Readers may recall a thorough examination of the history of English wine here a few months ago – chiefly because the subject tends to come up as a contrarian climate talking point every now and again. The bottom line from that post was that the English wine industry is currently thriving and has a geographical extent and quality levels that are unprecedented in recorded history. So whether vineyards are a good proxy for climate or not, you certainly can’t use the supposed lack of present day English vineyards in any serious discussion about climate….
“The Romans wrote about growing wine grapes in Britain in the first century,” says Avery, “and then it got too cold during the Dark Ages. Ancient tax records show the Britons grew their own wine grapes in the 11th century, during the Medieval Warming, and then it got too cold during the Little Ice Age. It isn’t yet warm enough for wine grapes in today’s Britain. Wine grapes are among the most accurate and sensitive indicators of temperature and they are telling us about a cycle. They also indicate that today’s warming is not unprecedented.”
Hmmm…. so where did that bottle of Chapel Down in my fridge come from? (thanks Dad!) Or the winners of the ‘Best Sparkling Wine’ for the last two years at the International Wine and Spirit Competition? This is of course a trivial point, but it demonstrates (once again) that our contrarian friends don’t even have a semblence of a desire to get it right. The lure of a talking point clearly trumps the desire for accuracy.
In vino veritas (though not in this case).
Update: We had the Chapel Down Flint Dry last night. Fruity, hints of apple and pear and one of better whites I’ve had in a while. Highly recommended!
Just when we were beginning to think the media had finally learned to tell a hawk from a handsaw when covering global warming (at least when the wind blows southerly), along comes this article ‘In Ancient Fossils, Seeds of a New Debate on Warming’ by the New York Times’ William Broad. This article is far from the standard of excellence in reporting we have come to expect from the Times. We sincerely hope it’s an aberration, and not indicative of the best Mr. Broad has to offer.
Broad’s article deals with the implications of research on climate change over the broad sweep of the Phanerozoic — the past half billion years of Earth history during which fossil animals and plants are found. The past two million years (the Pleistocene and Holocene) are a subdivision of the Phanerozoic, but the focus of the article is on the earlier part of the era. Evidently, what prompts this article is the amount of attention being given to paleoclimate data in the forthcoming AR4 report of the IPCC. The article manages to give the impression that the implications of deep-time paleoclimate haven’t previously been taken into account in thinking about the mechanisms of climate change, whereas in fact this has been a central preoccupation of the field for decades. It’s not even true that this is the first time the IPCC report has made use of paleoclimate data; references to past climates can be found many places in the Third Assessment Report. What is new is that paleoclimate finally gets a chapter of its own (but one that, understandably, concentrates more on the well-documented Pleistocene than on deep time). The worst fault of the article, though, is that it leaves the reader with the impression that there is something in the deep time Phanerozoic climate record that fundamentally challenges the physics linking planetary temperature to CO2. This is utterly false, and deeply misleading. The Phanerozoic does pose puzzles, and there’s something going on there we plainly don’t understand. However, the shortcomings of understanding are not of a nature as to seriously challenge the CO2.-climate connection as it plays out at present and in the next few centuries.
Sometimes on Realclimate we discuss important scientific uncertainties, and sometimes we try and clarify some subtle point or context, but at other times, we have a little fun in pointing out some of the absurdities that occasionally pass for serious ‘science’ on the web and in the media. These pieces look scientific to the layperson (they have equations! references to 19th Century physicists!), but like cuckoo eggs in a nest, they are only designed to look real enough to fool onlookers and crowd out the real science. A cursory glance from anyone knowledgeable is usually enough to see that concepts are being mangled, logic is being thrown to the winds, and completely unjustified conclusions are being drawn – but the tricks being used are sometimes a little subtle.
Two pieces that have recently drawn some attention fit this mold exactly. One by Christopher Monckton (a viscount, no less, with obviously too much time on his hands) which comes complete with supplementary ‘calculations’ using his own ‘M’ model of climate, and one on JunkScience.com (‘What Watt is what’). Junk Science is a front end for Steve Milloy, long time tobacco, drug and oil industry lobbyist, and who has been a reliable source for these ‘cuckoo science’ pieces for years. Curiously enough, both pieces use some of the same sleight-of-hand to fool the unwary (coincidence?).
This story is the dream of every science writer. It features some of the most dramatic and rapid climate shifts in Earth’s history, as well as tenacious scientists braving the hostile ice and snows of Greenland and Antarctica for years on end to bring home that most precious material: kilometre-long cores of ancient ice, dating back over a hundred thousand years. Back in their labs, these women and men spend many months of seclusion on high-precision measurements, finding ingenious ways to unravel the secrets of abrupt climate change. Quite a bit has already been written on the ice core feat (including Richard Alley’s commendable inside story “The Two Mile Time Machine”), and no doubt much more will be.
It was the early, pioneering ice coring efforts in Greenland in the 1980s and 90s that first revealed the abrupt climate shifts called “Dansgaard-Oeschger events” (or simply DO events), which have fascinated and vexed climatologists ever since. Temperatures in Greenland jumped up by more than 10 ºC within a few decades at the beginning of DO events, typically remaining warm for several centuries after. This happened over twenty times during the last great Ice Age, between about 100,000 and 10,000 years before present.
The latest results of the EPICA team (the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica) are published in Nature today (see also the News & Views by RealClimate member Eric Steig). Their data from the other pole, from the Antarctic ice sheet, bring us an important step closer to nailing down the mechanism of the mysterious abrupt climate jumps in Greenland and their reverberations around the world, which can be identified in places as diverse as Chinese caves, Caribbean seafloor sediments and many others. So what are the new data telling us? More »
This week, representatives from around the world will gather in Nairobi, Kenya for the latest Conference of Parties (COP) meeting of the Framework Convention of Climate Change (FCCC) which brought us the Kyoto Protocol. The Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012, and the task facing the current delegates is to negotiate a further 5-year extension. This is a gradual, negotiated, no doubt frustrating process. By way of getting our bearings, a reader asks the question, what should the ultimate goal be? How much CO2 emissions cutting would it take to truly avoid “dangerous human interference in the climate system”? More »