A brief history of knowledge about Antarctic temperatures

Sources in italics.

Early 20th Century:

Scott: It’s cold here.

The media: Scott is a hero!

Scott: It’s really really cold here.

The media: Scott is a hero!

Amundsen: It’s not that cold.

The media: Scott is a hero. Oh, and Amundsen.

Public: Shackleton is a hero, but please shut up, there’s a war on.

Mid 20th Century:

Geophizzicists: Let’s find out just how cold it is.

Media: Scott is a hero!

Public: yawn…

Late 20th Century:

Scientists: It’s colder in some place than others.

Media: Antarctica is cooling.

Scientists: It’s cooling at the South Pole, but warming very fast on the Peninsula.

Media: Antarctica is cooling, but warming faster than anywhere else on earth.

Public: Huh…?

2000

Thompson and Solomon: Most of Antarctica is cooling in summer, but it is warming on the Peninsula. We think it has to do with the ozone hole.

Media: Because of ozone, Antarctica is warming faster than anywhere else on earth and we are all going to die.

Public: Huh…?

Early 21st Century:

2006

Scientists: The troposphere over Antarctica is warming significantly in winter.

Media: Even though that paper was published in Science, our readers don’t know what the troposphere is. Neither do we. Next?

2007

Scientists: The troposphere over Antarctica is warming significantly in winter and spring, especially over West Antarctica.

Media: That paper wasn’t published in Nature, so we’re not very interested.

2009

Scientists: Antarctica is cooling in fall — not summer — in some places, but warming, especially in winter and spring, especially in West Antarctica.

Media: Antarctica stops cooling! Conservative or liberal, we are ALL going to die.

Steve McIntyre: The “team” made up the data again. I don’t know what Antarctica is doing, but I think it is probably cooling.

Media: Antarctica starts cooling again, global warming is a fraud.

2010

Ryan O’Donnell: Our paper in the Journal of Climate shows a somewhat better way to look at the same data. Antarctica is warming a bit more in summer, and a bit less in winter in the Ross Sea region. In fall it is cooling a bit more too, and so the overall trends are smaller. Still, West Antarctica is definitely warming significantly, as Steig et al. found. That’s interesting.

Eric Steig: Nice paper Ryan. Thanks for sending along a pre-print.

Steve McIntyre: Hey, we got published in the Journal of Climate! Another paper showing that the “team” made up the data again! (Sotto voce): Ryan says it it is warming a bit more in summer, and a bit less in winter in the Ross Sea region. In fall it is cooling a bit more. Otherwise we get the same results, though the magnitude of the trends is smaller. But West Antarctica is still warming significantly. But I really don’t care. The peer review process is broken, which is why.. umm…our paper was published in the leading climate journal.

Liberal Media: That paper wasn’t published in Nature, so we’re not very interested.

Conservative Media: Antarctica is cooling. Global warming is a fraud.

Public: zzzZZZzzz

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