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The dishonesty of de Lange and Carter: zombie lies under Greenland ice Gareth Renowden Jun 11

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According to Waikato University’s Willem de Lange and freelance climate denier Bob Carter, the whole Arctic is cooling strongly. When Bill and Bob plagiarised their own work for the Heartland-funded and published Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) second report, they were not just copying their own words, but also plagiarising earlier efforts by the NIPCC and Craig Idso’s Centre for the Study of CO2 and Global Change. In fact, a 2007 misrepresentation by Idso of a 2004 paper about temperatures up to the 1990s in a single Greenland fjord has been handed down through seven years, successive “authors” and NIPCC reports until it has become an unbelievable lie that de Lange and Carter are happy to repeat for a new audience.

When I was doing the research for my article on de Lange and Carter’s sea level rise report for Nigel Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation, I was forced to dig around inside the chapter they had written for most recent NIPCC report — the second of its ilk (NIPCC2, Chapter 6). What jumped out at me was this paragraph, from the conclusions to section 6.2.1.10.1 on page 792:

Regarding the Northern Hemisphere, the Arctic regions have been cooling for the past half-century, and at a very significant rate, making it unlikely Greenland’s frozen water will be released to the world’s oceans anytime soon. This temperature trend is just the opposite — and strikingly so — of that claimed for the Northern Hemisphere and the world by the IPCC. Accompanying the cooling, the annual number of snowfall days over parts of Greenland has also increased strongly, so an enhanced accumulation of snow there may be compensating for the extra runoff coming from mountain glaciers that have been receding.

That’s right. Carter and de Lange are happy to put their names to a statement that the Arctic has been cooling for the last 50 years. Everybody else thinks that the Arctic has been warming strongly for the last 30 years, as this graph of Arctic surface air temperatures shows:

ArcticSATcrutem4ARC

Source: NOAA’s annual Arctic Report Card, 2013 update.

So how on earth do they justify a claim that the Arctic has been cooling “at a very significant rate”? The answer’s simple. They don’t. There is no supporting reference given for that statement. It is offered as a conclusion without a hint of a reason supplied in the text above it, or in the references below it. But Bill and Bob didn’t just make it up, they stayed true to form and copied it word for word from somewhere else.

It didn’t take me long to find out where. The first NIPCC report was published by the Heartland Institute in 20091, credited to Craig Idso, Fred Singer and a bunch of the usual suspects — including Bob Carter (pdf here). It includes this paragraph on pages 204/5, in the conclusion to section 4.5.4 on the “Greenland ice cap”:

In conclusion, the part of the Northern Hemisphere that holds the lion’s share of the hemisphere’s ice has been cooling for the past half-century, and at a very significant rate, making it unlikely that its frozen water will be released to the world’s oceans. In addition, because the annual number of snowfall days over much of Greenland has increased so dramatically over the same time period, it is possible that enhanced accumulation of snow on its huge ice sheet may be compensating for the melting of many of the world’s mountain glaciers and keeping global sea level in check for this reason too. Lastly, Greenland’s temperature trend of the past half-century has been just the opposite—and strikingly so—of that which is claimed for the Northern Hemisphere and the world by the IPCC.

Strikingly similar to de Lange and Carter’s NIPCC2 effort, I’m sure you’ll agree. Bill and Bob have re-ordered the sentences and made some light edits — most notably the removal of “Greenland” as a qualifier to mentions of temperature trends — but it’s clear where they got the words from.

Unlike NIPCC2 however, this conclusion is not totally unreferenced. In the text above the conclusion, there is a discussion of a paper, Taurisano et al (2004)2, which Idso, Singer et al quote as showing that “a warming trend occurred in the Nuuk fjord during the first 50 years of the 1900s, followed by a cooling over the second part of the century, when the average annual temperatures decreased by approximately 1.5°C.”

But that discussion of Taurisano et al (2004) is not unique to NIPCC1. It bears rather more than a striking resemblance to a section of a paper — The Role of Greenland in Sea Level Rise: A Summary of the Current Literature by the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change — an outfit run then, as now, by one Craig Idso. It was published in August 2007 by the Science and Public Policy Institute (SPPI), a sort of one-man Heartland-lite lobby group. In fact, the entire NIPCC1 section on the Greenland ice sheet was copied and pasted (with a little light re-editing) from Idso’s paper of a year earlier.

The Taurisano et al paper makes it clear that the cooling they refer to ended in the mid 1990s. Idso ignored this, concentrated on their statement about the latter half of the 20th century and then generalised the limited statement in the paper about regional patterns into a much bolder claim about a current — in 2007 — lack of warming throughout Greenland. By 2007, of course, warming was well-established over the entire region.

Here’s a section of Idso’s text, which was boxed out for emphasis in his paper:

Hence, we can be thankful that whatever the rest of the Northern Hemisphere may be doing, the part that holds the lion’s share of the hemisphere’s ice has been cooling for the past half-century, and at a very significant rate, making it ever more unlikely that its horde of frozen water will be released to the world’s oceans to raise havoc with global sea level any time soon.

That sentence appears with very little change in NIPCC1 and NIPCC2. In other words, Idso’s huge 2007 misrepresentation of a paper from 2004 about temperature trends to the mid-1990s in a single Greenland fjord has been passed down as received wisdom, copied and pasted and lightly edited in a perverse game of climate denial whispers until it becomes de Lange and Carter’s unreferenced and entirely counterfactual 2013 assertion that the whole Arctic is cooling strongly.

The influence of Idso’s SPPI paper extends beyond that single paragraph. Large chunks of NIPCC2 section 6.2.1.10.1 appear to have been copied or edited from that source. Nowhere is the Idso paper acknowledged or referenced in NIPCC1 or NIPCC2.

The Heartland Institute claims that its NIPCC reports are “a comprehensive, authoritative, and realistic assessment of the science and economics of global warming”. The evidence shows that they are not. Based on de Lange and Carter’s shoddy scholarship, and the repeated, unreferenced use of hand-me-down propaganda papers, the NIPCC is revealed to be nothing more than an exercise in copy/pasted sciencey-sounding word salad. As the old saying goes, never mind the quality, feel the width, and with the NIPCC you certainly get plenty of width. NIPCC publications are nothing if not thick reports to sit unread on thinktank library shelves.

Perhaps de Lange and Carter didn’t expect anyone to bother reading page 792 of NIPCC2. Perhaps they thought that anyone who did read their chapter would be on “their side”, and would swallow their bold assertion without a murmur. Perhaps they didn’t even bother reading it themselves. Perhaps gremlins got into de Lange’s word processor and the whole thing wrote itself.

Whatever the truth about the way that Chapter 6 of NIPCC2 was put together, it provides a perfect illustration of the poor academic standards displayed by so-called contrarian scientists. A recent review by John Abraham et al3 of peer-reviewed research by the likes of Richard Lindzen, John Christy and Roy Spencer, found robust evidence that “the science representing major contrarian views is less robust than the counterparts that reflect the AGW consensus”.

If the best you can do to present an argument is to repeat an unreferenced lie from seven years earlier, then you haven’t got much of a case. And de Lange and Carter don’t have any sort of case, they haven’t even got a second-hand plastic bag from a supermarket.

  1. A risible “Summary For Policymakers” (pdf) was released in March 2008 in attempt to counter IPCC AR4.
  2. Taurisano, A., Billionøggild, C. E. and Karlsen, H. G. (2004), A Century of Climate Variability and Climate Gradients from Coast to Ice Sheet in West Greenland. Geografiska Annaler: Series A, Physical Geography, 86: 217–224. doi: 10.1111/j.0435-3676.2004.00226.x
  3. Abraham, J.P. ,Cook, J., Fasullo, J. T., Jacobs, P. H., Mandia, S. A. & Nuccitelli, D. A. (2014). Review of the Consensus and Asymmetric Quality of Research on Human-Induced Climate Change, Cosmopolis, Vol. 2014-1, pp. 3-18.

TDB today: Goodbye coastline – we are beyond the point of no return Gareth Renowden May 21

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In which I pull together the strands of the recent bad news from Antarctica and Greenland, and lament the loss of the coastline we all grew up with — no longer a theoretical possibility but a long term certainty. Check out Goodbye coastline – we are beyond the point of no return, this week’s post at The Daily Blog, and start planning for all our watery futures.

Heartland’s Big Book Of Lies About Climate Change cuts no ice, thanks to Don Easterbrook Gareth Renowden Nov 04

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Over the weeks since the release of the first section of the IPCC’s Fifth Report, the Heartland Institute — the Chicago-based extreme right wing and free-market propaganda outfit that has done so much to promote climate denial — has been trying to get media traction for its latest Not-the-IPCC report (NIPCC: the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change), Climate Change Reconsidered 2: Physical Science. Heartland describes CCR2 as…

… an independent, comprehensive, and authoritative report on the current state of climate science.

The truth is somewhat more prosaic. CCR2, like its predecessors, is an extended effort in cherry-picking and misdirection designed to demonstrate that, as Heartland puts it:

…the human effect is likely to be small relative to natural variability, and whatever small warming is likely to occur will produce benefits as well as costs.

For a detailed take-down of the NIPCC’s main arguments, take a look at Graham Wayne’s Notes for Educators, prepared as a response to an effort by Heartland to push CCR2 to schools in the US. Wayne notes:

The NIPCC report is akin to a confidence trick. It is pseudo-science, badly presented, made difficult to assess or check, and depends on ‘blinding the reader with science’ that may look credible until you actually try to verify those claims against the peer-reviewed published literature.

Climate statistician Tamino was equally unimpressed, suggesting that the NIPCC would be better designated the ICP – for Intentional Cherry-Picking in service of a predetermined conclusion.

My interest in the latest NIPCC “report” was piqued by the discovery that Don Easterbrook, the retired geologist with a long track record of misunderstanding and misrepresenting the Greenland ice core temperature record, was the lead author of chapter 5, Observations: The Cryosphere [pdf]. The NIPCC is clearly not blessed with an overabundance of qualified authors if they have to rely on Easterbrook as an expert on the cryosphere. Worse, his co-authors are two other retired geologists with little or no domain expertise: Cliff Ollier from Western Australia, and Bob Carter, a marine stratigrapher and all-purpose climate denier who never saw an argument against warming that he didn’t like1.

My first reaction to a quick skim through the chapter was pretty much the same as everybody else: this was cherry-picking taken to an extreme. To make sure that I was on the right track, I asked two real ice experts — Greenland maven Jason Box, and glaciologist Mauri Pelto — to take a quick look. Their reaction was scathing.

Here’s Box:

Multiple independent lines of observation from satellite, aircraft, and ground surveys indicate a strong imbalance of land ice that results in the observed increasing rate of sea level. Easterbrook and co-authors lie about this fact among many others in the NIPCC report’s shameless mockery of earth science.

Pelto found a couple of amazing counterfactual statements:

NIPCC: “Research on mountain glaciers worldwide has failed to provide evidence for unnatural glacial retreat in the late twentieth century.” (p633)

Pelto: Twenty one consecutive years of global mass balance loss and the disappearance of so many glaciers, is hardly natural. See World Glacier Monitoring Service reports.

NIPCC: “Recent satellite-borne geophysical measurements suggest Greenland, like Antarctica, is in a state of approximate mass balance”. (p632)

Pelto: This is hardly borne out by Howat and Eddy (2011, pdf). “We find that 90% of the observed glaciers retreated between 2000 and 2010, approaching 100% in the northwest, with rapid retreat observed in all sectors of the ice sheet.”

So far, so bad. But what about Easterbrook? His fingerprints are all over several sections of the chapter, and many of the graphics. For example, Figure 5.12.1 (p709) bears a striking resemblance to earlier Easterbook efforts:

NIPCCice1

I first encountered that graph in an article of Easterbrook’s — Magnitude and rate of climate changes — posted at µWatts in January 2011. As I pointed out at the time, there are numerous errors in Easterbrook’s analysis of the GISP2 data — and one of them is made explicit in this two and half year old chart. If you want the full details, refer to my older post and its antecedents, but Easterbrook’s legend for the time series refers to “years before present (2000 AD)”. Unfortunately, the “present” in the time series he’s using is defined by long standing convention as 1950. This was pointed out to him at the time, both by me and in the comments under his article at µWatts. He can have no excuse, other than shoddy scholarship, for simply reusing the graph without correcting the error.

There are other interesting “parallels” between the µWatts article and the NIPCC report. Large chunks of the latter appear to be lightly edited versions of the µWatts “original”. Consider these two paragraphs:

µWatts 2011 original: The Medieval Warm Period (MWP) was a time of warm climate from about 900–1300 AD when global temperatures were apparently somewhat warmer than at present. Its effects were particularly evident in Europe where grain crops flourished, alpine tree lines rose, many new cities arose, and the population more than doubled. The Vikings took advantage of the climatic amelioration to colonize Greenland, and wine grapes were grown as far north as England where growing grapes is now not feasible and about 500 km north of present vineyards in France and Germany. Grapes are presently grown in Germany up to elevations of about 560 meters, but from about 1100 to 1300 A.D., vineyards extended up to 780 meters, implying temperatures warmer by about 1.0 to 1.4° C (Oliver, 1973, Tkachuck, 1983). Wheat and oats were grown around Trondheim, Norway, suggesting climates about one degree C warmer than present (Fagan, 2007).

NIPCC 2013: The Medieval Warm Period (900–1300 AD) that followed was marked by global temperatures warmer than at present, as indicated by the flourishing of grain crops, elevation of alpine tree lines, and building of many new towns and cities as the European population more than doubled. The Vikings took advantage of the climatic amelioration to colonize Greenland in 985 AD, when milder climates allowed favorable open-ocean conditions for navigation and fishing. Wine grapes were grown about 500 km north of present vineyards in France and Germany, and also in the north of England (Oliver, 1973; Tkachuck, 1983). Wheat and oats were grown around Trondheim, Norway, suggesting climates about one degree C warmer than the present (Fagan, 2009).

The words highlighted in green are identical between the two pieces of text, and the exact sequence most of the other elements of the original are maintained in the NIPCC report version.

Most amusingly, given that the NIPCC is committed to presenting the Medieval Climate Anomaly as both global and warmer than at present, is Easterbrook’s change to his first sentence: in 2011 “global temperatures were apparently somewhat warmer than at present”, but by 2013 he has become much more certain.

However hard you look, you won’t find a reference to the µWatts original in the NIPCC report, only to Easterbrook’s 2011 remarkable2 Elsevier book, Evidence-Based Climate Science: Data opposing CO2 emissions as the primary source of global warming (Amazon listing), where the error-ridden graph appears as Fig 24 on page 24. A little later in the book, on page 26, we find the above text from Easterbrook’s µWatts article repeated in full3.

Apart from being too lazy to correct an error from the beginning of 2011 for his book published nine months later, or this year’s NIPCC report4, Easterbrook appears to be a serial self-plagiarist with little or no concern for the accuracy of the stuff he publishes.

Life is too short to dig much further into the NIPCC’s misrepresentation of the state of our knowledge about the earth’s cryosphere and its response to warming, but its reliance on the “work” of Don Easterbrook is a telling indication that it is far from being the “scholarly report” its publishers claim. It is a parody of the IPCC, an inversion of the scientific process. It is the Heartland Institute’s Big Book Of Lies About Climate Change, and will be deservedly ignored by the reality it so badly traduces.

[Thanks to Jason Box and Mauri Pelto for taking time to look over the NIPCC chapter. It's time they'll never get back...]

  1. Carter is also one of the lead authors of the full report.
  2. See my post from October 2011 on the contents and authors, who include Monckton and blogger Steven Goddard!
  3. See the Amazon listing for the book, then click on the “look inside” feature, and scroll down.
  4. Or even for a blog post published at µWatts today!

Canadian megafires send smoke round the globe Gareth Renowden Jul 11

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Quebecfires

Massive forest fires are raging beyond control in Quebec, sending huge plumes of smoke to the east. The Eastmain fire — top left in this image from NASA’s Earth Observatory — is spreading towards the east coast of James Bay, the southernmost extension of Hudson Bay, and is currently estimated to cover an area of 656,000 hectares (1.6 million acres). Smoke from the huge fires has already caused smog problems in Montreal and Maine, and is heading round the globe. On July 8 NASA’s Terra satellite spotted a great swathe of Canadian smoke crossing Norway and Sweden, and heading across the Baltic towards Finland.

QsmokeoverNorway

The Eastmain fire is the largest wildfire in Canada since 1959, and is almost as big as all the wildfires that have burned in the US so far this year. Forecasts for the area show warm temperatures continuing for at least another 5 days, so the fire is likely to continue to spread.

Meanwhile, up on the Greenland ice sheet, Jason Box, Peter Sinclair and the Dark Snow team, who are investigating the effect of smoke particles deposited on the ice on melting, have successfully completed their first sampling mission. It’s well worth checking Sinclair’s blog for frequent updates — and lovely images — of the team’s progress.

[Update 14/7: Jeff Masters posts on the Canadian fires here, and a European team track the smoke in near real time.]

Richard Alley: what we know now… Gareth Renowden Jul 07

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In this talk, recorded at the American Geophysical Union’s Chapman Conference on Climate Communication in Colorado recently, Richard Alley gives his overview of what we know about the state of the climate. As you might expect, he covers the cryosphere in some detail (why Greenland may not be as big a worry as West Antarctica), but he also has interesting things to say about climate sensitivity (same as it ever was), food production, and the possibility that chunks of the planet may become too hot for humans. Well worth watching…

Check out the other talks from the conference, all up at the AGU’s Youtube channel. I’m planning to catch up with the talks by Mike Mann, Steve Lewandowsky, Jeff Masters and Gavin Schmidt — when I can find the time.

[Hat tip to Greenland's very own videographer, Peter Sinclair -- who also gave a talk at the conference.]

Don Easterbrook knowingly misleads Washington State Senate Gareth Renowden Apr 09

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Don Easterbrook, the retired Western Washington University geologist who has made something of a second career out of misunderstanding the Greenland temperature record, appears to be happy to play a very public role in local politics, testifying on climate issues before a Washington State Senate committee last month (video here). His evidence was so far [...]

Don Easterbrook is a zombie Gareth Renowden Mar 18

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Don Easterbrook is back, and his misunderstanding of Greenland’s climate history rides again in two remarkable posts at µWatts — attempted demolitions of the new paper every denier worth his (or her) salt is frothing at the mouth to claim has been rubbished, the 11,300 year global paleoclimate reconstruction of Marcott et al1. Unfortunately Easterbrook is as far off the mark in his two essays at µWatts (one, two) as he has ever been, which makes not only him look stupid, but everyone who relies on his “work”2.

The easiest thing for me to do to debunk Don would have been to republish this post from January 2011, because all of the points I make there remain true, and are sufficient to discredit Easterbrook’s interpretation of Greenland temperatures and their relevance to Marcott et al, but this time round Don has actually added a couple of extra mistakes — I presume just to keep people like me on their toes. So, for the record, here are Don’s new errors:

  • In a graph in his first “paper”, Easterbrook adds 0.7ºC to the last temperature point on the GISP2 Greenland temperature record to represent warming over the last 100 years. As I pointed out two years ago, you can’t use Greenland as a proxy for global temperature changes, because temperatures there are much more variable the global average — approximately twice as variable, as I quantified here. Warming in that part of Greenland has been more like 1.4ºC over the last century.
  • In his second “paper”, Easterbrook refers to the “top” of the GISP2 core as being 19503. Unfortunately, he’s wrong (again). The temperature series is dated in years before present (BP), where present is defined as 1950. That makes the last temperature point on the GISP2 reconstruction 95 years before 1950 — in other words, 1855. All the fiddling with local temperature records that he does to try and demonstrate that current Greenland temperatures are not much different to 1950 are not only juvenile4, but wrong headed because he still remains confused about the data he’s fiddling with.
  • In one respect he remains entirely consistent: he still can’t spell Kurt Cuffey’s name.

And finally, just to explain why Don and Tony and James and Steve and everyone else have got their knickers in a twist, here’s the big picture: temperatures through the last ice age stitched on to Marcott et al’s Holocene reconstruction, with what we expect to happen over the next century pasted on to the end. If that looks like a brick wall we’re about to run into, then you’re probably right.

Shakun marcott hadcrut4 a1b

[Graph courtesy of Jos Hagelaars and Bart Verheggen]

  1. A. Marcott, J. D. Shakun, P. U. Clark, A. C. Mix. A Reconstruction of Regional and Global Temperature for the Past 11,300 Years. Science, 2013; 339 (6124): 1198 DOI: 10.1126/science.1228026
  2. That means the Heartland Institute’s James Taylor, who relies on Easterbrook’s efforts in his latest Forbes article, and looks like a chump because of it. Well, he already looks like a chump in many respects, but this is a doozy, as chump-making status goes.
  3. “The Medieval Warm Period was 1.1° C warmer than the top of the core (1950)” and “The top of the GISP2 ice core is 1950 AD, so we need to look at more recent temperatures in Greenland in order to get to the ‘present temperature’ ” — a small advance on his earlier belief that the top of the core was 2000AD.
  4. In one graph he draws a red line between two single years, cherry picking an old reconstruction and single years to get his desired result.

Don Easterbrook is a zombie Gareth Renowden Mar 18

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Don Easterbrook is back, and his misunderstanding of Greenland’s climate history rides again in two remarkable posts at µWatts — attempted demolitions of the new paper every denier worth his (or her) salt is frothing at the mouth to claim has been rubbished, the 11,300 year global paleoclimate reconstruction of Marcott et al1. Unfortunately Easterbrook is as far off the mark in his two essays at µWatts (one, two) as he has ever been, which makes not only him look stupid, but everyone who relies on his “work”2.

The easiest thing for me to do to debunk Don would have been to republish this post from January 2011, because all of the points I make there remain true, and are sufficient to discredit Easterbrook’s interpretation of Greenland temperatures and their relevance to Marcott et al, but this time round Don has actually added a couple of extra mistakes — I presume just to keep people like me on their toes. So, for the record, here are Don’s new errors:

  • In a graph in his first “paper”, Easterbrook adds 0.7ºC to the last temperature point on the GISP2 Greenland temperature record to represent warming over the last 100 years. As I pointed out two years ago, you can’t use Greenland as a proxy for global temperature changes, because temperatures there are much more variable the global average — approximately twice as variable, as I quantified here. Warming in that part of Greenland has been more like 1.4ºC over the last century.
  • In his second “paper”, Easterbrook refers to the “top” of the GISP2 core as being 19503. Unfortunately, he’s wrong (again). The temperature series is dated in years before present (BP), where present is defined as 1950. That makes the last temperature point on the GISP2 reconstruction 95 years before 1950 — in other words, 1855. All the fiddling with local temperature records that he does to try and demonstrate that current Greenland temperatures are not much different to 1950 are not only juvenile4, but wrong headed because he still remains confused about the data he’s fiddling with.
  • In one respect he remains entirely consistent: he still can’t spell Kurt Cuffey’s name.

And finally, just to explain why Don and Tony and James and Steve and everyone else have got their knickers in a twist, here’s the big picture: temperatures through the last ice age stitched on to Marcott et al’s Holocene reconstruction, with what we expect to happen over the next century pasted on to the end. If that looks like a brick wall we’re about to run into, then you’re probably right.

Shakun marcott hadcrut4 a1b

[Graph courtesy of Jos Hagelaars and Bart Verheggen]

  1. A. Marcott, J. D. Shakun, P. U. Clark, A. C. Mix. A Reconstruction of Regional and Global Temperature for the Past 11,300 Years. Science, 2013; 339 (6124): 1198 DOI: 10.1126/science.1228026
  2. That means the Heartland Institute’s James Taylor, who relies on Easterbrook’s efforts in his latest Forbes article, and looks like a chump because of it. Well, he already looks like a chump in many respects, but this is a doozy, as chump-making status goes.
  3. “The Medieval Warm Period was 1.1° C warmer than the top of the core (1950)” and “The top of the GISP2 ice core is 1950 AD, so we need to look at more recent temperatures in Greenland in order to get to the ‘present temperature’ ” — a small advance on his earlier belief that the top of the core was 2000AD.
  4. In one graph he draws a red line between two single years, cherry picking an old reconstruction and single years to get his desired result.

Wildfire smoke – bad news for Greenland’s ice: Dark Snow project needs your money Gareth Renowden Jan 07

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In this guest post, Professor Jason Box of the Geologic Survey of Denmark and Greenland (yes — he has a new job!) explains the genesis of the Dark Snow Project, a unique crowd-funded scientific expedition to Greenland planned for later this year. If you’ve got a few dollars to spare and want to make a contribution to improving the sum of human knowledge in a place that’s proving crucial to the future of the planet, this is a great way to do it.

Birth of an idea

On my way to my 23rd Greenland expedition, sitting in New York’s LaGuardia airport terminal, completing a 25 June, 2012 blog post about Greenland’s declining reflectivity, I noticed that the crowd in the waiting area were captivated by TV news coverage of the record setting Colorado wildfires. While my recently published work had linked Greenland’s reflectivity (aka albedo, Latin for whiteness) decline with the warming of the previous decade, what remains unresolved is the relative importance wildfire soot that further darkens the ice, acting as a multiplier of the feedback process.

From LaGuardia, I rang fellow Colorado native and NASA JPL snow optics expert Dr. Tom Painter to ask if snow samples plus modern microscopy and chemistry could identify wildfire soot from Colorado?

As we talked, I recalled a 2009 headline: Alaska’s biggest tundra fire sparks climate warning.

“Tom, given samples, is it possible to discriminate wildfire soot with that from industrial sources?”

“Yes,” he said.

Before the flight boarded we had decided it would be a good idea to sample Greenland’s ice and snow for wildfire soot. All we had to do was muster the resources to get to the ice sheet’s highest elevations where the satellite data showed a conspicuous pre-melt reflectivity decline.

Timeseries Albedo 07 Accum zone

7.5% reflectivity decline in July for the upper elevations ice sheet, corresponding with 50 exajoules more solar energy absorption by the ice sheet for this month between 2000 and 2012. For the June-August [summer] period, the ice sheet is now absorbing an additional 1.5 times the total US annual energy consumption. Part of the reflectivity decline is due to the effect of heat, rounding ice crystals, reducing light scattering. Another component is soot. But we don’t know if the effective importance of soot is 1%, 10%, or 50%.

2012, another summer for the record books

By the end of summer 2012, ranking air temperature data from long term weather station records revealed all time records for warmest summer (June-August) at:

  • Nuuk in Southwest Greenland in the period of record (PoR) since 1873 [unofficially in the continuous record since 1840]
  • Upernavik in Northwest Greenland in the PoR since 1873.
  • Summit in central ice sheet Greenland in the PoR since 1988

…and so on for several other stations (Aasiaat, Narsarsuaq) with records beginning in the 1950s and 60s.

As reported by NASA on 24 July, we witnessed the most extensive surface melting over the Greenland ice sheet surface in the continuous satellite passive microwave record that begins in 1978. On 11 July, 98% of the ice sheet surface was melting. This was unprecedented in the satellite observational record and despite claims from the peanut gallery of an event in 1885, there is no evidence of this in the summer air temperature data! See here. Previous maximum melt extents peaked at 65%. Satisfying for me was publishing an accurate prediction of complete surface melting mere weeks before it happened. The prediction was straightforward after finding, in a surface energy budget study, insufficient snowpack ’cold content’ to resist without melting another summer similar to those of the past decade. Melting was right around the corner.
Although I was in Greenland 25 June – 24 July, 2012, because I was overloaded with existing commitments at Store Gletscher, I didn’t realise the goal of sampling high elevation snow for soot.

Another dot, connected

After returning from Greenland, it didn’t take long for me and intern Nathaniel Henry to identify smoke clouds near and over Greenland in NASA satellite-based laser scans of the atmosphere from the Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) sensor.

DarkSnowLIDAR

The forensics were becoming more compelling. This discovery was reported widely1.

Needed: boots on the ground

The ultimate proof to test our hypothesis that wildfire smoke is contributing in important ways to Greenland’s reflectivity decline depends on the field samples. What we see in satellite imagery are subject to one’s interpretation, hard data speak for themselves.

Please help us make the goal of obtaining the surface samples a reality in our first-of-a-kind crowd-funded Greenland expedition. Make a donation, large or small, in one of the following ways:

  • via PayPal at http://darksnowproject.org/ a US tax deductible donation;
  • a (US tax deductible) check mailed to Earth Insight Foundation Inc., PO Box 699, San Jose, ca 95106
  • mailing a check to Dark Snow attn. Michele Cook, Byrd Polar Research Center, Scott Hall Rm. 108, 1090 Carmack Rd., Columbus, OH, 43210.
  • distributing this message in a call for support to those you expect would support Dark Snow Project
  • following Dark Snow Project on Facebook and Twitter

[Gareth adds: Peter (Climate Crocks) Sinclair has put together an excellent video overview of the Dark Snow Project:

Donate button dark snow

  1. Scientific American, Discovery, MSNBC, Guardian, Grist, Climate Central, Science Daily, Business Insider, Phys.org.

The year the earth bit back: top climate stories of 2012 Gareth Renowden Dec 29

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2012Amidst the blizzard of year-end roundups, here’s one you have to read in full — a joint effort put together by a diverse group of bloggers and scientists: Angela Fritz, Eli Rabett, Emilee Pierce, Greg Laden, Joe Romm, John Abraham, Laurence Lewis, Leo Hickman, Michael Mann, Michael Tobis, Paul Douglas, Scott Mandia, Scott Brophy, Stephan Lewandowsky, Tenney Naumer and yours truly. Lead author Greg Laden explains:

A group of us, all interested in climate science, put together a list of the most notable, often, most worrying, climate-related stories of the year, along with a few links that will allow you to explore the stories in more detail. We did not try to make this a “top ten” list, because it is rather silly to fit the news, or the science, or the stuff the Earth does in a given year into an arbitrary number of events. (What if we had 12 fingers, and “10” was equal to 6+6? Then there would always be 12 things, not 10, on everyone’s list. Makes no sense.) We ended up with 18 items, but note that some of these things are related to each other in a way that would allow us to lump them or split them in different ways. See this post by Joe Romm for a more integrated approach to the year’s events. Also, see what Jeff Masters did here. We only included one non-climate (but related) item to illustrate the larger number of social, cultural, and political things that happened this year. For instance, because of some of the things on this list, Americans are more likely than they were in previous years to accept the possibility that science has something to say about the Earth’s climate and the changes we have experienced or that may be in the future; journalists are starting to take a new look at their own misplaced “objective” stance as well. Also, more politicians are starting to run for office on a pro-science pro-environment platform than has been the case for quite some time.

A failing of this list is that although non-US based people contributed, and it is somewhat global in its scope, it is a bit American based. This is partly because a few of the big stories happened here this year, but also, because the underlying theme really is the realisation that climate change is not something of the future, but rather, something of the present, and key lessons learned in that important area of study happened in the American West (fires) the South and Midwest (droughts, crop failures, closing of river ways) and Northeast (Sandy). But many of the items listed here were indeed global, such as extreme heat and extreme cold caused by meteorological changes linked to warming, and of course, drought is widespread.

1: Super Storm Sandy

Super Storm Sandy, a hybrid of Hurricane Sandy (and very much a true hurricane up to and beyond its landfall in the Greater New York/New Jersey area) was an important event for several reasons. First, the size and strength of the storm bore the hallmarks of global warming enhancement. Second, its very unusual trajectory was caused by a climatic configuration that was almost certainly the result of global warming. The storm would likely not have been as big and powerful as it was, nor would it have likely struck land where it did were it not for the extra greenhouse gasses released by humans over the last century and a half or so.

A third reason Sandy was important is the high storm surge that caused unprecedented and deadly flooding in New York and New Jersey. This surge was made worse by significant global warming caused sea level rise. Sea level rise has been eating away at the coasts for years and has probably caused a lot of flooding that otherwise would not have happened, but this is the first time a major event widely noticed by the mainstream media (even FOX news) involving sea level rise killed a lot of people and did a lot of damage. Fourth, Sandy was an event, but Sandy might also be the “type specimen” for a new kind of storm. It is almost certainly true that global warming Enhanced storms like Sandy will occur more frequently in the future than in the past, but how much more often is not yet known. We will probably have to find out the hard way.

Note that the first few of the links below are to blog posts written by concerned climate scientists, whom the climate change denialists call “alarmists.” You will note that these scientists and writers were saying alarming things as the storm approached. You will also note that what actually happened when Sandy struck was much worse than any of these “alarmists” predicted in one way or another, in some cases, in several ways. This then, is the fifth reason that Sandy is important: The Earth’s weather system (quite unconsciously of course) opened a big huge can of “I told you so” on the climate science denialist world. Sandy washed away many lives, a great deal of property and quite a bit of shoreline. Sandy also washed away a huge portion of what remained of the credibility of the climate science denialist lobby.

Is Mother Nature revving up an October Surprise (w/ human thumbs on the scale)?

Grim Trajectories

Has climate change created a monster?

Ostrich Heads in the Sand(y)? Does your meteorologist break the climate silence?

Climate of Doubt As Superstorm Sandy Crosses US Coast

Are Tropical Storms Getting Larger in Area?

What you need to know about Frankenstorm Sandy

[Fox: Hurricane Sandy Has “Nothing To Do With Global Warming” ]

2: Related to Sandy, the direct effects of sea level rise…

… were blatantly observed and widely acknowledged by the press and the public for the first time

Sea Level Rise … Extreme History, Uncertain Future

Peer Reviewed Research Predicted NYC Subway Flooding by #Sandy

How peer-reviewed material understates likely sea-level rise and examining NY Times interactive graphic relying on this optimistic material.

See WMO summary of year for info on global extremes – especially floods in Africa, India, Pakistan, China

3: The Polar Ice Caps and other ice features experienced extreme melting this year.

This year, Arctic sea ice reached a minimum in both extent (how much of the sea is covered during the Arctic summer) and more importantly, total ice volume, reaching the lowest levels in recorded history.

Arctic sea ice extent settles at record seasonal minimum

Ice Loss at Poles Is Increasing, Mainly in Greenland

[TV Media Cover Paul Ryan’s Workout 3x More Than Record Sea Ice Loss]

4: Sea Ice Loss Changes Weather …

We also increasingly recognised that loss of Arctic sea ice affects Northern Hemisphere weather patterns, including severe cold outbreaks and storm tracks. This sea ice loss is what set up the weather pattern mentioned above that steered Sandy into the US Northeast, as well as extreme cold last winter in other areas.

Arctic Warming is Altering Weather Patterns, Study Shows

5 and 6: Two major melting events happened in Greenland this summer.

First, the total amount of ice that has melted off this huge continental glacier reached a record high, with evidence that the rate of melting is not only high, but much higher than predicted or expected. This is especially worrying because the models climatologists use to predict ice melting are being proven too optimistic. Second, and less important but still rather spectacular, was the melting of virtually every square inch of the surface of this ice sheet over a short period of a few days during the hottest part of the summer, a phenomenon observed every few hundred years but nevertheless an ominous event considering that it happened just as the aforementioned record ice mass loss was being observed and measured.

Greenland Losing Ice Fast

[Media Turn A Blind Eye To Record Greenland Ice Melt]

7: Massive Ice islands…

…were formed when the Petermann Glacier of northern Greenland calved a massive piece of its floating tongue, and it is likely that the Pine Island Glacier (West Antarctica) will follow suit this Southern Hemisphere summer. Also, this information is just being reported and we await further evaluation. As summer begins to develop in the Southern Hemisphere, there may be record warmth there in Antarctica. That story will likely be part of next year’s roundup of climate-related woes.

8: More Greenhouse Gasses than Ever

Even though the rate of emissions of greenhouse gasses slowed down temporarily for some regions of the world, those gasses stay in the air after they are released, so this year greenhouse gas levels reached new record high levels

United StatesGreenhouse Gas Levels Reach New Record High

World Meteorological Organization: Greenhouse Gas Concentrations Reach New Record

9: It Got Hot

As expected, given the greenhouse gases just mentioned, Record Breaking High Temperatures Continue, 2012 is one of the warmest years since the Age of the Dinosaurs. We’ll wait until the year is totally over to give you a rank, but it is very, very high.

UK Met Office forecasts next year to set new record

Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math

10: …and that heat brought extreme, killer heat waves

Hot, Very Hot, Extremely Hot Summers

[STUDY: TV Media Ignore Coverage of Climate Change In Coverage Of Record July Heat]

11: For many areas, this was the year without a Spring.

The growing season in temperate zones is longer, causing the USDA in the US to change its planting recommendations.

It’s the Heat of the Night

12: There were widespread, unprecedented and deadly wildfires…

…around the world and in the American West.

[STUDY: Media Avoid Climate Context In Wildfire Coverage]

[STUDY: Media Begin To Connect The Dots Between Climate Change And Wildfires]

13: There was a major drought…

…in the US with numerous negative effects including threats to the food supply

Drought, Water & Energy

What is the link between Global Warming and Drought?

Brutal Droughts, Worsened by Global Warming, Threaten Food Production Around The World

Alarm bells on climate change as extreme weather events sweep the world: CCSOS

The Bacon Shortage

14: River Traffic Stops

A very rare event caused by drought conditions was the closing of the Mississippi River to traffic in mid-summer at two locations. This is part of a larger and growing problem involving drought, increased demands for water, and the importance of river traffic. Expect to hear more about this over the next couple of years.

Drought Closes Mississippi River Traffic in Two Locations

15: Very, very bad storms.

In June, a major and very scary derecho event – a thunderstorm and tornado complex large enough to get its own Wikipedia entry – swept across the country. This was one of several large storm systems that caused damage and death in the US this year. There were also large and unprecedented sandstorms in Asia and the US.

June 2012 North American derecho

16: Widespread Tree Mortality is underway and is expected to worsen.

Dire Drought Ahead, May Lead to Massive Tree Death

17: Biodiversity is mostly down…

We continue to experience, and this will get worse, great Losses in Biodiversity especially in Oceans, much of that due to increased acidification because of the absorption of CO2 in seawater, and overfishing.

Big loss of biodiversity with global warming

18: Unusual Jet Stream Configuration and related changes to general climate patterns…

Many of us who contributed to this list feel that this is potentially the most important of all of the stories, partly because it ties together several other events. Also, it may be that a change in the air currents caused by global warming represents a fundamental yet poorly understood shift in climate patterns. The steering of Hurricane Sandy into the New York and New Jersey metro areas, the extreme killer cold in Eastern Europe and Russia, the “year without a Spring” and the very mild winters, some of the features of drought, and other effects may be “the new normal” owing to a basic shift in how air currents are set up in a high-CO2 world. This December, as we compile this list, this effect has caused extreme cold in Eastern Europe and Russia as well as floods in the UK and unusually warm conditions in France. As of this writing well over 200 people have died in the Ukraine, Poland and Russia from cold conditions. As an ongoing and developing story we are including it provisionally on this list. Two blog posts from midyear of 2011 and 2012 (this one and this one) cover some of this.

The following video provides an excellent overview of this problem:


19: The first climate denial “think” tank to implode as a result of global warming…

… suffered major damage this year. The Heartland Institute, which worked for many years to prove that cigarette smoking was not bad for you, got caught red handed trying to fund an effort explicitly (but secretly) designed to damage science education in public schools. Once caught, they tried to distract attention by equating people who thought the climate science on global warming is based on facts and is not a fraud with well-known serial killers, using large ugly billboards. A large number of Heartland Institute donors backed off after this fiasco and their credibility tanked in the basement. As a result, the Heartland Institute, which never was really that big, is now no longer a factor in the climate change discussion.

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