Posts Tagged earthquake

Sea level rise, earthquakes, and flying PIGs Gareth Renowden Jan 16

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ChristchurchT T2013

The first major study to look at the impact of sea level rise on Christchurch and Banks Peninsula following the 2010/11 earthquake sequence projects a watery future for many parts of the city and its surrounding shorelines. The image above1 shows changes in ground elevation between 2003 and 2011 in the Christchurch region. Areas in green/blue have moved upwards by half a metre – particularly noticeable to the west of the estuary – and areas in red and yellow down, in many places along the Avon and subsidiary streams by a metre or more.

The report, Effects of Sea Level Rise on Christchurch City (pdf), by consultants Tonkin & Taylor was released last week and suggests that as a minimum planners should take into account a 1m rise in sea level over the next 100 years. Combined with the elevations changes caused by the earthquakes, this would mean significant shoreline retreats, increased flooding in many areas and the loss of hundreds of hectares of land to the sea. It’s well worth digging into the report to get the full picture, and it will make uncomfortable reading for many in the city.

Tonkin & Taylor prepared their study before the IPCC’s AR5 Working Group One report was released, and so based their SLR numbers on a literature search and the Royal Society of NZ’s 2010 paper. They suggest a “plausible upper range” of 2m over the next 100 years, with the behaviour of the West Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets in a warming world “probably the largest uncertainty in sea level rise projections”.

And now the bad news…

The Pine Island Glacier (PIG) in West Antarctica — responsible for 25% of the ice loss from the region — is now probably beyond the point of no return, committed to melt back well inland from its current position even if the local climate cools strongly. In a new study published in Nature Climate Change this week2 an international team of scientists used detailed models of the glacier and its bed, combined with field observations, to track how the ice would behave. It suggests that the PIG could contribute as much as 10mm to sea level over the next 20 years, with the potential for much more in the longer term, as one of the authors, Dr Hilmar Gudmundsson of the British Antarctic Survey points out:

“Pine Island Glacier shows the biggest changes in this area at the moment, but if it is unstable it may have implications for the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Currently we see around three millimeters of sea level rise a year, and the Pine Island Glacier retreat could contribute an additional 3.5 – 10 millimeters in the next twenty years, so it would lead to a considerable increase from this area alone. But the potential is much larger. At the Pine Island Glacier we have seen that not only is more ice flowing from the glacier into the ocean, but it’s also flowing faster across the grounding line — the boundary between the grounded ice and the floating ice. We also can see this boundary is migrating further inland.”

If the PIG is already doomed to major retreat over the next century, then stability of the whole West Antarctic Ice Sheet could be threatened. Paleoclimate studies have shown that the WAIS collapsed repeatedly in earlier warm periods, though it is thought to have taken 500 – 1,000 years to melt. During the last interglacial 125,000 years ago, sea level peaked at about 6m above present with significant melt contributions likely from the WAIS and Greenland. That was with CO2 at 300ppm. We’re now nudging 400ppm.

Ice sheet behaviour in a rapidly warming world is not something we understand well, and that means that any sensible analysis of the risks of sea level rise has to consider worst cases in both the near and long term. We can get a good idea of the long term sea level rise — where the sea level will stop rising when the climate comes into equilibrium with the ice sheets — by looking at climate history. 400ppm CO2 probably means an eventual 20m of sea level rise.

In the short term — over the next few decades — unless something truly astounding happens to the WAIS or Greenland, the impacts of sea level rise are likely to be modest and manageable — at least if affected communities take the problem seriously. But when planning infrastructure that has a longer lifespan — like rebuilding a city — then the multi-metre rises we are likely to see over the next hundred years become a critical consideration. As yet there’s little sign — Tonkin & Taylor’s thorough report included — that anyone is thinking in those terms.

  1. Fig 3-4, p15 in the report.
  2. The retreat of Pine Island Glacier controlled by marine ice-sheet instability by L Favier, G Durand, S L Cornford, G.H. Gudmundsson, O. Gagliardini, F. Gillet-Chaulet, T. Zwinger, A. J. Payne and A.M. le Brocq, Nature Climate Change, doi:10.1038/nclimate2094

Waking the Giant Bryan Walker Jul 18

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It’s only if we fail to grasp the enormity of the threatened impacts of climate change on the global environment that we can scoff at the notion that even volcanic eruptions and earthquakes may be triggered as a consequence of our continuing to burn fossil fuels. Not that it’s an easy consequence to appreciate, but vulcanologist Bill McGuire’s latest book Waking the Giant: How a Changing Climate Triggers Earthquakes, Tsunamis, and Volcanoes explains it with patient clarity. His book is a fascinating read in its discussion of the past and an alarming one in its analysis of future likelihoods.

The book begins with a straightforward and sobering view of the catastrophe which looms if we continue to fail to act on emissions. The signs of climate change are everywhere apparent and the prospects for the future are bleak. McGuire acknowledges the difficulties of precise prediction of what that future might hold 50 or 100 years from now and suggests that looking back on the past may be the best way to gauge what lies ahead. The main focus of his book is on ways in which Earth’s crust has responded to dramatically changing climates, but he also considers, further back, times of high levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide as possible pointers to what today’s increased greenhouse gases might forebode.

In the latter case he discusses the heat spike, nearly 56 million years ago, of the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) when the global temperature shot up by 6oC over a 10,000 year time span, with the poles heating by 10oC – 20oC. The cause of this and other warm spikes further back in time seems to have been a sudden rise in the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide, and although we have so far in the past two centuries released only one eighth of the amount of carbon that drove the PETM, carrying on with deforestation and the burning of fossil fuel reserves would conceivably bring us close to a similar concentration over a mere fraction of the time.  Continuing as we are could bring a 4oC rise in temperature by 2070.  Coming closer to our own time, McGuire considers the Mid-Miocene Climatic Optimum (MMCO) between 17 and 15 million years ago, which was the last time carbon dioxide levels were higher than they are now, but only in the region of 400-450 ppm which we’re well on the  way to achieving. Mid-latitude temperatures were 3-6oC higher than today. Along with the PETM and the MMCO the third period climatologists find instructive is the much more recent Eemian Interglacial which began a mere 170,000 years ago when global temperatures are estimated to have been 1-2oC higher than today and sea levels 4-6 metres higher. McGuire sees this period as a close analogue for an anthropogenically warmed Earth in the near future.

All of this is not new material, but it is drawn together and explained with compelling clarity and an underlying heartfelt urgency. The choices we make now as to whether we act to slash emissions or not “may decide the fates of millions of species and thousands of human generations”.  It’s a grave responsibility.

In McGuire’s understanding there’s plenty to be concerned about before considering volcanoes and earthquakes, but having made that utterly clear he turns his attention to the geological dimension. The evidence that volcanic eruptions can be triggered by climate change is best found in the rapid climate changes of the ice ages. The sudden switch from an ice world and the enormous changes in the physical environment that involved saw an increase in volcanic activity from two to six times above normal background levels.  McGuire explores the possible reasons for this, which include the removal of ice load, increased precipitation and large changes in global sea levels. The mechanisms are explained and illustrated at satisfying length. Considered en masse the world’s active volcanoes are primed systems sensitive to changes in the hydrological cycle. Past history suggests that the kind of changes expected from anthropogenic global warming will have an effect on volcanic activity.

Moving to consider earthquakes McGuire explains the view that the melting of large ice sheets leads to a combination of spectacular uplift in the lithosphere and increased levels of earthquake activity as tectonic strain beneath and adjacent to the ice sheets is released.  Similarly a relocation of water on a large scale can have loading and unloading effects with the added complication that the pressurisation of pore waters in the rocks adjacent to new or growing reservoirs has been observed to destabilise nearby faults. The new redistribution of water that will accompany the warming of the planet seems bound to cause a response in at least some active faults.

Landslides, including volcano collapse and submarine slides, are next in McGuire’s considerations, with water again playing a key role. His conclusion after a detailed survey of many examples is that we can expect many more incidences of major landslides in a warmer world where water is plentiful, where sea levels are rising, and where the ice that holds together the faces of  mountains is going or gone.

Finally he elaborates on the effects of water relocation, particularly from ice, which the book has already identified as a major factor in the triggering of volcanic or earthquake activity. Here he adds to the localised effects manifested in those phenomena the wholesale change to the planet’s spin characteristics and the pattern of stress and strain in its interior, transmitting the geospheric response widely.

Pulling all this together in a concluding chapter which looks to the future McGuire posits that if we continue with greenhouse gas emissions to the point that we lose the Greenland and West Antarctic ice sheets the resultant surge in sea level is likely to bring a response from the geosphere large enough to be distinguishable from everyday geological activity. The consequences of severe climate change will be disastrous enough without that dimension, but it is a possible addition with which our descendants will have to cope.

Communicating the content of McGuire’s book in broad outline like this doesn’t do justice to the engrossing details with which it is packed, all fully accessible to the general reader and establishing the authority of his discussion. It’s a captivating story, told with due scientific detachment but informed with alarm at the magnitude of the changes we will produce in our world if we insist on burning all the fossil fuels we can find. No one reading the book could say we haven’t been warned.

[Support Hot Topic by purchasing this book (or any book) through our affiliates: The Book Depository (UK, free shipping worldwide), Fishpond (NZ) and]

Rebuilding on a rising tide Gareth Renowden Jun 15

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It’s been a shaky week in Christchurch and Canterbury. Another M6.3 shock hit the city on Monday afternoon — renewing the misery for many in the city’s eastern and seaside suburbs, but thankfully not adding to the death toll. Attention has now turned — with some force — to the question of which suburbs should be rebuilt, and an excellent feature by David Williams in last Saturday’s Press on sea level rise and its implications for the rebuilding of Christchurch should cause some pause for thought. Williams interviewed James Hansen during his visit to the city last month (shortly before I did, in fact), and uses Hansen’s views on sea level rise to kick off his discussion:

Hansen says a multi-metre sea level rise is possible this century if greenhouse gas emissions, caused by things such as coal-fired power plants, vehicle engines and agriculture, are not reduced.

Williams goes on to put that into the context of a city where the baseline has shifted:

But the sea-level implications of his predictions are particularly significant for low-lying, quake-hit Christchurch.

The city has two rivers snaking through it and much of it is drained swamp land. As it is, the city’s main surveying marker — a stone in the foyer of the city’s broken Anglican cathedral, 8.5 kilometres from the beach — is barely five metres above the high tide line.

Since the run of earthquaked began last September, the city’s eastern and riverside suburbs are living with a new normal:

Tidal flooding from the Lower Styx River has swamped some Brooklands properties twice a day since the February earthquake.

Last month high-tide flooding hit Christchurch’s river suburbs and residents are anxiously waiting to see if it’s a wet winter.

GNS Science geophysicist John Beavan, of Wellington, has been surveying post-quake Christchurch. He confirms that isolated areas, rather than whole suburbs, have dropped by up to a metre.

Modelling done after the quake – quite a bit of which has been verified by surveying – showed that the Avon- Heathcote Estuary and part of the Port Hills has risen by “several tens of centimetres”. Meanwhile, land to the north of the Estuary, such as Bexley, has gone down by maybe 10cm. Subsidence because of liquefaction is on top of that.

It remains to be seen if Monday’s shock has added to those figures, but it would be unwise to presume that things haven’t got worse. Williams also digs out the views of another Williams who is taking a precautionary view of where sea level will eventually end up:

Former Christchurch man Nigel Williams, a traffic planner who now lives in Auckland, follows Hansen’s work closely and is developing a retirement property, with solar panels, well out of harm’s way.

Williams, 64, has a blog called The 100 Metre Line, which urges people to move to higher ground while they still can. He says 10 metres above mean sea level passes through St Andrew’s College, in Papanui, and parts of Halswell.

“If by 2050 there has been half a metre of sea level rise, we’ll be up to our arses by 2100,” he says. “I’d move to Geraldine.”

Nice place, Geraldine. Any city rebuilding plan which fails to take account of projected sea level rise over the next 150 years will not be worth the paper it’s written on, but given that the process is being supervised by coal-loving former energy minister Gerry Brownlee, I don’t hold out much hope for common sense and forward thinking being properly applied. [I should note that chez Hot Topic is 170m above sea level -- and a rather large earthquake-prone fault is expressed as a cliff about 30 metres from where I write this. I'm not sure which will get me first.]

Ken Ring: he’s wrong about everything Gareth Renowden Mar 20

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This weekend a few of the struggling residents of earthquake-hit Christchurch have moved out of the city hoping to escape another dangerous quake, a shock foretold by Ken Ring, a New Zealand astrologer who makes a living producing ’long range weather forecasts’ for NZ, Australia and Ireland based on the movements of the moon. Ring claims that his moon methods predicted last September’s magnitude 7.1 Canterbury earthquake, and the M6.3 aftershock on Feb 22 that killed at least 182 people and devastated much of the central city and eastern suburbs.

But Ring’s methods don’t work. He can’t predict the weather, he can’t predict earthquakes, he is demonstrably ignorant of basic atmospheric and earth science – and yet apparently sane and rational people take him seriously. Are people simply gullible, especially those traumatised by two major quakes, the loss of lives and the incessant aftershocks? Or have the NZ and Australian media, all too happy to give Ring’s weather predictions, fishing forecasts and views on climate change air time and column inches, created an über crank, a monster beyond their control who is now responsible for scaring thousands while callously building his book sales and brand?

I first started looking at Ring’s work five years ago, when I conducted a six-month audit of his weather predictions for New Zealand. I discovered that his forecasts were rubbish, little better (and often worse) than predictions based on climatology. You can read the full story in the Ringworld section of my old farm blog. In the course of that exercise I discovered that Ring’s predictions had been looked at by meteorologists and climate scientists, who also found them to be useless. In fact, everyone who has ever taken a systematic look at Ring’s weather predictions has found they don’t work.

What prompted me to examine Ring’s weather predictions in the first place were the blatantly nonsensical claims about climate and atmosphere he made in comments at the old NZ Climate ’Science’ Coalition web site, back in the days when they allowed comments. One that really stood out was Ring’s assertion that carbon dioxide, because it is ’heavier than air’ is constantly falling out of the atmosphere, and therefore can’t be warming the earth. This was back in 2005/6, and he was repeatedly told he was wrong. Unfortunately he seems to be a slow learner: here he is repeating the same nonsense in August last year, from his Youtube channel (warning: do not drink hot fluids while watching):

There are many choice moments in that little diatribe, but here are a couple of my favourites:

There is no way CO2 could get up there [35,000ft] even if it wanted to – it’s twice as heavy as air. CO2’s molecular weight is 44 and that of air is 29. CO2 sinks. If CO2 went up in the air the plants wouldn’t get it, plants would have to extend themselves hundreds of feet into the air to get the stuff.

What about giant redwoods, Ken. Or forests on hills? Why don’t all the mice die?

It [CO2] is so heavy that it gets into the holes in the rocks, it gets into caves, the miners used to get suffocated by it because it displaced the oxygen which is why they took canaries down…

Excuse me while I stop banging my head on the desk… Life’s too short to enumerate all the errors in Ken’s little video blog, but even a cursory viewing should be enough to tell anyone with the merest smidgen of scientific understanding that Ring is talking rubbish.

Ring is also comprehensively wrong about the way that plate tectonics drive earthquakes. Last month, flushed with the attention he was getting about his ’successful’ predictions, he published an article on his web site entitled Earthquakes cause fault lines, not vice versa. In this astonishing piece he reinvents the earth sciences:

The 4 September earthquake happened 12 km underground. Current geology wants us to believe that a mighty loose cannon of a 650 kiloton ball of energy, from 12 km away, hurtling surfacewards, has some sort of steering mechanism that seeks out old fault lines to surface through. Imagine an H-bomb the size of that which destroyed Hiroshima, heading towards Christchurch from 12 km away. Now imagine 43 such bombs in one explosive package of energy and you have the size of the 4 September earthquake. Would a 650 kiloton monster earthquake have bothered to set itself within the confines of a previously carved faultline? It is a little hard to imagine why it should be so respectful. Earthquakes can and do go where they choose. If there is a fault line there already, then a shake may shake that too and an observer will say the fault line was active. If there is no fault line the earthquake will make one.

Classic Ring, and classic crank thinking. He doesn’t know enough to understand how tectonics drive earthquakes, so he makes stuff up that confirms his own world view.

Ring has a long history of predicting earthquakes, and of making false claims to be successful. The Silly Beliefs web site has a very detailed section dealing with Ring’s forecasting efforts and his many failures, but more recently my fellow Sciblogger David Winter (who has also shown that Ring can’t predict the weather) used Canterbury earthquake data to show that Ring’s earthquake predictions are no use.

In all these cases, Ring uses the same basic tactics. In fact he’s built a career out of them. He sprays out a huge number of very vague predictions or forecasts, and then interprets them after the event to be successes. Failures are ignored or denied. Thus his claim to have successfully predicted the Feb 22 quake is based on this paragraph, published on his web site on Feb 14th:

Over the next 10 days a 7+ earthquake somewhere is very likely. This could also be a time for auroras in the northern hemisphere and in the southern tip of NZ. It may also be a time for whale strandings because of increases in underwater earthquakes. The 7+ is sure to be somewhere in the “Ring of Fire”, where 80% of all major earthquakes seem to occur, and NZ is at the lower left of this Ring. The range of risk may be within 500kms of the Alpine Fault.

Within 500 km of the Alpine Fault covers most of New Zealand. ’Somewhere in the Ring of Fire’ between the 14th and the 24th means, in Ring-speak, Christchurch. And he got the magnitude wrong. Nevertheless, he claims a successful prediction.

The day after the Christchurch earthquake he didn’t predict that killed 182 people, Ring published an article on his website with the following (taken from a Google cache I saved to disk):

The 19-21st of March will then be the next potent date.


19 March – Time: at 10am,

20 March – Time: at 11.30am


The Alpine Fault itself seems to be fairly inactive at the moment. Our pick for an epicentre, if a March earthquake should occur, is some geographical point between Hanmer and Amberley. Geonet should be asked where stresses are currently happening. It seems strange that so far no interviewer has sought to ask them. However it could be anywhere in NZ, or it may not even happen at all.

Since then, he has altered the page on his web site, to to make a much less definite prediction. As it happens, I live on a major fault line between Amberley and Hanmer Springs – the Boby’s Stream Fault. Investigations by Canterbury University geologists have shown that the fault ruptures on average every 900 years, moving 2 − 3 metres when it does so, producing enough energy to deliver the Christchurch area a nasty shake. The last event was about 300 years ago. The fault is certainly still active. My house is within 20 metres of the fault line, expressed as a cliff. The fault runs through the middle of my vineyard, which is why my as yet unreleased Pinot Noir is called The Faultline (not the most marketable of brands at the moment, sadly). At 11-30 am tomorrow, I shall be standing on my cliff top admiring the view. In Christchurch, Environment Minister Nick Smith will be joining the Christchurch Skeptics for a lunch in an old stone building (The Sign Of The Kiwi) to demonstrate their contempt for Ring’s fakery. And Ken Ring will be sitting in his house near Auckland, talking to fools on his Facebook page. Whether there’s a quake or not, he’ll claim success.

These predictions, made by an arrogant, ignorant, and foolish astrologer have somehow persuaded members of my community – friends and neighbours – that there is a real risk of a major earthquake in North Canterbury some time over this weekend. Some have left home, others have admitted being unsettled by the ’moon man’ and his predictions. For people who have already lived through two major earthquakes, suffered the knife-edge uncertainty of repeated aftershocks, stressed and traumatised by the loss of loved ones, the sort of ’opinions’ offered by Ken Ring are the worst kind of medicine.

But the real responsibility for the stress being foisted on my friends is not Ring’s – charlatan and hypocrite though he is – it lies with the people who give him credibility, the newspapers who publish his weather columns and fishing hints, the radio stations that give him air time, and the TV stations who have credulously interviewed him or reported his earthquake predictions and their impact on the Canterbury population. Every mention of Ring, every Marcus Lush saying ’you got that one mate’, even the well-meaning attempt by TV 3’s John Campbell to reveal Ring’s mendacity has served to build the moon man’s brand.

Ring is a fool, but he is only influential because a compliant media have made him so. Now is the time to treat him with the respect cranks really merit: contempt. He deserves to be ignored by everyone, and the media outlets that continue to give him a platform should be vilified. And the next time I see his bloody weather almanac stacked in the ’science’ section of a bookshop, I swear I won’t be responsible for my actions.

The spread of the Supermoon nonsense…

Interestingly, the non-existent moon at perigee/earthquake link is being referenced approvingly at several of the more credulous climate sceptic sites – it says a lot for the intellectual standards they’re prepared to endorse and adopt:

Piers Corbyn at Climate Realists and via the BBC,
Jennifer Marohasy,
Tallbloke (more examples welcome).

More material on Ring’s recent behaviour:

David Winter,
Michael Edmonds,
Alison Campbell (note Ring turns up in comments to claim success for predicting the Feb 22 quake),
Peter Griffin,
Professor Euan Mason‘s pithy open letter to TV NZ for a particularly egregious piece of Ring puffery, and Dan Satherley at TV3 News provides a good roundup of Ring’s failures.

[Update 20/3 10am: just in, editorial at the NZ Herald web site: Charlatan Ring merits contempt.]

Special Ken Ring bonus bollocks!:

There is no reason to predict that anything added to the air is ever going to change climate. To change climate a country has to suddenly find itself at a different latitude. That means the earth must be knocked off its orbit of rotation. The only thing capable of that might be on the scale of a planet or comet colliding with Earth. One volcano won’t do it. [Source]

As we discovered in the early days of Hot Topic, Ring is apparently a follower of Charles Hapgood. See this post for more. The word lunatic springs unbidden to my mind…

Shake your berg thing Gareth Renowden Mar 07

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This astonishing view of the Tasman Glacier from space, captured by NASA’s Terra satellite on March 2nd, shows the bergs in the glacial lake — the remnants of the 30 million tons of ice that broke off during the Christchurch earthquake on Feb 22nd. It’s a false colour image — red means vegetation, and the grey-browns are bare rock (and the rock debris covering the glacier itself). There’s more information at the NASA Earth Observatory. The Tasman’s near neighbour the Murchison Glacier has recently featured at Mauri Pelto’s From A Glacier’s Perspective. Both are retreating strongly.

[Update 9/3: The Earth Observatory's latest image of the day is a stunning satellite picture of the Christchurch region, with an overlay showing shaking intensities.]

[The Chipmunks]

The Climate Show #8: Kevin Trenberth and our shaky future Gareth Renowden Mar 03

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The Climate Show returns with a packed show, featuring one of the world’s best known climate scientists, NZ-born, Colorado-based Dr Kevin Trenberth — star of the Climategate “where’s the missing heat” emails. He’s been in New Zealand to visit family (experiencing the Christchurch quake in the process) and to attend a conference, and his comments on the state of our understanding of climate change should not be missed. John Cook of Skeptical Science returns with his new short urls and an explanation of why declines have never been hidden, and Gareth and Glenn muse on Arnie “Governator” Schwarzenegger riding to the rescue of climate science, cryospheric forcing and carbon cycle feedbacks from melting permafrost, and a new paper that suggests that current policies are pointing us towards extremely dangerous climate change. All that and hyperbranched aminosilica too…

Watch The Climate Show on our Youtube channel, subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, or listen direct/download here:

The Climate Show

Follow The Climate Show at The Climate Show web site, on Facebook and Twitter.

Show notes below the fold.

News & commentary:

Christchurch earthquake, Feb 22 2011. At the time of writing the death toll was expected to rise to over 240. At least 100 of those who died were tourists or foreign students. If you would like to donate to support the recovery effort, please consider the Red Cross appeal.

Schwarzenegger: It’s Time to Terminate Skepticism on Climate Change

Good northern hemisphere cryosphere graphic from NASA, and bad news from the permafrost.

Models guiding climate policy are ‘dangerously optimistic’: Computer models predicting future climate change are underestimating emissions and overestimating technology, warns climate scientist Kevin Anderson. Guardian story here, and full paper [Anderson and Bows. Beyond 'dangerous' climate change: emission scenarios for a new world. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences (2011) vol. 369 (1934) pp. 20-44 -- PDF], and Bryan Walker’s discussion at Hot Topic.

Increased flood risk linked to global warming

Feature interview:: Kevin Trenberth, head of the Climate Analysis Section at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder Colorado. Born in NZ, worked at MetService, now based in Colorado, one of the highest profile climate scientists in the world, and a regular subject of attacks by denialists. The AMS paper referenced is available from KT’s web site linked above.

Debunking the skeptic with John Cook from Skeptical Science.
Skeptical Science Short URLs:

Clearing up misconceptions about ’Hide the Decline’

1. It’s not about ’global temperatures’ but a small number of high latitude tree rings:

2. ’Hide the decline’ has nothing to do with ’Mike’s trick’ which is the simple technique of plotting instrumental temperature and reconstructions on the same graph.

3. It’s not hidden at all but openly discussed in the peer-reviewed literature since 1995:


Green Machine: Sucking carbon dioxide out of the air.

Thanks to our media partners:, Scoop and KiwiFM.

Theme music: A Drop In The Ocean by The Bads.

Shaken and stirred: Christchurch earthquake Feb 2011 Gareth Renowden Feb 23

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It’s a grim day in Canterbury. 75 people are confirmed dead and 300 are missing following the magnitude 6.3 earthquake which struck at 12-51pm yesterday. As I write, teams of urban search and rescue specialists from NZ and Australia (soon to be joined by teams from all over the world) are crawling over collapsed buildings throughout the central city. The cathedral (above) has lost its spire, and there are bodies in the rubble around it. I am glad to report that my family and friends, and that of Climate Show co-host Glenn Williams are well, but no-one is untouched by this terrible disaster. Up here in Waipara the initial shaking was bad enough to make us run outdoors, but our relief at escaping damage was immediately tempered by the realisation that someone had just taken a hammering…

For an inkling of the scale of this tragedy and its impact on people who had already survived a magnitude 7.1, but much less damaging, quake last September, I commend author David Haywood’s eloquent description in the Guardian, and Press journalist Vicki Anderson’s heartfelt story of her escape from the Press building (under the cranes in the picture above). US-based NZ climate scientist Kevin Trenberth was also in town, holidaying with his family. This is his account:

Where we were [hillside suburb of Mt Pleasant] was actually the epicentre of the earthquake, which occurred at 9 minutes to 1p.m. We immediately got under the dining room table. The quake was very sharp and the whole ground bucked and heaved. It was very shallow and the devastation was immediate. Everything came off the walls, the china cabinet and all the crystal, nearby crashed around us. In the kitchen, 2m away, the cupboards emptied, the built-in wall oven crashed onto the floor followed by the built-in microwave. Then the big refrigerator with bottom freezer fell on top of all that. Broken glass everywhere. In the room we were in, there were 6 mm plate glass windows that were smashed, and likewise in the adjacent living room. But the house held in front. Not so in the back. The back wall was bricked and had a French door: the wall collapsed and the door jerked out and away from the house so it is wide open (and thus open to looters). The adjacent walls were half brick and they too were wiped out.

Banks of rocks and solid ground near the house collapsed and made it difficult to get out. The road outside had a big crack and the sidewalk dropped 20 cm relative to the road and a gap opened 8 cm wide. The water main broke just above there and water cascaded down past the front of the house, making it a wet experience getting to my rental car, which was OK.

Trenberth spent today in Christchurch helping the rescue effort, along with many, many others. You can get some idea of the size of this event by looking at aerial pictures taken by the NZ defence forces: aside from the building damage in the central city, extensive damage has occurred in many suburbs and soil liquefaction and flooding is affecting tens of thousands of homes. Power is out in 50 per cent of the city, and the mayor has described the water and sewer systems as “trashed”. Recovery is going to take a very long time, but recover and rebuild we will.

I would urge anyone with spare cash to make a donation to the various appeals that are running — there’s a full list here, and the NZ Red Cross is calling for donations (link was down at time of writing). [Update: see NZ based donation service at bottom of article -- 100% of monies will go to ChCh mayoral fund.]

Earth science geeks will want to check out the Christchurch Quake Map here (link takes you to last seven days — use the drop down to select Feb 22) for a remarkable visualisation of the earthquake sequence we’ve been experiencing, and the Highly Allochthonous blog has an excellent description of the tectonics of the quake here. It also worth noting that the quake caused a major calving event on the Tasman Glacier lake near Mt Cook. An estimated 30 million tons of ice broke off the glacier tongue when the quake hit.

I hope that Hot Topic readers will understand if my contributions to the site are somewhat disrupted over coming weeks. My focus will be elsewhere, and at the moment it’s very difficult to take the future for granted. A lesson for us all there, perhaps?

Update: this amazing picture of the clouds of dust rising from the city moments after the quake hit looks to have been taken from one of the hill suburbs. Hat tip to @georgedarroch on Twitter, photographer unknown*. Click for full size.

Dusttodust small

*[Edited incorrect photo attribution]

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