De Nile

Everybody’s favorite river seems to flow in every corner of the world.

For instance, consider how quickly Floridians stop worrying about hurricanes.

Meanwhile, Dot Earth reports that US science agencies shy away from the question of how to deal with the fractured communications between science and the public. I have to say that when I first heard about this issue I had some doubts about Glantz’s association with NCAR but he makes a very cogent case.



This peculiar figure is still up at a NASA site. The cooling rates are monstrously high (per annum!) and the boundary between land and sea is too sharp and there is altogether a misleading amount of detail. I seem to recall William Connolley warning me that this map was broken. But there it sits.

Meanwhile Robert Rohde’s wonderful GlobalWarmingArt site finds the evidence equivocal:

Here the rates are per decade, and while still large, are not stunningly large. The time series are longer and hence perhaps less noisy, and the trends are far less uniform. (And as usual, Robert has made a visually beautiful image. Quite a few of those many hits to this site have been people coming by to admire my closeup of one of his sea level rise maps.)

Anyway, the NASA site with the peculiarly shaded map has a link to:

Comiso, J. C., Variability and trends in the Antarctic surface temperatures from in situ and satellite infrared measurements, J. Climate, 13(10), 1674-1696, 2000; Kwok, R, and J.C. Comiso, Spatial patterns of variability in Antarctic surface temperature: Connections to the Southern Hemisphere Annular Mode and the Southern Oscillation, Geophys. Res. Lett., 29(14), 10.1029/2002GL015415, 2002;

And therein we find this:

Although the NASA web page references the article, and while it has some obvious features in common, this figure doesn’t perfectly match their fancy shaded map (check the area by the Ross Sea). That said it does show relatively steep gradients at the shore, and very high rates of change. Notice that the warming signal in the surrounding seas is far more pronounced than the cooling in the interior. Notice especially the intense warming near the Amundsen embayment, (a bit west of South America) which is spectacularly not where you want it.

So what’s going on?

Wikipedia (and thereby, William, no doubt) refers us to

Thompson and Solomon 2002, Interpretation of Recent Southern Hemisphere Climate Change, Science, v 296 pp 895 ff.

They in turn make a strong case for a correlation of cold Antarctic interiors and a tightening of the “SAM”, which is the anomalously strong phase of the Antarctic polar vortex, a mode which appears to be increasing, and which can be dynamically attributed to a sharp decline in ozone over the period record. Ozone, of course, heats the stratosphere, so its decline will lead to anomalously cold temperatures. Then you need to invoke the thermal wind law and (hmm skipping a few steps) voila! a tightened Antarctic vortex, and tightened temperature gradients around the Antarctic rim.

Of course for every person worried about the retreat of Arctic sea ice there is somebody willing to celebrate the advance of Antarctic ice. The map shows that ice is advancing through the relatively limited areas of cooler water, but that doesn’t do much to separate cause and effect. Any ideas out there?

Anyway the short version of the story is at least plausibly argued to be like this. Antarctica seems to be special because of ANOTHER human impact on the global environment. As the ozone depletion subsides, this will be tested, as the anticipated forcings will both be towards warming in the Antarctic interior.

Update: I see Atmoz has taken this on in plenty of detail. The info I wanted from William is there too, along with many comments. And he says the shiny map is “probably the work of a PR droid” and points to this, via NASA, from Wikipedia:

Go figure.

I think there is actually something to complain about here in a McIntyrean way: how are these drastically different results from a single agency supposed to be reconciled? I note that the web publication of the later image refers to the earlier one without explaining the dramatic differences.

And while I haven;t heard a cogent explanation for the advancing Antarctic sea ice, I have heard a cogent explanation for interior cooling, along with, now, data that shows it isn’t happening…

None of which changes the fact that so far all evidence seems to agree that warm water is being delivered to the structural weak point of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.


Blog traffic

Dot Earth seems like write-only media.

I put a link back to here in a recent comment on Dot Earth which has generated zero hits. On the other hand Deltoid mentioned this blog more or less in passing and I got dozens of referrals. Granted these aren’t directly comparable, a self-serving comment being worth less than a link from the blog entry, but I would have thought, based on the huge comment streams, that Dot Earth had a huge readership and there would surely be some back-scatter. Weird.

Update: I note that the Deltoid thread in question turns out to be perhaps the most remarkable blog discussion I have seen. I’m lucky to get a mention in it, just based on my musings here on intellectual honesty. By all means go read it, and especially comments by John Mashey and Jeff Harvey. My impression of Lomborg is certainly influenced as a consequence.

Meanwhile, In It closes in on its 100,000th page served according to Statcounter‘s metric (see graph above. The figure shows pages served per week.) I am nerdishly holding my breath. Please help me get the suspense over with and recommend this blog to a friend.

CA folk are welcome to overinterpret every bump and wiggle, and/or to question SC’s page counting algorithm. It’s what I’ve got, and I’m going with it. Also, please feel free to argue that my traffic has declined since January; I will keep any counterarguments to myself. This will be a good occasion for you to get that sort of thing out of your system.

Download the 100,000th tracked page and win!

If I can track down the requester for the 100,000th page, they will get, hmmm, a free article on the topic of their choice, and, hmmm, a free decent but not spectacularly fancy restaurant dinner with me if we ever find ourselves in the same town. Looks like the winning hit will happen some time this month. Now is a great time to read all the fascinating back articles linked in the “best of” section.

More from Holdren

Dot Earth has a follow-up to the John Holdren op-ed which I referenced a few days ago.

Especially salient in my opinion:

As my original reference to “the venerable tradition of skepticism” indicates, I am in fact well aware of its valuable and indeed fundamental role in the practice of science. Skeptical views, clearly stated and soundly based, tend to promote healthy re-examination of premises, additional ways to test hypotheses and theories, and refinement of explanations and arguments. And it does happen from time to time – although less often than most casual observers suppose – that views initially held only by skeptics end up overturning and replacing what had been the “mainstream” view.

Appreciation for this positive role of scientific skepticism, however, should not lead to uncritical embrace of the deplorable practices characterizing what much of has been masquerading as appropriate skepticism in the climate-science domain. These practices include refusal to acknowledge the existence of large bodies of relevant evidence (such as the proposition that there is no basis for implicating carbon dioxide in the global-average temperature increases observed over the past century); the relentless recycling of arguments in public forums that have long since been persuasively discredited in the scientific literature (such as the attribution of the observed global temperature trends to urban-heat island effects or artifacts of statistical method); the pernicious suggestion that not knowing everything about a phenomenon (such as the role of cloudiness in a warming world) is the same as knowing nothing about it; and the attribution of the views of thousands of members of the mainstream climate-science community to “mass hysteria” or deliberate propagation of a “hoax”.

The purveying of propositions like these by a few scientists who do or should know better –and their parroting by amateur skeptics who lack the scientific background or the motivation to figure out what’s wrong with them – are what I was inveighing against in the op-ed and will continue to inveigh against.

Emphasis added, in the typographical sense. (It seems, at last, that something sufficiently emphatic is at least making it into the orbit of a major newspaper.)

Comments are off for this posting. Please respond at Dot Earth.


Tiltin at Windmills

Tom Friedman:

As Richard K. Lester, an energy-innovation expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, notes, “The best chance we have — perhaps the only chance” of addressing the combined challenges of energy supply and demand, climate change and energy security “is to accelerate the introduction of new technologies for energy supply and use and deploy them on a very large scale.”

This, he argues, will take more than a Manhattan Project. It will require a fundamental reshaping by government of the prices and regulations and research-and-development budgets that shape the energy market. Without taxing fossil fuels so they become more expensive and giving subsidies to renewable fuels so they become more competitive — and changing regulations so more people and companies have an interest in energy efficiency — we will not get innovation in clean power at the scale we need.

That is what this election should be focusing on. Everything else is just bogus rhetoric designed by cynical candidates who think Americans are so stupid — so bloody stupid — that if you just show them wind turbines in your Olympics ad they’ll actually think you showed up and voted for such renewable power — when you didn’t.

More here.


Ludicrous Article on Slate

Andy Revkin is taking bait set by Ron Rosenbaum in a ludicrous article on Slate.

Here is my response.

Well, I’ve been advocating you cover dissent too, but from a sociological perspective. You should report on Naomi Oreskes’ work uncovering the roots of the pseudoscientific footdragging that bypasses the scientific community entirely and goes directly to the press. It’s an effective strategy; wearing white coats and looking authoritative takes so much less effort than actually participating in the scientific process. I’d be happy to give their silly argunents their due if the press were to also put a little investigation into who these people are, why they do what they do, and how much they participate in science as actual contributors.

I write, though, mostly to express my bemusement at this astonishing blurt from the Rosenbaum article:


It may be that believers in anthropogenic global warming are right. I have no strong position on the matter, aside from agreeing with the CJR editorial that there’s a danger in narrowing the permissible borders of dissent.

But I take issue with the author’s contention that the time for dissent has ended. “The era of ‘equal time’ for skeptics who argue that global warming is just a result of natural variation and not human intervention seems to be largely over—except on talk radio, cable, and local television,” she tells us.

And of course we all know that the Truth is to be found only on networks and major national print outlets. Their record has been nigh unto infallible.


I think the generous term for this is “obtuse”. He refers to the bigger publications with a hint of jealousy, and to the scientific community not at all!

Truth, on matters of objective physical reality as opposed to social or political reality, is pretty much the specialty of science. The very fact that exists is a testament to the capacity of science to find truth.

On matters of scientific fact, the scientific arbiters of what is or is not beyond the pale have not a perfect record, but it is a solid one indeed. At some point, the press owes it to the public to have sufficiently solid communication channels to the scientific community as to stop troubling the public with empty crackpot posturing. That is your job. Your job is not to sell “papers”.

The national science academies of all G8 nations along with most of the remaining scientifically active nations all have issued staments regarding the urgency of action to curtail carbon dioxide emissions. The National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Meteorology Society and the American Geophysical Union have all issued statements concurring with the summaries of the scientific working group of the IPCC.

When exactly will the press give us the permission to treat this pernicious nonsense for what it is? I don’t know about you, but my vote is for about eight years ago at the latest.

Update: Here’s a related article by P Z “Pharyngula” Myers.

Update: Things Break, tackles Rosenbaum’s article with great panache if perhaps in more detail than it really deserves. Many interesting points made along the way, though, and very much worth the read on that account.