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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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 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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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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August 5, 2011

Arctic Fires and CO2 Emissions

Filed under: Arctic, Polar

Last week, a widely-repeated pronouncement was made, that after an absence of more than 10,000 years, “wildfires have returned to the Arctic tundra” spurred by an apparent increase in lightning strikes and leading to carbon dioxide (CO2) releases from a traditional CO2 sink region. Another positive feedback to anthropogenic global warming. Oh yeah, and the fires will get worse and more widespread in the future.

But as with most dire global warming predictions, this one seems to lack grounding in reality.

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May 2, 2011

Attempts to Box Us Out

We dedicated our last World Climate Report post to the findings from our just-published (and quite popular) paper in which we attempted a reconstruction of the warm season ice melt extent that has taken place across Greenland each year since 1784. Our goal was to develop a larger context in which to place the direct observations of ice melt across Greenland (available only since 1979) and to better be able to judge the reports of record high ice melt in recent years.

Our general conclusions were:

• several recent years (in particular 2007 and from preliminary observations 2010) likely had a historically high degree of surface ice melt across the Greenland ice sheet,

• on a decadal scale, there were several 10-yr periods during the 1930s through the early 1960s during which the average annual ice melt extent across Greenland was likely greater than the most recent 10 years of available data in our study (2000-2009),

• that the ice melt across Greenland was particularly low at the start of the era of satellite observations (which began in 1979), such that a sizeable portion of increasing ice melt observed by satellite-borne instruments since then could potentially be part of the natural variability about the mean state,

• that, for the next several decades at least, Greenland’s contribution to global sea level rise was likely to be modest.

But not everyone was enamored with our findings.

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A 225-year reconstruction of Greenland ice melt

Last week, the most popular article from among those recently published in the American Geophysical Union’s (AGU) Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmospheres was one which presents a 225-yr reconstruction of the extent of ice melt across Greenland. We are happy to say that your obedient servants here at World Climate Report were part of the research team of this oft-downloaded paper.

The full citation (for those who may want to check it out) is:

Frauenfeld, O.W., P.C. Knappenberger, and P.J. Michaels, 2011. A reconstruction of annual Greenland ice melt extent, 1785-2009. Journal of Geophysical Research, 116, D08104, doi: 10.1029/2010JD014918.

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March 10, 2011

Amazing Arctic Reconstructions

Filed under: Arctic, Polar

We hear over and over that any warming at the global scale will be amplified in the Arctic region of the Northern Hemisphere, and the warming will cause ice to melt and sea level to rise and all the rest. Let some ice-free area appear during summer near the North Pole and the global media will take the bait every time and announce we are witnessing geophysical changes of Biblical proportions. Several articles have appeared recently in leading journals with interesting results regarding the temperature history of the Arctic over the past 1,000 to 1,500 years, and they show that temperatures there have risen and fallen to a significant degree many times in the past (that is, without the benefit of large changes in atmospheric CO2 levels), and they call into question whether any unusual warming (or cooling) has occurred there in recent decades.

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January 31, 2011

Arctic Ice “Tipping Point” Rejected

Filed under: Arctic, Polar

A common rhetorical device to make potential future climate sounds even scarier, is to invoke the concept of “tipping points”—events that no one is sure when or even if they will happen, but suggest that when and if they do come to pass, they will lead to some sort of catastrophe that can’t be recovered from. Of course, global warming will push us closer to reaching these “tipping points.”

President Obama’s advisor on Science and Technology and Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy, John Holdren, is a fond user of such scare tactics.

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