There has been a lot of press in recent days about the Arctic icecap having recently shrunk drastically -- and that naughty anthropogenic global warming is to blame of course. One of the more sober accounts of the matter is here, where appropriate doubts about what it all means are included. The original sensationalist article, however, appears to have been by Steve Connor in "The Independent" (sometimes known to conservatives as "The Subservient").
The simplest answer to the scare by far is to ask: "If it's all mankind's fault, how come the Northern icecap on Mars is melting too?" There must be a lot of Martians up there after all -- all driving around in SUVs and relying on coal-fired electricity generating stations!
But anyway, let's not be too satirical and look a bit more closely at the whole thing. The lead scientist in the study concerned was Mark Serreze and he has distanced himself from all the sensationalism. With Mark Serreze's approval, Roger Pielke has reproduced his response, dated September 19, 2005, with respect to "The Independent" news article. This response was sent to a mail group that questioned the article (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/climatesceptics).
"Folks: I need to bring your attention to several key points regarding the article. Mr. Connor, who wrote the Article in the "Independent" has jumped the gun. My quotes stemmed from interviews back in mid-late August. They arose from an EOS article that I co-authored with Jonathan Overpeck and others. Mr. Connor's article indicates that there will be a press release on September 20. There is no such release planned for that date. Apparently, he misconstrued statements from one of my colleagues. We are assembling a series of "talking points" regarding 2005 sea ice conditions, but this will only be released when all the facts are in.
John: According to our calculations, sea ice was still declining as of last Friday (see http://www.nsidc.org/data/seaice_index/). This is based on AMSR data. I think the Univ. IL information is based on SSM/I, but I'm not sure. Will 2005 be a record? I don't know. I know it will be close one way or the other. We'll know in a couple of weeks. And as part of this investigation, we need to address discrepancies with the Univ. IL data.
Mr. Connor seems to have taken a wild guess that we will have a new record minimum. Maybe he will be right. The numbers that he quotes were apparently taken from the web site listed above, but they are based on incomplete information. We are tracking sea ice conditions closely, but as stated, we don't yet know how 2005 will stand in comparison to other years. If it is a record, we will certainly let this be known.
In conclusion, Mr. Connor has "jumped the gun." I am firmly convinced that at least part of what we are seeing in the Arctic is due to human influences. However, sensationalist articles like Mr. Connor's only serve to further polarize what is already a very polarized issue. As I have reported in a number of peer reviewed articles, climate change is a complicated issue.
As my colleague Dr. Polyakov has frequently pointed out, the Arctic is home to large natural fluctuations in climate. I feel "ambushed" by Mr. Connor's article. I will make no further responses on this issue until the final numbers are in. And I will certainly not be talking with Mr. Connor.
In other words, Serreze has rightly said that it is only his belief that the shrinkage is human-caused and has also said that there are competing explanations. I doubt that there is a lot of point in my saying much further but because it does not seem to be available in English elsewhere, I reproduce below a translated excerpt from Die Welt (issue of 6 March 2005), a major German newspaper, on the subject. The title of the article is "Die Eisdecke der Antarktis waechst" ("The icecap of the Antarctic is growing"):
"The West Antarctic peninsula only covers one tenth of the south pole's ice. There are rarely spectacular reports about the much larger parts of the continent. These do not provide a uniform scientific picture. In total, however, the ice masses of the continent, which hold about 70 per cent of the world's fresh water resources, seem to be growing. This conclusion was reported at the Earth Observation summit in Brussels in the middle of February by Antarctic researcher Duncan Wingham (University College London).
Wingham presented new satellite data which show that the Antarctic ice cover is getting thicker. "To claim that the ice sheets are melting is rather daring," Wingham said in an interview with Die Welt. Wingham presented radar measurements taken by the European satellites ERS-2 and Envisat, whose altimeter exactly measures elevations on the earth's surface down to two centimeters by means of electromagnetic wave pulses. This way, changes of the ice cover can be identified over many years. Soon, even more precise measurements will be possible once the European satellite Cryo Sat is going to be launched later in June. Orbiting the polar regions, Cryo Sat will take exact measurements (at the millimeter level) for at least three years of the ice thicknesses on both the mainland and the sea at both poles. At a conference in Frascati next week, these operations are going to be prepared.
However, whether Cryo Sat's measurements will be abale to clarify how the ice cover of the Antarctic thick (which is up 4770 meters thick) will evolve in the future, remains questionable. Systematic climate research has been going on for some 30 years on the seventh continent - with contradictory findings: the climate of the Antarctic is complex. A temperature rise over the western peninsula has coincided with a cooling of the south part of the continent. And even in the west the ice cover has been growing. Standard explanations claim that a slight warming will lead to intensified snow whenever it freezes. A global temperature rise could possibly lead to the thickening of the Antarctic ice cover altogether. In any case, the doomsday scenario of an Antarctic meltdown - and consequently a rise in sea level of up to 60 meters - seems rater unrealistically".
So if the Arctic is shrinking and the Antarctic is growing, where does that leave global warming? Nowhere that I can see. The German article quotes Wingham extensively. You can find another suitably cautious interview with Wingham here (in English). And there is a BIG article here (under the heading: "Arctic Temperature Trends -- Summary") setting out the evidence that the current Arctic shrinkage is well within the range of past natural fluctuations. [That last site I linked to is a bit pesky. They default you to their front page so you may have to click the link given here twice to get to the actual article].
I may put up some more on this subject tomorrow.
AN AMUSING BIT OF DOGMATISM IN A SCIENTIFIC PAPER
Read the abstract below from this paper:
"The oceans are becoming more acidic due to absorption of anthropogenic carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The impact of ocean acidification on marine ecosystems is unclear, but it will likely depend on species adaptability and the rate of change of seawater pH relative to its natural variability. To constrain the natural variability in reef-water pH, we measured boron isotopic compositions in a roughly 300-year-old massive Porites coral from the southwestern Pacific. Large variations in pH are found over roughly 50-year cycles that covary with the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation of ocean-atmosphere anomalies, suggesting that natural pH cycles can modulate the impact of ocean acidification on coral reef ecosystems.
There's no mistaking the belief system in the first sentence of that is there? But what they then go on to show thoroughly undermines that belief system. They show that ocean acidity varies naturally over roughly 50 year cycles. So how do we know that ANY variation in acidity we observe is not part of a natural process? Or are they asserting that the only cycles which exist are ones that have been observable over the last 300 years? What utter rubbish you read in scientific journals sometimes! I used to publish critiques of some of the rubbish once but occasional comments on my blogs are all I rise to these days.
I do however know from long experience how journal editors can mangle articles so I am going to give the authors some benefit of the doubt and assume that they originally started out their abstract with the words: "There is reason to believe that ... " or some such. Given the well-known biases of editors at Science (See for instance here and the fourth article down here), I would be perfectly willing to believe that it was one of them who excised the proper qualification to the initial statement.
Speaking of unscientific biases among editors of allegedly scientific journals, I recently put up on Tongue-Tied a pretty swingeing criticism of Leftist bias in one of the editors of Nature. I immediately emailed the link to his agent but I have not heard a squeak out of him in reply. I wonder why?
Carles Pelejero, Malcolm T. McCulloch, John F. Marshall, Michael K. Gagan, Janice M. Lough, Bradley N. Opdyke (2005) "Preindustrial to Modern Interdecadal Variability in Coral Reef pH" Science, Vol 309, Issue 5744, 2204-2207.
Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.
Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists
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