Posts Tagged Jason Box

TDB Today: Dragon breath and the age of consequences Gareth Renowden Aug 13

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In my column at The Daily Blog this week — Dragon breath and the Age Of Consequences — I take a look at the latest news on Arctic methane. It’s not good, as Jason Box demonstrated by not mincing his words about the seriousness of the threat. For an idea of the consequences, I strongly recommend finding half an hour to look at the video above. Max Wilbert interviews some of the top scientists in the field (including East Siberian Shelf methane expert Natalia Shakova), and the result is a good overview of the pace of change up North and the sheer scale of the permafrost carbon threat.

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:


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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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.


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.]

The Climate Show #32: a Cook’s tour of the Aussie heat Gareth Renowden Jan 24

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At long last: John Cook from Skeptical Science rejoins the Climate Show team for the first show of 2013. He hooks up with Glenn and Gareth to review Australia’s big heatwave, and stays around to dig into the new Greenpeace report on dirty energy, discuss Obama’s inauguration speech and Boris Johnson’s climate blunder, the latest scary news on sea level rise and the implications for the future. Plus much much more…

Watch The Climate Show on our Youtube channel, subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, listen to us via Stitcher on your smartphone or listen direct/download from the link below the fold.

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The Climate Show

Story references


Australia bush fires and temperature records: For the first image used in the show and further background, see The Conversation.

Bushfires captured by satellite: NASA Earth Observatory

Global Warming Has Increased Monthly Heat Records Worldwide by a Factor of Five, Study Finds

If global warming continues, the study projects that the number of new monthly records will be 12 times as high in 30 years as it would be without climate change. “Now this doesn’t mean there will be 12 times more hot summers in Europe than today — it actually is worse,” Coumou points out. For the new records set in the 2040s will not just be hot by today’s standards. “To count as new records, they actually have to beat heat records set in the 2020s and 2030s, which will already be hotter than anything we have experienced to date,” explains Coumou. “And this is just the global average — in some continental regions, the increase in new records will be even greater.”

A new report commissioned by Greenpeace says the world could be locked into dangerous levels of global warming if 14 planned fossil fuel projects get the go ahead. The projects in the Point of No Return report include the expansion of Indonesian and Australian coal exports, a tripling of production from the Canadian tar sands and extensive offshore drilling in Brazilian waters.All in all, the 6,340 million tonnes of CO2 a year by 2020, more than the total output of the US.
RTCC news, full report pdf.

US media coverage of Climate Change in 2012 fell by 2%! This despite the devastating drought and Hurricane Sandy.

But if Obama has his way that’s all about to change: Youtube video here.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says his top hopes for 2013 are to reach a new agreement on climate change and to urgently end the increasingly deadly and divisive war in Syria.

Dispatch from London…. Shock! Horror! Boris says something really stupid! He says this week’s snow casts doubt on Climate science. Of course, as Leo Hickman points out in The Guardian he’s only trolling BUT it still matters because he could be Britain’s PM one day…

Jason Box’s Dark Snow Project. He is also going to be speaking at a Climate Desk Event in Washington next month. See also: SkS and HT.

Sea level rise: a sequence of stories…

Natural Relationship Between Carbon Dioxide Concentrations and Sea Level Documented

The researchers found that the natural relationship displays a strong rise in sea level for CO2 increase from 180 to 400 parts per million, peaking at CO2 levels close to present-day values, with sea level at 24 +7/-15 metres above the present, at 68 per cent confidence limits.

Richard Alley lecture – final section on the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica.

Which leads us to the ultimate paradox: Sea level rise could lead to cooler, stormier planet, says Jim Hansen.

A catastrophic rise in sea level before the end of the century could have a hitherto unforeseen side effect. Melting icebergs might cool the seas around Greenland and Antarctica so much that the average surface temperature of the planet falls by a degree or two. This is according to unpublished work by climate scientist James Hansen of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City.

Plus: Gareth being gloomy.

And this from The Climate Desk: they report that a group of researchers and educators based at San Jose State University think climate science needs a superhero. And they have: Supermandia!


Scott A Mandia’s blog is here.


Sprinkling billions of tonnes of mineral dust across the oceans could quickly remove a vast quantities of climate-warming carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, according to a new study. The proposed “geoengineering” technique would also offset the acidification of the oceans and could be targeted at endangered coral reefs, but there’s a downside — it would require a mining effort on the same scale as the world’s coal industry and would alter the biology of the oceans.

Thin Film Solar Cells: New World Record for Solar Cell Efficiency

UK scientists bid to mimic plant energy creation

Researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA) are embarking on an £800,000 project to replicate photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert sunlight into sugars to help them grow.

The process will be used to create hydrogen, which can be used as a zero-emission fuel for cars, or converted into green electricity.

It is hoped the method, which involves placing tiny solar panels on microbes to harness sunlight and drive the production of hydrogen, will be a more efficient way of converting the sun’s energy than currently exists.

We have an email!

Thanks to our media partners: Idealog Sustain, Sciblogs, and Scoop .

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

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.


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 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,

Greenland’s extraordinary summer #2: still melting Gareth Renowden Aug 07

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Greenland’s extraordinary summer is far from over. The ice island that broke off the Petermann glacier tongue last month — now dubbed PII-2012 — is edging its way out into the Nares Strait between Greenland and Ellesmere Island, as this satellite image, snipped from NASA’s fabulous daily Arctic Mosaic shows. For updates on events in Nares Strait, check out Dr Andreas Muenchow’s Icy Seas blog — he’s up there at the moment. Elsewhere on the great ice sheet, melting continues apace. Jason Box reports that ice sheet albedo has dipped again into record levels for the time of year, and there are reports of further extensive surface melting at the end of July. Box also reports that a recent update of the Greenland temperature record shows that current temperatures are unprecedented in at least the last 172 years. There’s also excellent coverage of the summer at Greenland melting.

Meanwhile, and rather unsurprisingly, New Zealand’s little band of climate deniers are insisting that there’s nothing special going on up North. And, equally unsurprisingly, they’re totally wrong.

Here’s the latest albedo chart for the whole ice sheet, from Box’s Meltfactor blog:

Greenland Ice Sheet Reflectivity 0 3200 Box

Although the albedo (surface reflectivity) recovered after the extensive surface melting mid-month, it dipped again into early August, keeping albedo well below previous years1. This correlates nicely with an update to Box et al’s long term summer air temperature series for Greenland:

Greenland summer air T update to Box et al 2009

Current summer temperatures are well above previous levels, and are clearly contributing to both the reduction in albedo and the extreme ice mass losses reported in recent years.

And so to New Zealand’s outpost of denial, Richard Treadgold’s blog, where the climate litigant and prolix blogger waxes indignant about a Scientific American news story, and describes Greenland’s extraordinary July melt event as:

…not unusual – it occurs about every 150 years.

A strange definition of unusual, you might think. He goes on to put the event in its wider context.

…this slight mid-summer melting is not because of anything we’ve done and there is no need for alarm.

This “slight mid summer melting” was enough to wash out bridges and roads as rivers draining the ice sheet rose well above historic flood levels, but let’s set that to one side and look at the meat of his post. Treadgold visits Wikipedia to obtain a figure for the size of the Greenland ice sheet, then jumps on a number in the SA article and calculates how long it will take to melt the entire ice sheet. He arrives at a figure of 67,222 years and uses it pontificate about just how small a problem it really is. Sadly for Treadgold, his fact-checking is letting him down again.

The Scientific American article Treadgold is so keen to denigrate includes a figure for annual ice sheet mass loss of 36 gigatonnes. I have been unable to trace where this comes from2, but it is way out of line with current estimates of ice sheet mass loss. Had Treadgold read down that Wikipedia page a little, he would have discovered that it reports annual volume losses of between 239 and 195 km3 from 2003-2008. Project those numbers forward, and Greenland’s ice sheet has only got about 15,000 years to go — only 25% of Treadgold’s projection, but still quite a long time.

Unfortunately, the current picture is worse than that. The 2011 Arctic Report card covers the 2010 melt season, and gives us two ways to look at Greenland’s mass balance — the surface mass balance, running at -344 Gt/year in 2010, and GRACE satellite measurement of total ice sheet mass, showing a loss of -430 Gt in the year. Plug those numbers into the total mass of the ice sheet3, and you get 7,000 and 5,600 years respectively. Now that’s what I’d call rapid melting.

But even that’s likely to be unrealistically slow, because we know that mass loss from the Greenland ice sheet has been accelerating. 2011 was at least as bad as 2010, and 2012 is pretty much certain, given the evidence of this extraordinary summer, to have been even worse. This is not good news, not something that can be dismissed as “a hoax, a fraud, a betrayal, a cheat, a perfidy, a sham and a swindle”, as Treadgold’s thesaurus would have it. No, it’s a profound change to the surface of the planet, brought on by warming caused by human emissions, and unless we’re very lucky, the cascade of consequences are going to make life very difficult for our civilisation for the foreseeable future.

[The Who]

  1. Box has also published a “music video” of Greenland albedo over the last 12 years which demonstrates how the ice sheet has darkened as warming has progressed.
  2. It’s unreferenced in the article. All I can find is a news story referring to a study that finds that polar ice sheet mass loss is accelerating by 36 Gt per year.
  3. I’ll use Treadgold’s number: 2,420,000 Gt.

Greenland’s extraordinary summer: melting records and ice island setting sail Gareth Renowden Jul 26

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July has been an amazing month in Greenland. The Petermann Glacier has given birth to another huge ice island — taking its terminus further back up its fjord than at any time in the last 100 years (at least), record high temperatures have been recorded at the summit of the ice sheet at 3,200 meters, initiating surface melt over the whole vast sheet, ice sheet albedo has plummeted, and the Jakobshavn Isbrae’s calving front has retreated into the ice sheet.

The best coverage of the Petermann event, as on most matters to do with the Arctic summer and sea ice melting season is to be found at Neven’s Arctic Sea Ice blog. It’s well worth reading the comments under the Petermann post there, to get a really informative picture of what’s being going on. Here’s a description by Dr Andreas Muenchow1 of what the calving would have been like:

I described the Petermann calving to some media folks as a gentle and very quiet affair similar to a rubber duckie pushed out to sea from the deck of a flat pool.

Some duckie, some pool…

Illulisatanimated2012203Further south, the the “root” of the Jakobshavn Isbrae has enlarged significantly, with the calving front of Greenland’s most productive glacier retreating further into the ice sheet. The “blink” image I’ve cobbled together (left) shows day 203 of this year compared with day 202 of last year2. The difference is large and very obvious. Greenland specialist Dr Jason Box was flying out of Ilulisat shortly after the retreat earlier this month, and snapped the photo below out of the window of his plane. As he commented on Facebook, it looks like the glacier has divided into two streams.


Up at the summit of the Greenland ice sheet at 3,200 metres, a new high temperature record of 3.6ºC was set on July 16, hard on the heels of four days in row of temperatures above freezing, from July 11 to 14. Considering that temperatures above zero had only been recorded four times in the preceding 12 years, this amounted a remarkable heatwave, and triggered an astonishing melt record.


This NASA graphic shows how the melting surface, shown in shades of red, spread over the whole surface of the ice sheet from July 8 to July 12. This amounts to “the largest extent of surface melting observed in three decades of satellite observations”, according to NASA. The last such melting event occurred in 1889, and ice cores show that they occur every 150 to 250 years. However, given the steady increase in melt area over the last decade, and the precipitous drop in ice sheet albedo (see below), especially at high altitudes, it may not be 150 years before such a melt happens again.


The last time I looked at this extraordinary summer in Greenland, it was to report Jason Box‘s view that “it is reasonable to expect 100% melt area over the ice sheet within another similar decade of warming”. It took two weeks to come true. Forgive me if I find that alarming.

  1. Andreas provides great coverage of the Petermann glacier at his blog — perhaps unsurprisingly, as he’s on his way up there to recover instrumentation soon.
  2. Source: 2012, 2011.

Greenland melt record likely Gareth Renowden Jun 27

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Jason Box reports that the Greenland ice sheet darkening recorded in satellite albedo1 measurements is setting new records this summer, especially at high altitudes. Box recently blogged that ice sheet reflectivity this summer “has been the lowest since accurate records began in March, 2000″.

Here’s the latest “noodle plot”2 (regularly updated here) for the ice sheet between elevations of 2,000 and 2,500 metres. 2012 (the black line) is well down into new record territory:

2000 2500 Greenland Ice Sheet Reflectivity Byrd Polar Research Center

Box comments:

What I expect we will see if these low albedo conditions persist is 100% surface melting over the ice sheet. This would be a first in observations. It may not happen this year, but the trajectory the ice sheet is on, along with amplified Arctic warming, will have the ice sheet responding by melting more and more.

To see this darkening in action, have a look at the MODIS image of the west Greenland ice sheet here. You can see the surface melt spreading inland and upwards, grey ice dotted with blue lakes. Add another interesting, if depressing, graph to the panoply of information on the Arctic summer. The sea ice doesn’t look too good either…

In other Greenland-related news, a new study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Science by Liu et al3, Younger Dryas cooling and the Greenland climate response to CO2 (Science Daily, PNAS abstract), looks at the ice sheet temperature record inferred from the oxygen isotope measurements taken from ice cores, and concludes that they may overestimate the extent of the Younger Dryas cooling. This is interesting stuff for those who have been following the Easterbrook story, because Don places great store by the ice core temperature record. He was wrong before this paper hit the presses, but he’s even wronger now!

  1. High albedo = very white, lots of reflection; low albedo = darker, more heat absorbed
  2. Looks like a spaghetti graph to me. What is it with climate people and pasta?
  3. Zhengyu Liu, Anders E. Carlson, Feng He, Esther C. Brady, Bette L. Otto-Bliesner, Bruce P. Briegleb, Mark Wehrenberg, Peter U. Clark, Shu Wu, Jun Cheng, Jiaxu Zhang, David Noone, and Jiang Zhu. Younger Dryas cooling and the Greenland climate response to CO2. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, June 25, 2012 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1202183109 – PDF here.

The Climate Show #27: Aussie hockeysticks, cherry pies and electric planes Gareth Renowden May 27

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It’s a first! Glenn, Gareth and John manage to record a show that clocks in at under an hour — but it’s still packed with interesting stuff. We’ve got news about a new Australasian hockey stick — a paleoclimate reconstruction that demonstrates that the last three decades are the warmest in the last 1,000 years, a look under an Antarctic ice shelf, more methane research, and good news from Greenland. John Cook from Skeptical Science looks at the misuse of temperature records from the Sargasso Sea, and we look at electric planes and boats and the latest version of the solar “leaf”. And… Glenn announces his imminent move to the UK, but never fear, the show will go on — just as soon as he sets up his computer in London (which might be a couple of months).

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News & commentary: [0:04:15]

Scientists from the University of Melbourne used 27 natural climate records, including tree rings, corals and ice cores to create the first large-scale temperature reconstruction for the region over the past 1000 years.


Journal reference, full paper [pdf].

Methane held underground by caps of Arctic ice is bubbling out as a warming climate causes those caps to melt, researchers report in the journal Nature Geoscience.

New York Times, New Scientist.

Potential Instability in West Antarctic Ice Sheet from Newly Discovered Basin Size of New Jersey:
Science Daily


The Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf fringing the Weddell Sea, Antarctica, may start to melt rapidly in this century and no longer act as a barrier for ice streams draining the Antarctic Ice Sheet: press release.


Sea-level rises ‘may not be as high as worst-case scenarios have predicted’: Guardian.

Store Glacier at Extreme Ice Survey. (Jason Box tells me that he will be posting images of his Greenland fieldwork to a public Picasa page when he gets somewhere with reasonable bandwidth).

Debunking the sceptic [37:15]

John Cook from talks about sceptic misuse of a Sargasso Sea temperature record, and Mark Boslough and Lloyd Keigwin debunking the cherries picked in the process…

Solutions [1:00:00]

EV Pioneer Plans to Recreate Lindbergh’s Flight in Electric Airplane, with pix of the flying batteries here. (Plus: an extra solar plane story not featured in the show — another approach to solar-powered flight, aiming to fly from Switzerland to Morocco).

Solar-Powered Boat Finishes Globe-Circling Journey.

Secrets of the First Practical Artificial Leaf.

Thanks to our media partners: Idealog Sustain, Sciblogs, Scoop and KiwiFM.

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

The Climate Show #25: Box on ice (a polar special) Gareth Renowden Mar 23

Join the conversation at Hot Topic

As the northern hemisphere starts to warm (rather rapidly in the USA), climate watchers’ thoughts turn to melting ice, and to tell us what happened last year and what might be in store this summer, Glenn and Gareth welcome back Greenland expert Jason Box from the Byrd Polar research Centre at Ohio State University. It’s a wide ranging and fascinating discussion, not to be missed. John Cook looks at the differences between sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic, and we have news coverage of the new HadCRUT4 global temperature series, summertime in winter in the USA, worrying news about sea level from the Pliocene, a new report on climate change in the Pacific, and new developments in solar power and biofuels.

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The Climate Show

News & commentary: [0:03:30]

Hadley Centre publishes updated global temp series, includes Arctic for first time, shows 2010 was hottest year – formerly 1998.

Astounding US winter ’heatwave’ continues: Joe Romm at Climate Progress

From Jeff Masters on the day we were recording (21/3/12):

International Falls, Minnesota hit 78°F yesterday, 42° above average, and the 2nd hottest March temperature on record in the Nation’s Icebox. The record of 79°F was set the previous day. Remarkably, the low temperature for International Falls bottomed out at 60°F yesterday, tying the previous record high for the date. I’ve never seen a station with a century-long data record have its low temperature for the date match the previous record high for the date. Yesterday was the seventh consecutive day that International Falls broke or tied a daily record. That is spectacularly hard to do for a station with a century-long weather record. The longest string of consecutive records being broken I’m aware of is nine days in a row, set June 2 – 10, 1911 in Tulsa, Oklahoma (with weather records going back to 1905.) International Falls has a good chance of surpassing nine consecutive records this week.

Fox News:

“6th, 7th Consecutive Days of Record-Warmth Likely Updated: Monday, 19 Mar 2012, 12:37 PM CDT Published : Monday, 19 Mar 2012, 7:38 AM CDT Sun-Times Media Wire Chicago – In what meteorologists are calling a ’historic and unprecedented’ streak, the Chicago area should hit the sixth day in a row of record warm temperatures on Monday, even on the last day of winter.”

Global Sea Level Likely to Rise as Much as 70 Feet for Future Generations

Even if humankind manages to limit global warming to 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F), as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommends, future generations will have to deal with sea levels 12 to 22 meters (40 to 70 feet) higher than at present, according to research published in the journal Geology.

Climate change and the future of our Pacific neighbours

…until recently there has been limited reliable detailed scientific information available to [Pacific Island] countries. A major new report recently released by the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO is helping to fill this gap. It provides the most comprehensive scientific analysis to date of climate change in the Pacific region.
The 530 page, two-volume scientific report called ’Climate Change in the Pacific: Scientific Assessment and New Research’ shows clear evidence of how the climate in the Pacific has changed and may change in the future.

Entire nation of Kiribati to be relocated over rising sea level threat

Interview [0:22:30]

Jason Box, Assoc. Professor in the Department of Geography, Byrd Polar Research Center,
The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA.

NASA MODIS Arctic mosaic

Arctic Report Card, highlights

  • Arctic average surface air temperature remained high in 2011, ~1.5 C above the 1981-2000 baseline
  • shift in the Arctic [Ocean] system since 2006
  • persistent decline in the thickness and extent of the summer sea ice cover, and a warmer, fresher upper ocean.
  • As a result of increased open water area, biological productivity at the base of the marine food chain has increased
  • sea ice-dependent marine mammals continue to lose habitat.
  • increases in the greenness of tundra vegetation
  • increases in permafrost temperature
  • more downward sensible heat and positive albedo feedback, reduced sea ice
  • loss of habit for walrus and polar bears.
  • less duration of solid platform for seal to ‘pup’
  • Possibly linked to recent changes in wind patterns, ozone concentrations in the Arctic stratosphere during March 2011 were the lowest ever recorded during the period beginning in 1979.
  • Higher temperatures in the Arctic and unusually lower temperatures in some low latitude regions are linked to global shifts in atmospheric wind patterns.

Links to ’Weird Weather’

  • While oceanic and atmospheric patterns such as El Niño, La Niña, and the North Atlantic Oscillation have been blamed for the spate of unusual weather recently, there’s now a new culprit in the wind: Arctic amplification…
  • new Arctic amplification (enhanced Arctic warming relative to that in mid-latitudes) news from: Francis and Vavrus (2012), Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes, Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, L06801, doi:10.1029/2012GL051000
  • a slower eastward progression of Rossby waves in the upper-level flow
    1) weakened zonal winds,
    2) increased wave amplitude.
    may cause more persistent weather patterns in mid-latitude


A persistent and strong negative North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index was responsible for southerly air flow along the west of Greenland, which caused anomalously warm weather in winter 2010-11 and summer 2011.

Albedo feedback…

  • Greenland ice sheet mass loss has accelerated in the past decade responding to combined glacier discharge and surface melt water runoff increases.
  • During summer, absorbed solar energy, modulated at the surface primarily by albedo, is the dominant factor governing surface melt variability in the ablation area.
  • Using satellite observations of albedo and melt extent with calibrated regional climate model output, we determine the spatial dependence and quantitative impact of the ice sheet albedo feedback in twelve summer periods beginning in 2000.
  • We find that while the albedo feedback is negative over 70 % of the ice sheet, concentrated in the accumulation area above 1500 m, positive feedback prevailing over the ablation area accounts for more than half of the overall increase in melting.
  • Over the ablation area, year 2010 and 2011 absorbed solar energy was more than twice as large as in years 2000—2004.
  • Anomalous anticyclonic circulation, associated with a persistent summer North Atlantic Oscillation extreme since 2007 enabled three amplifying mechanisms to maximize the albedo feedback:
  • (1) increased warm (south) air advection along the western ice sheet increased surface sensible heating that in turn enhanced snow grain metamorphic rates, further reducing albedo;
  • (2) increased surface downward solar irradiance, leading to more surface heating and further albedo reduction; and
  • (3) reduced snowfall rates sustained low albedo, maximizing surface solar heating, progressively lowering albedo over multiple years.
  • The summer net radiation for the high elevation accumulation area approached positive values during this period.
  • while negative feedback has been reducing impact of warming, the surface radiation budget has gotten more positive, seems a threshold is about to be crossed! All what is needed more is another decadal trend increase like the last decade, THIS IS LIKELY! It is reasonable to predict that we will observe mid summer (mid July) melting over 100% of the ice sheet surface. Max melt extent was ~65% in 2010.
  • The area and duration of melting at the surface of the ice sheet in summer 2011 were the third highest since 1979.
  • The area of marine-terminating glaciers continued to decrease, though at less than half the rate of the previous 10 years.
  • In situ measurements revealed near record-setting mass losses concentrated at higher elevations on the western slope of the ice sheet, and at an isolated glacier in southeastern Greenland.
  • Total ice sheet mass loss in 2011 was 70% larger than the 2003-09 average annual loss rate of -250 Gt y-1. According to satellite gravity data obtained since 2002, ice sheet mass loss is accelerating.

Summer plans

  • ’holistic’ glacier study, Store Glacier, 70 N W Greenland…the idea is to observe the system not just make and analyze this or that measurement
  • in-situ crevasse widening measurements x 2
  • water filled crevasse depth measurements x 2
  • continuous GPS x 3
  • seismometers x 3
  • time lapse cameras
  • tide gauge
  • tidal modulation of flow dynamics
  • calving tsunamis
  • hydrophones
  • multi-beam swath sonar repeat survey of sub marine glacier front
  • hydrographic surveying (temperature, salinity, current; vs depth)
  • heat and water mass budget
  • acoustic doppler current profiler
  • aircraft and satellite remote sensing data

Debunking the sceptic [1:01:50]

John Cook from talks about Antarctic sea ice:

Solutions [1:17:00]

Waikato’s plan to harvest sunlight

Pretty pictures from National Geographic: solar thermal stations in Spain.

Electric Jeepneys to reduce pollution in Philippines.

NZ’s LanzaTech picked as one of world’s leading energy innovators

Thanks to our media partners: Idealog Sustain, Sciblogs, Scoop and KiwiFM.

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

This edition of The Climate Show is our entry in TckTckTck‘s Rio Blogger competition. Wish us luck!

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