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Antarctic Warming Skepticism


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  • 07-Feb-09 Returning to the Antarctic
  • 24-Jan-09 Is Antarctic Warming Real or is it Mann-made?
  • SEPP Science Editorial #6-09
    (in TWTW Feb 7, 2009)

    S. Fred Singer, Chairman and President , Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)

    Returning to the Antarctic

    Feb 7, 2009

    You may recall our skepticism about reported Antarctic warming [Science Editorial #4-09 (1/247/09)]:

    Recall that Professor Eric Steig et al last month announced in Nature that they had spotted a warming in West Antarctica that previous researchers had missed through slackness - a warming so strong that it more than made up for the cooling in East Antarctica. Finally, Global Warming really was global.

    The paper was immediately greeted with suspicion, not least because one of the authors was Michael Mann, 'inventor' of the infamous hockey stick, now discredited, and the data was reconstructed from very sketchy weather-station records. But also, because the Steig result was contradicted by the much superior MSU data from satellites.

    As reported by Australia's Herald Sun (Feb 4), the warming trend 'arises entirely from the impact of splicing two data sets together' Read this link and this to see Steve McIntyre's superb forensic work. Why wasn't this error picked up earlier? Perhaps because the researchers got the results they'd hoped for, and no alarm bell went off that made them check. Now, wait for the papers to report the error with the zeal with which they reported Steig's warming. http://blogs.news.com.au/heraldsun/andrewbolt/index.php/heraldsun/comments/going_cold_on_antarctic_warming#48360

    -----------------------------------------------

    University of Toronto geophysicists have shown that should the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) collapse and melt in a warming world, as many scientists are concerned it will, it is the coastlines of North America and of nations in the southern Indian Ocean that will face the greatest threats from rising sea levels. The research is published in the February 6 issue of Science magazine "This concern was reinforced further in a recent study led by Eric Steig of the University of Washington that showed that the entire region is indeed warming."

    Well now, not only is there no indication of a collapse of the WAIS - but it's not even warming. The researchers end their news release with: "The most important lesson is that scientists and policy makers should focus on projections that avoid simplistic assumptions."

    I agree fully.

    View The Week That Was in which this editorial appeared.

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    SEPP Science Editorial #4-09
    (in TWTW Jan 24, 2009)

    S. Fred Singer, Chairman and President , Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)

    Is Antarctic Warming Real or is it Mann-made?

    Jan 24, 2009

    The report of an unexpected Antarctic warming trend [Eric J. Steig, David P. Schneider, Scott D. Rutherford, Michael E. Mann, Josefino C. Comiso & Drew T. Shindell. Warming of the Antarctic ice-sheet surface since the 1957 International Geophysical Year. Nature 457:459-463, 22 Jan. 2009; doi:10.1038/nature07669] has created a certain amount of skepticism - even among supporters of AGW.

    But in an AP news story, two of its authors (one is 'hockey-stick' inventor Michael Mann from the Real Climate blog) argue that this refutes the skeptics and is "consistent with" greenhouse warming. Of course, as Roger Pielke, Jr, points out, not long ago we learned from Real Climate that a cooling Antarctica was 'consistent with' greenhouse warming and thus the skeptics were wrong: So a warming Antarctica and a cooling Antarctica are both 'consistent with' model projections of global warming. Our foray into the tortured logic of 'consistent with' in climate science raises the perennial question, what observations of the climate system would be inconsistent with the model predictions?"

    The results are based on very few isolated data from weather stations, plus data from research satellites. And here is the rub: these are not data from microwave sounding units (MSU), such as are regularly published by Christy and Spencer, but data from infrared sensors that are supposed to measure the temperature of the surface (rather than of the overlaying atmosphere, as weather stations do).

    But the IR emission depends not only on temperature of the surface, but also on surface emissivity -- and is further modified by absorption of clouds and haze.

    These are all difficult points. Emissivity of snow depends on its porosity and size of snow crystals. Blowing snow likely has a different emissivity than snow that has been tamped down; so surface winds could have a strong influence. The emissivity of ice is again different and will depend on whether there is a thin melt layer of water on top of the ice, temporarily produced by solar radiation. Finally, we have temperature inversions that can trap haze which is essentially undetectable by optical methods from satellites.

    The proof of the pudding, of course, is the MSU data, which show a continuous cooling trend, are little affected by surface conditions and are unaffected by haze and clouds. They are therefore more reliable.

    Bottom line: As it looks to me right now, the Antarctic Continent is cooling not warming.

    View The Week That Was in which this editorial appeared.

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