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Sea level rise: The New York Times got the story

Filed under: — stefan @ 15 November 2010

Yesterday, the New York Times ran an excellent cover story on sea level rise, together with two full pages inside the paper, fancy graphs and great photographs (online version here). The author, Justin Gillis, researched the piece for months, visited Greenland and talked to most of the leading scientists in the field – many of which he cites in the article. The science presented is correct and up-to-date and the story is a gripping read. That’s how science journalism should be!

What is going on in Greenland? (c) The New York Times.

In the area of sea level rise, science has moved along quite a bit since the last IPCC report was published in 2007 (see for example my commentary at Nature together with that of Jason Lowe and Jonathan Gregory), and Gillis shows that most of the experts now assume a considerably higher rise until 2100 than IPCC: about one meter, potentially even more. I also had to change my position on this – only a few years ago I assumed lower values, too (see for example our book Our Threatened Oceans). By now, several US states use our projections for coastal planning (e.g. California, North Carolina) and Obama’s science adviser John Holdren shows them in his presentations.

For those interested in the projections in metric units and broken down for emission scenarios, please consult the original version. (c) The New York Times

Over the years, I’ve worked with dozens of journalists that reported on our work, but seldom was the cooperation so professional and the result so convincing as with Gillis. It is an example for how professional journalism can prove its advantage over the growing competition by blogs – few bloggers could afford such in-depth research to give a broad overview of the state-of-the-art of a particular scientific issue. This is on a completely different level than the standard quickly-cobbled-together pieces based on a press release by Science or Nature, which are so hilariously spoofed by Martin Robbins (who made me laugh out loud).

Naturally, every journalist would love to do a big story like Gillis – it’s up to the editors to grant them time and travel expenses for such a project, and then two pages of the paper. Kudos to the New York Times for making this possible even in times of tight budgets!

231 Responses to “Sea level rise: The New York Times got the story”

  1. 101
    Hank Roberts says:

    Rod, Rod, if you’d just cite — ah, but that would ruin your fun.

    Rod refers at 18 November 2010 at 12:12 PM vaguely to “David Miller’s source … 8 significant figures to the nearest 1/10 of a mile” — it sounds impossible, doesn’t it?

    David Miller at 17 November 2010 at 5:10 PM linked to the UCAR data set. It’s just numbers; Rod tells you what he thinks they are.

    Or, you can look it up.
    Back up from that data set to the main page:

    Follow the link there for the data — this page includes an explanation:

    Was Rod was telling the truth about the data?

  2. 102
    JCH says:

    Maya, I actually found that paper by when I read the Vermeer-Rahmstorf paper:

    I was looking for something that had to do with the most recent mm per year as that is what is being commonly attacked with claims of 1.x mm per year, of which there are a lot of out on the internet.

    Because you can’t get to “three feet” by 2100 at that rate.

    A few weeks ago I asked what the number of mm of rise per year would be in 2100, and I accept Anonymous Coward’s helpful explanation for why I’m not going to get an answer for that question until, I guess, the end of 2100.

  3. 103
    Didactylos says:

    Bob: what did you make of this?:

    The trap for n00bs (basically, humanity) is that carbon dioxide has a limiting effect on precipitation, while warming of course increases the amount of water vapour in the air. Since temperature change lags carbon ppm (parts per million) change, the air will stay relatively highly water-logged for awhile after the carbon is scrubbed out. Suddenly removing that carbon allows precipitation (rain) to potentially spike way, way, way above normal, or even totally torrential, levels.

  4. 104
    Chris Dudley says:

    Francis (#66),

    I think you may be right that this sort of approach might be used more widely. Someone in USGS sent me this link which suggests that application here may be complex. While there is a mix of responses to sea level rise, abandoning homes and infrastructure seems to be prevalent.

  5. 105
    Rod B says:

    John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) (88), while she might have expounded on it a little, isn’t Curry’s comments on uncertainty – which you belittle – pretty much along the same lines of the Inter Academy Council report recently discussed in RC?

    A minor curiosity: would you say that there are NO (that’s zero) regions that might actually benefit from a warmer and/or wetter climate?

  6. 106
    Dan H. says:

    We are not going to reach 3 feet by 2100 at the current rate of ~2.5 mm/yr. That number will be obtained only by some significant melting of the Greenland ice sheet. Hence, much research has circulated around the melt rates and stability of the ice fields.
    Barton, are you saying we should ignore the recent data also? Or are you incapable of recognizing a trend line on a graph?
    Rod, nice post. I did not realize they were so precise.
    Hank, do you think it is a coincidence that Chuck & White and Holgate found an acceleration in the sea level rise occurring simultaneously with rising Greenland temperatures?

  7. 107
    Rod B says:

    BPL, likewise I would assume you accept that the temperature drop from 1950 to 1980+ is a bona fide trend….

  8. 108
    Rod B says:

    Hank, David’s post said, “2007 had an area minimum of 2.9615631 million sq km….” I pointed out that is a number with 8 significant figures to the 1/10 of a mile. Now, I am being untruthful here because why, exactly??? I suggest you look closely at the referred number. Count the digits, etc…..

  9. 109

    105 (Rod B),

    My opinion…

    Curry was way overselling the uncertainty aspect, to the point of “why bother doing anything about anything, we’re all going to die eventually.” It’s one thing to be honest about uncertainties, and another to use them as an excuse to claim, or at least strongly imply, that the problem is therefore insurmountable.

    As far as whether warming will be beneficial to someone, somewhere… someone benefits if you personally die of cancer (the doctor and nurses that get to treat you, the beneficiaries of your will, the person who’s then able to move into your home or apartment). Someone would benefit if an Andromeda Syndrome style illness killed every living person in the U.S.A. Someone benefits from everything, no matter how calamitous or evil an event may be. What we’re interested in is net effect, and justice, and the net is decidedly, predominantly, and unequivocally bad and unjust.

  10. 110

    103 (Didactylos),

    As I said, I did not vouch for the quality of the game, or the truth of the lessons behind it, just that it’s a clever way to promote the narrative.

    Unfortunately, because it involves such far future events, it is both a difficult situation to model, and difficult to question any assumptions they make (i.e. who’s to say when they are right or wrong?).

    On a separate note, I only just realized that you chose your nom de plume from Diskworld, along with some of the hidden meanings behind it. Touché.

  11. 111
    Martin Vermeer says:

    Dan H #78, what Stefan said. The less said about the burtonsys analysis, the better.

    Jathanon, the tide gauges analysis does not correct for isostatic crustal movement. That is only necessary for the satellite measurements. The tide gauges are the measure of the sea level at particular coastal sites. This is ultimately the main concern for sea level rise.

    In fact, precisely the opposite. The satellites directly observe the absolute location of sea level in space relative to the geocenter from known locations in orbit. No correction for crustal motion is needed — the Earth crust is nowhere involved in the measurement process.

    Tide gauges OTOH are part of the Earth crust by construction — if you want to derive a precise value for global sea level rise, you must remove the local motion for each individual tide gauge. This becomes especially important as tide gauges are very unequally distributed geographically, with lots of them surrounding the Baltic sea (something that makes me particularly happy!). You have to apply a spatial averaging that takes this into account and does not over-weight the areas of dense coverage.

    Then, and only then, if you want to study the effect of global sea level rise on a particular location, do you account for the vertical crustal motion in that location. That’s what we do in Fennoscandia where a sites like Kemi and Furuögrund may move up (relative to the geocentre) by as much as 10 mm/yr. This nicely cancels out part of sea level rise up here; but most parts of the world are not as lucky.

  12. 112
    David Miller says:

    Rod, surely you can understand people being skeptical about your tone and nit-picking?

    Yes, I’d guess that their precision exceeds the accuracy in those numbers.

    Ignoring the clear decline in ice (down over a third from its mean) while picking at some silly nit is to miss the forest for the trees.

    I’m sure people here feel like you’re trying to direct attention away from the fact that 1/3 of the ice is missing onto something – anything – else. Given your posting history, I certainly feel that way.

  13. 113
    Maya says:

    JCH, I’m glad I’m not the only one who has had trouble sorting out the sea level rise rate! I hadn’t found this more recent paper; the projections there are even higher. Thank you for that; I will read it. Obviously we aren’t at 1+ mm anymore…

  14. 114
    SecularAnimist says:

    Sphaerica (Bob) wrote: “Someone benefits from everything, no matter how calamitous or evil an event may be.”

    I suppose that’s true. Just as humans eventually benefited from the extinction of the dinosaurs, someday other species that eventually evolve over millions of years after we destroy the Earth’s biosphere will benefit from AGW.

  15. 115
    JCH says:

    Dan H. – in response to your post at 67:

    74 Jathanon says:
    17 November 2010 at 5:09 PM

    As for the tide gauge analysis, I don’t see where they corrected for isostatic crustal movement.

    Your response back:

    78 Dan H. says:
    17 November 2010 at 7:10 PM

    Jathanon, the tide gauges analysis does not correct for isostatic crustal movement. That is only necessary for the satellite measurements. The tide gauges are the measure of the sea level at particular coastal sites. This is ultimately the main concern for sea level rise. Only 19 stations had recorded sea level rise above 3 mm/yr during the measurement period, while 14 had drops in sea level of greater than 3 mm/yr. The average rate of sea level rise was only 0.6 mm/yr. This is the concern, after all, that the ocean will rise above its current level and inundate low lying areas.
    Several people seemed to miss my point about using short-term data trends. Extrapolating them into the future is a fool’s venture.

    This is the pertinent part of your post at 67:

    67 Dan H. says:
    17 November 2010 at 2:39 PM

    Analysis of the NOAA tide gauge data yield a median SLR of 1.1 mm/yr with no acceleration observed during the 20th century.

    To which came this response from a scientist:

    [Response: This link is a good example of why there is professional science, published in peer-reviewed journals. Burton has simply forgotten to correct the station data for glacial isostatic uplift – quite a few stations are subject to land uplift resulting from the melting of the ice sheets of the last Ice Age, which is often bigger than the sea level trend (e.g. in Finland uplift can be over 9 mm/year). This is completely standard with sea level experts. -stefan]

    Are you disputing the above?

    What is your source for your claim of a rate of 2.5 mm per year?

  16. 116

    Dan H 106: Barton, are you saying we should ignore the recent data also? Or are you incapable of recognizing a trend line on a graph?

    BPL: Not only am I capable of understanding a trend, I’m capable of defining one, which you apparently are not. A “trend” is not any jog in a series. For something to be a “trend” as the word is used by statisticians, it has to be statistically significant–not just in the direction that pleases you. Adequate sample size is a core concept of statistical analysis. I’d advise you to crack a book on the subject.

  17. 117
    Hank Roberts says:

    > the sea level at particular coastal sites. This is
    > ultimately the main concern for sea level rise.

    Do you think all sea level cities are somehow rising fast enough to stay ahead of the rising ocean? How would that be happening?

    Is this the “expanding Earth” notion?

  18. 118
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod B.@107, It’s actually several trends:

  19. 119

    #77 Sphaerica (Bob)

    Interesting idea. But when I roll it over I see a few issues. It seems idealistic. It’s hard to quantify the wager and it would be even harder to get people to buy into. In other words it may be difficult to estimate the ‘appropriate fee’ through quantification as the costs will roll and accelerate exponentially through time, eventually becoming unaffordable, thus rendering the wager moot.

    We need a price on carbon that does the least damage and is the most efficient in achieving meaningful success sooner rather than later. It should, as best as possible, eliminate the risks of inefficient spending as we need expenditures to be both efficient and effective.

  20. 120

    #105 Rod W. Brick

    Scientists already concentrate on certainty. The IAC pointed out that the uncertainties need to be understood properly. Curry was not only overselling the uncertainty, she was making statements outside of her expertise. I do think she was overselling her opinion and this is similar to the Pielke Sr. Problem and the Svensmark problem. When scientists state opinions that reach beyond what the research indicates, and in these cases, in the opposite direction, and that gets in the way of needed policy, then we all have a problem.

    I am not saying scientists should not have opinions, but those opinions need to be reasonable in the light of the evidence. John Christy is in the same boat. I can state right now that a 1 or 2 C rise is not outside the range of natural variability for the planet. But when I say that’s no big deal, then I am ignoring a whole host of issues that I may not be aware of that will be impacted and cause other dominoes to fall. Look at what is happening in America, it still has growth but unemployment is pushing the edges and I think now one out of seven Americans are getting food stamps. That is not a small number. The system does not seem to be as resilient as some would like to think. And such lack also has costs.

    Let us not forget, it’s all about the economy.

    As far as benefits from global warming. That is a more complex question than you might think. Let’s say you live in Norway, and Norway’s climate becomes nicer. That sounds like a benefit. But then let’s say everyone wants to live in Norway because their countries are becoming less habitable? How nice will it be in Norway? And let’s not forget that what you might call a benefit, will likely produce some rather inconvenient snow storms in that region due to increased precipitation.

    BTW – Admiral Titley, Chief Oceanographer for the United States Navy, stated in his testimony yesterday that “September ice volume was the lowest recorded in 2010 at 78 percent below its 1979 maximum and 70 percent below the mean for the 1979-2009 period.”

    Interested in signing the petition yet?

    Economics: Balancing Economies
    October Leading Edge: The Cuccinelli ‘Witch Hunt”

    Fee & Dividend: Our best chanceLearn the IssueSign the Petition
    A Climate Minute: Natural CycleGreenhouse EffectClimate Science HistoryArctic Ice Melt

  21. 121


    “Scientists already concentrate on certainty.”

    should be

    Scientists already concentrate on uncertainty.

    of course they try to derive certainty by elimination or reducing uncertainty :)

  22. 122
    Steve Runge says:

    In addition to the rest of the kudos the article deserves, let’s savor the lead for a moment:

    “With a tense pilot gripping the stick, the helicopter hovered above the water, a red speck of machinery lost in a wilderness of rock and ice.”

    In other words, climate scientists are heroic, daring men (and women) of action who risk their lives in desolate places to find the truth.

    Nice to have a counter-narrative to: scientists are aloof, socially-challenged cranks manipulating data, running computer models and carefully orchestrating a worldwide hoax by sending cranky emails.

    If you want to win this war, it’s all in how you craft the lead. Gillis hit it out of the park.

  23. 123
    Dan H. says:

    Before you saw something foolish again about trends, you might want to view the graphs to which Wikisteff linked (#84). Several of the temperature profiles show a large increase from 1890-1940. I think that would qualify as a “trend.” Wikisteff selected Upernavik as an example. The smoothed trend line showed an increase of 2-2.5C over those 50 years, even though the annual values show much larger fluctuations. The trend over the next 50 years was a decrease of about ~1C. While the graphs did not show the statistical analysis, they look fairly convincing (even to you). The others stations show similar trends. The current increase has only occurred during the past 10 years.
    Maybe you should check the data again before making any more snide comments.

  24. 124

    119 (John),

    Interesting idea. But when I roll it over I see a few issues. It seems idealistic.

    For a previous statement of this, reference my previous post here.

    But in a nutshell, I wasn’t really serious about the wager idea, and the main point of it was that if the FF companies were put in a position to choose between a relatively small, set fee now (i.e. the cost of mitigation) versus an undefined, probably huge, ongoing and debilitating payout later (i.e. the cost of late mitigation plus adaptation plus damages), then the FF companies would right now admit that there is a problem and pay the small, set fee.

    They only balk and lobby for inaction because (from a purely profit point of view) they have everything to lose and nothing to gain otherwise. It is in their interests to milk every dollar out of FF that they can, while at the same time trying to position themselves to dominate the energy market of the future (and the longer they delay, the more likely they are to be the dominant players in that market).

    More to the point, all schemes currently focus on trying to attach a fee to FF use (the hidden cost of climate change), in an effort to restrict it’s use and level the playing field for new technologies and behaviors which, in the present, are not competitive with FF unless that hidden future cost is taken into account.

    Fee and dividend aims to do this in the simplest possible way, by attaching the fee up front to the producers, rather than individually to each consumer in a long chain, and by simply giving a bit of the dividend to everyone, rather than trying to control how and where the money is spent on new technologies and behaviors.

    A “wager” scheme (as unworkable as it certainly is) would aim at saddling FF producers with not only the cost, but the decision of whether or not to take the risk. Don’t just make them pay, but make them choose between business-as-usual-with-future-risk versus acceptable-action-now (and in so choosing admit to the truth of the matter).

    Part of the need for a “narrative” today is because there are different parties with different objectives (FF companies, FF countries, developing countries, etc.). One way to win the “narrative game” is to take away those conflicting objectives and to get everyone on the same side, and one (impossible) way to do that is to say: “Okay, you think there’s no climate change? Then put your money where your mouth is. Keep your profits, but also accept the lion’s share of the risk.”

  25. 125


    Yes, I agree. And examples of this are not hard to find; one of the most misrepresented facets of modern climate science is that it’s all modelers working in ivory towers. While modelers work hard and do indispensible things, it’s also true that there’s a whole bunch of folks going to lengths that do merit the term “heroic” in order to get the data that’s needed.

    I tried to emphasize that part of the narrative pictorially in this book review:–Fixing-Climate–A-review

    Actually, that would make a great topic for a stand-alone article. If anyone would like to suggest examples, links, sources or anecdotes of such, please feel free to share them–either below (with the moderators’ approval) or offline via my website. (Click on my name to access. It has a direct email contact button on the home page.)

    There’s history there, too–I’m thinking of De Saussure’s Alpine data, some of which was used by Fourier; Tyndall actually wrote a paper with (I think) Thomas Huxley on glaciers–that’s where he really caught the “Alpine bug”–and (a bit less “heroic” but still noteworthy) Samuel Langley’s Lunar light observations, used by Arrhenius. Those all got a mention in my historical articles on those worthies–linked here repeatedly, and well-supported (thank you!) by RC readers, so I won’t link them again today!–but could perhaps receive a little more focus in themselves.

  26. 126

    123 (Dan H.),

    I’ll one-up your trend game. Look at this graph here.

    Notice how, about 20,000 years ago, the planet started to warm? Yeah, it seems to have leveled off in the last couple thousand years, but there’s a clear 20,000 year trend. The most recent few thousand years just isn’t long enough to measure a trend when we’re talking about things of this scale.

    So it is painfully obvious to anyone that current warming is merely part of an ongoing, tens-of-thousands-of-years long trend, and we have to wait at least five or ten thousand more years to be able to say whether or not the trend is continuing.

    To put it another way: playing games with numbers or trends without understanding of or attention to the mechanisms behind them (much like Rod B. and his ice extent accuracy/precision silliness) is just that, playing games. That’s what’s so annoying about deniers, because it’s so very easy for anyone to cherry pick facts and numbers and play game after game after tiring, endless game.

  27. 127

    122 (Steve),
    125 (Kevin),

    Good points, all. In fact, I think there would be huge value in a book/movie/TV show/series of articles/web site which chronicles the work and lifestyles of a wide variety of climate scientists. A demonstration of the broad nature of the work, and the fields of expertise, and the sacrifice and sense of adventure involved, would be an excellent narrative to tell. It would be educational, entertaining, and expose the silent lie being propagated by the deniers, by putting a face (an admirable face) to the thousands in the trenches doing the important (and currently thankless) work.

    That would be a compelling narrative, and a backdoor to climate education and respect.

    It would also be an important counterbalance to the fantasy caricature that has been created by the denialosphere, the one of a handful of grant-grubbing old men who drive to work in their Lexus SUVs, where they spend a few hours a day fabricating computer programs that massage the data and use falsify model outcomes to earn them even more lucrative grants (the money for which can be mindlessly spent on any luxurious trinket they have their eye on)…

    …That is, when they aren’t jetting around the globe for all expenses paid climate conference vacations, or soaking up the limelight on all of those late night talk shows that are so eager to host them, and pay them for their time, because we all know the climate scientists are in it for both money and fame (not to mention the chicks… don’t forget the chicks! — being a climate scientist today is a huge, huge chick magnet).

    [Response: Good point–the chick factor is commonly left out of the calculus. Opposing polarity magnets perhaps, but magnets none the less. OK, back to counting the ol’ grant money…–Jim]

    Fox News is a particularly gullible media outlet for rewarding the sinister climate scientists for their foul deeds.

    That is the sort of thing Revkin et al should be doing regularly (the climate scientist profiles, not the denial-fantasy image, I mean), and perhaps should have been doing for some time.

    Perhaps RC could engage a good journalist (or several), someone who is good at writing the sort of thing Justin Gillis produced, to post climate scientist profiles here on a regular basis.

  28. 128
    J. Bob says:

    #78 Dan H.
    I noticed a similar pattern with the tidal gauges, on their relative measurements. While satellites give a better measurement wrt the earth’s geocenter, they do not have a long data record. In addition, it would be interesting to wonder what the sea floor is doing.

    Swing over to
    it shows the Arctica ave. temps almost back to the 1950 levels.

  29. 129

    In case anyone is interested.

    I embedded all the panel videos from the Hearing in the Nov. Leading Edge Report

  30. 130

    124 Bob

    If there were a simple way to quantify, it would be a good idea though, but only if we did not crash the economy and that in iteself is still a bet.

    Sorry I did not get the joke; sometimes my humor factor drops after a certain amount of months in Switzerland.

    I still try to tell jokes over here once in a while and I still get those polite looks and then a curious pause as people try to determine if they should be laughing or not?

  31. 131
    Rod B says:

    Martin Vermeer (111), helpful comment. But won’t the satellites miss the crustal effect (if any) while measuring the absolute level correctly? It seems almost the same analytical problem of tidal gages that do account for crust movement but then get the absolute measurement wrong.

  32. 132
    Susan Anderson says:

    I particularly enjoy Bob (Sphaerica)’s writing here; thank you. The idea of highlighting what scientists do is terrific. Last night I was fossicking around in links from the A Train article and found myself dazzled (along with slowing down my computer) by the material. In particular, the levels of heat anomaly and CO2 values of 297 and 298 on the spot over western Greenland and near the air trail from northern Europe to northeast US rather fascinating. (I don’t know enough to say anything except that as a silly amateur I couldn’t help thinking of watching those maps of where the plane is going and finding those numbers just there!)

    NASA is doing a good job with their site on the presentation side. I’m failing to find what I’m looking for, but the A train early comments have a few good links. This for now:

    However, as usual I am asking anyone who’s interested to weigh in early on Andy Revkin’s recent post (it’s early enough that comments will show up quickly) on the anniversary of “climategate”.

    I know it’s unrewarding, but the truth needs to maintain a toehold. The penultimate article is also slightly misleading though I understand the point Andy is trying to make. Personally, I think we need more spectacle to get people’s attention (though in the face of Russia, Pakistan, Haiti, and events closer to home it’s hard to know what will get through).

  33. 133
    Rod B says:

    David Miller (112), your’s is a fair criticism – much of my questions and assertions are over seemingly trivial stuff. None-the-less, pointing out inaccuracies that are blatant, even if nit-piky, might be helpful in a scientific forum. You’re in essence telling me of course I shouldn’t believe the proclaimed figures because they are clearly and egregiously wrong. Why then should I be expected to believe the other stuff that’s said?

    If you are trying to win the hearts and minds (and actions), spouting self-evident crap, however trivial by itself, is not a good tactic.

  34. 134
    Rod B says:

    Sphaerica (Bob), an interesting exercise. One clarification: in this type of scenario a business will always take the certain over the uncertain, and the inherent “truth” in either will have nothing to do with it. Re the prevalence of paying a settlement explicitly without admitting wrong-doing.

  35. 135

    132 (Susan),

    I particularly enjoy Bob (Sphaerica)’s writing here; thank you.

    Thank you, and you are welcome (and now I can go to sleep tonight knowing that there’s at least one person on the planet whom I am not annoying).

  36. 136

    134 (Rod B),

    One clarification: in this type of scenario a business will always take the certain over the uncertain…

    The recent adventures with credit default swaps would seem to contradict this statement. In fact, the ability to win by taking the right risks is the hallmark of successful entrepreneurs and corporations throughout history.

    The fact is, regardless of your reasoning as to why, a refusal of the wager would be an admission that the negative outcomes are tangibly possible, and so would put to bed the great number of inane outliers who are currently considered mainstream (Watts, Nova, Goddard, and others). The discussion would move to the center, where it belongs, and we’d be expending energy more usefully talking about how much, how soon, and what to do when and how, rather than endless discussing tripe like the Medieval Wish Period, the Urban Heat Ignorance effect, the Pathetic Decadal Oscillation, and Clamorgate.

  37. 137
    David Miller says:

    Rod B, I see you’re still trying to misdirect things.

    You’re still ignoring the fact that we have 1/3 less ice {area|extent} than the mean and focusing on the improbable precision of a piece of data.

    Me, I look at 4.12345678 million sq km as the output of a program that analyzes the satellite data. Said model undoubtedly breaks said data into much smaller chunks, analyzes it for ice content, and comes up with a number for extent or area, and the number spit out for the date is the sum of the smaller chunks.

    It’s not hard to imagine that said model is storing data in floating point format, and the final output is simply formatted with a few extra digits.

    The fact that you seize on the number of digits printed out thusly:

    “You’re in essence telling me of course I shouldn’t believe the proclaimed figures because they are clearly and egregiously wrong. Why then should I be expected to believe the other stuff that’s said?”

    Think about that Rod. Are you really trying to say you can’t believe the ice is down 1/3 because someone printed 8 digits instead of 4? Because that declares very loudly that you’re not interested in what climate change is doing to the world, you’re only interested in sowing doubt.

    Thanks for clearing that up. I didn’t doubt it, but others may have.

  38. 138

    Dan H 123: Maybe you should check the data again before making any more snide comments.

    BPL: I am intimately familiar with the data, thank you. I also know how to use it, which you apparently do not. As to a downward trend 1950-1980–what was the slope and what was the t-statistic on the coefficient? And how did you pick your endpoints? And why use 40 years when 169 years of data are available? And, BTW, do you accept evolution and an old Earth? Just wondering…

  39. 139

    Bob: the Medieval Wish Period, the Urban Heat Ignorance effect, the Pathetic Decadal Oscillation, and Clamorgate.

    BPL: ROFLMAO!!! I love it.

  40. 140
    Dan H. says:

    J. Bob,

  41. 141
    Sir says:

    Judith Curry said “In a rational discussion of climate change, the question needs to be asked as to whether the framing of the problem and the early articulation of a preferred policy option by the UNFCCC has marginalized research on broader issues surrounding climate change, and resulted in an overconfident assessment of the importance of greenhouse gases in future climate change, and stifled the development of a broader range of policy options.”
    This is a rather ridiculous comment on a number of fronts. What is the “early articulation of a preferred policy option by the UNFCCC?” Is it the reduction of CO2 output? What are the other policy options she would like to have considered? What are the “broader issues surrounding climate change” she would like to have considered?

    The earth exists as it does today because of the heat input from the sun, the atmospheric greenhouse effects, the reflective effect of the surface and the interplay of various systems. The primary forcing that is changing is human emissions of CO2. All of the work and modeling is trying to figure out how the planetary systems will react and what the temperature impact will be over time. Where is the research lacking , and why doesn’t she undertake it or at least propose it so someone else could undertake it?

    Overall, I find her pronouncements to be very vague and not very scientific.

  42. 142
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Rod B. says, “None-the-less, pointing out inaccuracies that are blatant, even if nit-piky, might be helpful in a scientific forum.”

    Excellent idea! When do you plan to start?

  43. 143
    Radge Havers says:

    I don’t know. When I scan an article, I tend to be sensitive to certain kinds of bumpy parts.

    “…Strictly speaking, scientists have not proved that human-induced global warming is the cause of the changes. They are mindful that the climate in the Arctic undergoes big natural variations. In the 1920s and ’30s, for instance, a warm spell caused many glaciers to retreat.

    John R. Christy, a climatologist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville who is often critical of mainstream climate science, said he suspected that the changes in Greenland were linked to this natural variability, and added that he doubted that the pace would accelerate as much as his colleagues feared…

    …The satellite difficulties are one symptom of a broader problem: because no scientifically advanced country has made a strategic priority of studying land ice, scientists lack elementary information that they need to make sense of what is happening…

    …Certain measurements are so spotty for Antarctica that scientists have not been able to figure out whether the continent is losing or gaining ice…”

    An interesting article from a glaciology perspective and descriptive of possibilities, but is it strong from the perspective of climatology and cause and effect of AGW? At least perhaps, psychology being what it is, the downside as a consequence of uncertainty should given more explicit stress in the context of time running out.

    “Uncertainty is not your friend.” — R.L.
    Is there a parable/allegory/whatever that fits that narrative?

    BTW about context, also in the NYT, the brain is a weird thing:

    “Subjects either did or didn’t read an article about the health risks of airborne bacteria. All then read a history article that used imagery of a nation as a living organism with statements like, “Following the Civil War, the United States underwent a growth spurt.” Those who read about scary bacteria before thinking about the U.S. as an organism were then more likely to express negative views about immigration.”

    This Is Your Brain on Metaphors about how the brain confuses the literal and metaphorical.

  44. 144
    Rod B says:

    Sphaerica (Bob) (136), true, but your example, betting on uncertainty to make profit through their own efforts, is a whole different scenario/context.

  45. 145
    Rod B says:

    David Miller, that’s nonsense. One tells me “fact A,” “fact B,” “fact C,” and “fact D.” Facts A, B, and C are obvious hogwash to which the explainer readily agrees. But then says, “Yeah, but D is true,” and I’m the silly one if I don’t readily accept his “D” fact??!!?

    Of course one makes precise measurements to the level of the instrument. But the instrument reading does not determine the accuracy of the results. What should I do with an assertion that the Arctic ice extent is measured to be 2,961,563.1 +/- 0.1 It seems you’re saying I should ignore it because the guy is evidently either just showing off, or has no concept of how to aggregate measurements with a computer working with 8 significant digits in scientific notation, or some such. Then you further imply that I should none-the-less blindly fully accept his next assertion. Other than that his next assertion seems along the party dogma, why else should I be expected to do that?

  46. 146
    Rod B says:

    Ray (142), I think I just did — which is what the fuss is all about…..

  47. 147
    Dan H. says:

    Since you think you know everything. Since you seem to have a problem with the analysis by DMI, what is your take on the Greenland temperature data to which Wikisteff linked. You already proved that you are poor with basic arithmetic (#138), but how are you with actual data? Or is your whole purpose here to ridicule others without presenting any productive responses of your own?

  48. 148
    Didactylos says:

    Good grief.

    Rod B, get over yourself.

    We are taught in primary school not to infer precision from numbers that can’t be justified from the original measurements.

    We are also taught not to lose precision mid-calculation. Round off at the end. Or, if you are providing a dataset for further manipulation – don’t round off at all.

    So, David Miller: perhaps you could apologise for failing to predigest everything for people like Rod B.

    And Rod B, perhaps you could apologise for failing to do what is expected of you, namely ignoring precision which you know is irrelevant, and for wasting everyone’s time with pointless argument.

    Then maybe we can get back to important subjects.

    Coda: rounding off to a suitable number of significant figures is no substitute for a proper treatment of the uncertainty. In ice measurements, the absolute error is very large. However, the relative error is much smaller, meaning that we can compare numbers from the same data series with very high precision.

  49. 149

    Dan H–chill. . . . (If that’s not too ironic a suggestion in this context.)

    I doubt that Barton \has a problem with the analysis by DMI.\ (Though clearly he is well able to speak for himself, and perhaps will on this score.) What I would have a problem with, is using this data–or actually, a subset of it, the Upernavik graph–to obfuscate the obvious truth, which is that Greenland is clearly experiencing the same warming trend seen just about everywhere else on the planet.

    It’s curious that Upernavik was selected; it \just happens\ to exhibit the steepest decline from 1940. I suppose it’s true that the other station trends are \similar,\ but it’s also misleading: an unwary reader would tend to think that Upernavik was actually a representative example. It’s important that a writer play fair in such cases.

    A contrary example would be to seize upon the data for Illulissat, where the smoothed trend line is clearly well above the peak from the 30s.

    Looking at the *all* the information, you can see that:

    1) Every place shown has been warming recently; and
    2) The 30s were much warmer in Greenland, relative to today’s temperatures, than was Denmark.

    None of which exactly rocks my world.

    [Response: It’s worth asking why the DMI analysis is suddenly gaining favour (well, actually that is obvious – easy to find and gives the ‘right’ answer). More interesting perhaps is what it actually consists of – it uses the ERA40 reanalysis from 1958-2002 (which is ok, but long term trends can be affected by instrument changes, and the onset of satellite data in 1979), combined with a different NWP model from 2002-2006, and then a newer model since then. Since different NWP models give different results even with the same input, the comparison of the current analysis with the ERA40 climatology is prone to having artifacts. Thus I would not recommend using DMI for trends at all. You would be much better using a consistent up-to-date reanalysis like ERA-Interim or newer. – gavin]

  50. 150
    J. Bob says:

    #140 Dan H.
    Your welcome. Here are a few other points with the problem of accurate seal level readings:
    How accurate are the tidal gauges and satellite measurements?
    One problem with the satellite measurements is the constant motion of gravitational effects on the satellite (due to shifting of the earth’s center of gravity, or local gravitational anomalies). While they may be small, we are dealing in mm’s. If one looks at the best current GPS accuracy, it’s about 1.5 m vertically.

    In addition, if the land area is moving or “uplifting”, what is the sea floor doing?

    P.S. What did you think of the
    Arctica average?