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West Antarctica: still warming

The temperature reconstruction of O’Donnell et al. (2010) confirms that West Antarctica is warming — but underestimates the rate

Eric Steig

At the end of my post last month on the history of Antarctic science I noted that I had an initial, generally favorable opinion of the paper by O’Donnell et al. in the Journal of Climate. O’Donnell et al. is the peer-reviewed outcome of a series of blog posts started two years ago, mostly aimed at criticizing the 2009 paper in Nature, of which I was the lead author. As one would expect of a peer-reviewed paper, those obviously unsupportable claims found in the original blog posts are absent, and in my view O’Donnell et al. is a perfectly acceptable addition to the literature. O’Donnell et al. suggest several improvements to the methodology we used, most of which I agree with in principle. Unfortunately, their actual implementation by O’Donnell et al. leaves something to be desired, and yield a result that is in disagreement with independent evidence for the magnitude of warming, at least in West Antarctica.

In this post, I’ll summarize the key methodological changes suggested by O’Donnell et al., discuss how their results compare with our results, and the implications for our understanding of recent Antarctic climate change. I’ll then try to make sense of how O’Donnell et al. have apparently wound up with an erroneous result.
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The obvious answer

Filed under: — rasmus @ 28 January 2011

Climate science appears to be just like any other science. At least, this is the conclusion from a fresh publication by Marianne Ryghaug and Tomas Moe Skjølsvold (“The global warming of climate science: Climategate and the construction of scientific facts” in International studies in the philosophy of science). This finding is not news to the research community, but this analysis still hints that everything is not as it should be – because why would anyone report from a crime scene if the alleged crime has not even been committed?

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A brief history of knowledge about Antarctic temperatures

Filed under: — eric @ 9 December 2010

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…?

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:

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?

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.

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.

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
P.S. For those actually interested, yes, I’ll have more to say about O’Donnell et al., but overall, I like it.–eric

Monckton makes it up

Filed under: — group @ 7 August 2010

Guest commentary by Barry R. Bickmore, Brigham Young University

If you look around the websites dedicated to debunking mainstream climate science, it is very common to find Lord Christopher Monckton, 3rd Viscount of Brenchley, cited profusely. Indeed, he has twice testified about climate change before committees of the U.S. Congress, even though he has no formal scientific training. But if he has no training, why has he become so influential among climate change contrarians? After examining a number of his claims, I have concluded that he is influential because he delivers “silver bullets,” i.e., clear, concise, and persuasive arguments. The trouble is his compelling arguments are often constructed using fabricated facts. In other words, he makes it up. (Click here to see a number of examples by John Abraham, here for a few by myself, and here for some by Tim Lambert).

Here I’m going to examine some graphs that Lord Monckton commonly uses to show that the IPCC has incorrectly predicted the recent evolution of global atmospheric CO2 concentration and mean temperature. A number of scientists have already pointed out that Monckton’s plots of “IPCC predictions” don’t correspond to anything the IPCC ever predicted. For example, see comments by Gavin Schmidt (Monckton’s response here,) John Nielsen-Gammon (Monckton’s response here,) and Lucia Liljegren. Monckton is still happily updating and using the same graphs of fabricated data, so why am I bothering to re-open the case?

My aim is to more thoroughly examine how Lord Monckton came up with the data on his graphs, compare it to what the IPCC actually has said, and show exactly where he went wrong, leaving no excuse for anyone to take him seriously about this issue.
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Expert Credibility in Climate Change – Responses to Comments

Filed under: — group @ 3 August 2010

Guest commentary by William R. L. Anderegg, Jim Prall, Jacob Harold, Stephen H. Schneider

Note: Before Stephen Schneider’s untimely passing, he and his co-authors were working on a response to the conversation sparked by their recent paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on climate change expertise. One of Dr. Schneider’s final interviews also addresses and discusses many of the issues covered here.

We accept and rely upon the judgment and opinions of experts in many areas of our lives. We seek out lawyers with specific expertise relevant to the situation; we trust the pronouncement of well-trained airplane mechanics that the plane is fit to fly. Indeed, the more technical the subject area, the more we rely on experts. Very few of us have the technical ability or time to read all of the primary literature on each cancer treatment’s biology, outcome probabilities, side-effects, interactions with other treatments, and thus we follow the advice of oncologists. We trust the aggregate knowledge of experts – what do 97% of oncologists think about this cancer treatment – more than that of any single expert. And we recognize the importance of relevant expertise – the opinion of vocal cardiologists matters much less in picking a cancer treatment than does that of oncologists.

Our paper Expert Credibility in Climate Change is predicated on this idea. It presents a broad picture of the landscape of expertise in climate science as a way to synthesize expert opinion for the broader discourse. It is, of course, only a first contribution and, as such, we hope motivates discussion and future research. We encourage follow-up peer-reviewed research, as this is the mark of scientific progress. Nonetheless, some researchers have offered thoughtful critiques about our study and others have grossly mischaracterized the work. Thus, here we provide responses to salient comments raised.
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