January 24, 2008

Tibet’s Temperature Story

Hardly a week goes by without some story hitting the news about global warming and retreating glaciers, and for whatever reason, retreating glaciers in the Himalayan region get more than their fair share of coverage. The recent death of Sir Edmund Hillary served to further focus attention on this part of the world.

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November 8, 2007

Snow and Ice Surprises

A recent headline carried around the world certainly caught our eye as it proclaimed “Mont Blanc Growing Due to Global Warming.” When we first saw the piece, we fully expected to read about a process called isostatic rebound. If you are rusty in basic earth science principles, isostatic rebound occurs when weight is reduced from the earth’s crust (as is the case when a substantial amount of ice disappears from a region), the crust rebounds upward, and the land surface increases its elevation with respect to sea level. Oppositely, when ice accumulates over a region (e.g., Greenland, Antarctica), the crust is depressed, sometimes well below sea level. So when we first saw the piece about Mont Blanc, the highest peak in the Alps, we assumed the article would be about how melting of the mountain glaciers has now led to crustal rebounding and a higher summit. However, we were in for a huge surprise.

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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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June 26, 2007

Mont Blanc Glaciers Refuse to Shrink?

If you have an interest in global warming and its effect on mountain glaciers, you will be thrilled to know that there are over one million websites on the subject. Even before you get to the first site, you already know what you will find. Burning fossil fuels increases atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, the Earth is warming, mountain glaciers are in full retreat all over the planet, delicate ecosystems are in peril, and humans who rely on the freshwater from mountain glaciers better get creative fast. Recall that in the Gore film, a great deal of attention was paid to the diminishing “snows of Kilimanjaro” – Gore has made hay in Glacier National Park as well pointing to shrinking glaciers. Retreating mountain glaciers have become a poster-child of the global warming alarmists – no presentation on the subject is complete without one.

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June 12, 2007

A Kilimanjaro We-told-you-so

File this one under “we been telling you this for years.”

The headline of the University of Washington press release reads “The woes of Kilimanjaro: Don’t blame global warming.” The press release was prepared to announce an article in an upcoming issue of American Scientist magazine (linked to by the press release), by Phil Mote (University of Washington research scientist and State Climatologist of Washington) and Georg Kaser (glaciologist at the University of Insbruck, Austria)

The press release begins:

The “snows” of Africa’s Mount Kilimanjaro inspired the title of an iconic American short story, but now its dwindling icecap is being cited as proof for human-induced global warming.

However, two researchers writing in the July-August edition of American Scientist magazine say global warming has nothing to do with the decline of Kilimanjaro’s ice, and using the mountain in northern Tanzania as a “poster child” for climate change is simply inaccurate.

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May 21, 2007

Actual South American Snow Cover Data Show No Climate Change

Within the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the authors of the chapter focusing on snow, ice, and frozen ground (Chapter 4) state that “The cryosphere integrates climate variations over a wide range of time scales, making it a natural sensor of climate variability and providing a visible expression of climate change.” In their very next sentence, the authors concede that “the cryosphere has undergone large variations on many time scales associated with ice ages and with shorter-term variations.” This is a conscientious caveat to their report, because it is widely accepted that Earth’s cryosphere, or frozen realm, has changed significantly in the past with variability in planetary temperature. It should not be too difficult to understand the concept that periods of reduced snow and ice across Earth have historically coincided with planetary warmth. With a risk of tugging on that particular linchpin of Al Gore’s scientific knowledge, here comes new research findings associated with snowpack variability in the Andes Mountains of South America.

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February 20, 2007

More Ice for Your Shasta

Filed under: Glaciers/Sea Ice

Warming means less ice. Simple. Intuitive. Untrue. An appealing poster child for the global warming crusade is starting to take some heat…

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January 15, 2007

More Arctic Contradiction

Many times over, we at the World Climate Report have underscored the popular idea that Earth’s frozen realm, or the cryosphere, serves as a monitor of regional climate variability and global climate change. This idea is combined with evidence and theory that a large degree of climate warming has and will occur in the high latitudes of the Northern Hemisphere. Climate variables that have been historically studied the most include air temperature, snow cover, and glacier characteristics, but in recent decades, sea ice data have been mined for use in climate change research.

While many studies have focused on trends in the characteristics of sea ice in the Northern Hemisphere over the last several decades, the ice cover of Canada’s Hudson Bay region has been almost entirely ignored. Evidence of an insignificant decrease in the spatial extent of the Hudson Bay sea ice (Parkinson et al. 1999) and an indication of earlier spring break-up and later fall freeze-up (Gagnon and Gough 2005a) generally support projections by general circulation models (Gagnon and Gough 2005b). However, trends in the thickness of Hudson Bay sea ice have not been examined in search of evidence of recent climate change…until recently. In the October 2006 issue of Climate Research, Alexandre Gagnon of the University of Liverpool (United Kingdom) and William Gough of the University of Toronto Scarborough (Canada) reported on trends in Hudson Bay sea ice thickness using data from the Canadian Ice Service.

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January 3, 2007

The Park Formerly Known as Glacier

Glacier National Park just seems to come up repeatedly in the debate about global warming. This poster child of the greenies is sacred ground, for it provides an opportunity to show the kids where the glaciers were when you were a kid, see where the glaciers terminate today, and of course blame global warming and further blame the Bush Administration for not signing the Kyoto Protocol. Many documentaries on the greenhouse effect have been drawn to the Park, and if you Google “Glacier National Park and Global Warming,” you will be directed to approximately 159,000 sites.

A very interesting paper on Glacier National Park appears in a recent issue of Earth Interactions by scientists at Montana State University and the U.S. Geological Survey. Pederson et al. begin their article noting that “Evidence from an increasingly rich paleoproxy record demonstrates that over the last millennium decadal to multidecadal precipitation anomalies have been a substantial, if not defining, component of western North America’s climates. As in the twentieth century, the last 1000 yr has experienced sporadic episodes of both persistent (>10 yr) droughts and wet regimes, though the magnitude and duration of many paleodroughts surpass those captured by the instrumental record.” The notion that droughts in the past were far worse than any recent drought brought our attention to the article, but there is far more to the story than just past droughts.

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October 11, 2006

Antarctic Ice Sheet (and the Plot) Thickens

Filed under: Antarctic, Glaciers/Sea Ice, Polar

Glaciers the size of Rhode Island breaking off and floating away…grass growing along the periphery of Antarctica…coastal inundation from rising sea levels…even a forecast that Europe will freeze solid the “day after tomorrow.” These are a few of the doomsday portraits painted by a politicized few that are clamoring to have a full-throated voice in the great global climate change debate.

Evidence that lends support to some of the theories behind these supposedly dire portraits can be found throughout the scientific literature, as is the case with many of the issues in the debate about the warming of the global atmosphere. In reference to the scenes described above, many studies have presented measured and modeled data that suggest that the greatest amount of atmospheric warming is occurring or will occur across Earth’s polar regions. However, one can just as easily search the literature and find conflicting evidence.

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