of PNAS as we have documented on several occasions (see here and here for example).

A new paper has just appeared which should be added to this list in the form of a contribution by National Academy foreign associate and molecular biologist Dr. Luis Herrera-Estrella on the subject of polar bears, evolution, and climate influences.

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July 24, 2012

Illiteracy at NASA

Filed under: Arctic, Polar

Apparently NASA should start distributing dictionaries to the authors of its press releases.

Here is the title of the July 24, 2012 NASA press release reporting on recent ice melt across the surface of Greenland:

“Satellites See Unprecedented Greenland Ice Sheet Surface Melt”

And here is a quote from within the release:

“Ice cores from Summit show that melting events of this type occur about once every 150 years on average. With the last one happening in 1889, this event is right on time,” says Lora Koenig, a Goddard glaciologist and a member of the research team analyzing the satellite data.

Now, according to our version of Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, “unprecedented” is defined as:

“having no precedent: NOVEL, UNEXAMPLED”

Dictionary.com concurs:

“without previous instance; never before known or experienced; unexampled or unparalleled: an unprecedented event.”

So, while it may be meteorologically interesting that a series of high pressure ridges had passed over Greenland this summer with largest and warmest of these parking over the island for a few days in mid-July and raising the temperature to near the melting point of ice all the way up to the summit of Greenland’s ice cap—it is not a type of event which is unique. Rare perhaps, but not unprecedented.

But, apparently, when it comes to hyping anthropogenic global warming (or at least the inference thereto), redefining English words in order to garner more attention is a perfectly acceptable practice.

Which brings to mind this oldy but goody from the late Stephen Schneider:

On the one hand, as scientists we are ethically bound to the scientific method, in effect promising to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but — which means that we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts. On the other hand, we are not just scientists but human beings as well. And like most people we’d like to see the world a better place, which in this context translates into our working to reduce the risk of potentially disastrous climatic change. To do that we need to get some broadbased support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, entails getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have. This ‘double ethical bind’ we frequently find ourselves in cannot be solved by any formula. Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest. I hope that means being both.

At NASA, apparently being honest is not considered as being the most effective.




June 29, 2012

NRC Sea Level Rise Scare: Losing Sight of the Science

Last week, the National Academies of Sciences’ National Research Council (NRC) released a report Sea-Level Rise for the Coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington: Past, Present, and Future. The apparent intent of the report was to raise global warming alarm by projecting rapidly rising seas—some 2-3 times higher than recent IPCC estimates—along the California coast and elsewhere. Based on the news coverage, the NRC was successful.

Successfully handling the media does not equate to successfully handling the science, if scientific success is judged by scientific accuracy.

The NRC was quite adept at sidestepping the inconvenient scientific literature which would have tempered their conclusions and which would have replaced alarm with prudent vigilance. Sure, global sea level will continue to rise, but the rate of future rise will likely be closer to the rise observed during the 20th century, about 8-12 inches—a rate to which coastal residents have easily adapted—than to the NRC’s upper bound which approaches some 4-5 feet by the year 2100.

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June 4, 2012

Historical Imagery of Greenland Glaciers Lessens Sea Level Rise Alarm

Filed under: Arctic, Polar

A new study using historical images of glaciers in southeast Greenland to investigate glacier response to climate changes suggests that the recently observed acceleration of ice loss from Greenland may not be a long-term phenomenon. Instead, as marine terminating glaciers reach their grounding line and as the termini of land-terminating glaciers migrate upwards in elevation, ice loss rates from glacial discharge may slacken. According to Anders Bjørk and co-researchers:

[T]he recent high rate of retreat may come to a slowdown when retreating marine-terminating glaciers reach their grounding line and become less sensitive to the influence of ocean temperature, or through positive or negative feedback mechanisms relating to the cold East Greenland Coastal Current.

and,

Our results have implications for future estimations of sea-level rise as retreat rates for marine-terminating glaciers are likely to increase as temperature rises until glacier fronts reach the grounding line, or when cold ocean currents re-establish, whereas retreat rates for land-terminating glaciers are not likely to rise in the same order of magnitude.

Such results throw a bit of cold water on alarmist ideas that rising temperatures will lead to ever-accelerating ice loss from Greenland and accelerating sea level rise.

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April 11, 2012

Atmospheric Aerosols and the Death of Nature

Filed under: Climate Changes, Gulf Stream

Big news last week was that new findings published in Nature magazine showed that human emissions of aerosols (primarily from fossil fuel use) have been largely responsible for the multi-decadal patterns of sea surface temperature variability in the Atlantic ocean that have been observed over the past 150 years or so. This variability—commonly referred to as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, or AMO—has been linked to several socially significant climate phenomena including the ebb and flow of active Atlantic hurricane periods and drought in the African Sahel.

This paper marks, in my opinion, the death of credibility for Nature on global warming. The first symptoms showed up in 1996 when they published a paper by Ben Santer and 13 coauthors that was so obviously cherry-picked that it took me and my colleagues about three hours to completely destroy it. Things have gone steadily downhill, from a crazy screamer by Jonathan Patz on mortality from warming that didn’t even bother to examine whether fossil fuels were associated with extended lifespan (they are), to the recent Shakun debacle. But the latest whopper, by Ben Booth and his colleagues at the UK Met Office indeed signals the death of Nature in this field.

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January 20, 2012

The Changing Influence of Time

Filed under: Climate Changes

Since anyone first heard of global warming, we have been told that a warmer world would result in higher moisture levels in the atmosphere, and intensification of the hydrological cycle, and any number of negative consequences could result (e.g., more floods, more intense storms). A warmer world would almost surely mean more evapotranspiration (ET) – hard to disagree on that front.

Well, in the real warmer world, it appears that things aren’t that straightforward (but what’s new about that!).

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January 3, 2012

Antarctic Temperature Trends

Filed under: Antarctic, Climate Changes, Polar

Almost exactly two three years ago, a prominent paper became a media darling as it, according to the alarmist website Real Climate “appeared to reverse the ‘Antarctic cooling’ meme that has been a staple of disinformation efforts for a while now.”

The Nature paper, by Eric Steig and colleagues, made the cover on the January 22, 2009 issue.


Figure 1. Cover of January 22, 2009 issue of Nature magazine (left) showing the map of temperature trends across Antarctica as determined by the analysis of Steig et al. (right).

Despite Real Climate’s predictable take on the situation, many long-time students of Antarctic climate change (including usn’s here at WCR) yawned. It has been known for decades that there is a net warming in Antarctic surface temperature that began during the International Geophysical Year in 1957. However, what is also well known, is that the vast majority of the observed warming in Antarctica took place from the late 1950s through the early 1970s and that since then—during a period going on 40 years now—there has been very little net temperature change over Antarctica taken as a whole.

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December 21, 2011

Winter 2011-12: Global Warming to Blame?

No matter what this winter holds in store, someone, somewhere, will blame it on global warming.

Recall that the last two snowy and cold winters in the eastern U.S. were blamed, by some, on greater than normal snowfall amounts across Eurasia during the preceding fall season. And the snowy Eurasian autumns were blamed on the low levels of Arctic sea ice during September—which of course was blamed on anthropogenic global warming. Forecaster Judah Cohen explained how this works in a Christmas day op-ed in the New York Times last year—published the day before a nearly 2 foot snowstorm buried the city:

“As global temperatures have warmed and as Arctic sea ice has melted over the past two and a half decades, more moisture has become available to fall as snow over the continents. So the snow cover across Siberia in the fall has steadily increased. … It’s all a snow job by nature. The reality is, we’re freezing not in spite of climate change but because of it.”

And back in January of 2000, during a particularly mild winter in New York City, the Times ran an article which blamed the mild, snowless weather on global warming:

“I bought a sled in ’96 for my daughter,” said Dr. Michael Oppenheimer, a scientist at the nonprofit Environmental Defense Fund. ”It’s been sitting in the stairwell, and hasn’t been used. I used to go sledding all the time. It’s one of my most vivid and pleasant memories as a kid, hauling the sled out to Cunningham Park in Queens.”

…Dr. Oppenheimer, among other ecologists, points to global warming as perhaps the most significant long-term factor.

But such is the cycle of the daily news. Anything unusual has to have a cause, and global warming has gone from being the cause du jour, to being the cause de rigueur. So you don’t have usually to look very far to find someone fingering global warming for anything meteorological—especially when it can be spun in a negative context.

So, what kind of global warming linkages should we expect from this year’s winter?

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