One of the most visually compelling examples of recent climate change is the retreat of glaciers in mountain regions. In the U.S. this is perhaps most famously observed in Glacier National Park, where the terminus of glaciers have retreated by several kilometers in the past century, and could be gone before the next century (see e.g. the USGS web site, here, and here). In Europe, where there is abundant historical information (in the form of paintings, photographs, as well as more formal record-keeping), retreat has been virtually monotonic since the mid 19th century (see e.g. images of the glaciers at Chamonix). These changes are extremely well documented, and no serious person questions that they demonstrate long term warming of climate in these regions. New work published in Science (“Extracting a Climate Signal from 169 Glacier Records”) highlights these results, and uses them to make a new estimate of global temperature history since about 1600 A.D., which agrees rather well with previous, independent temperature reconstructions.
Archives for 2005
Guest commentary from David Archer (U. Chicago)
The notion is pervasive in the popular and scientific literature that the lifetime of anthropogenic CO2 released to the atmosphere is some fuzzy number measured most conveniently in decades or centuries. The reality is that the CO2 from a gallon out of every tank of gas will continue to affect climate for tens and even hundreds of thousands of years into the future.
The primary purpose of the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) is to assess the available scientific knowledge about climate change, not to initiate new research. The next IPCC report (Assessment Report 4, or AR4) is due in 2007, and in order to update of the state of knowledge it will only consider papers published in peer-review scientific journals between 2000 and papers submitted by May 1st 2005 (must be accepted before December 2005). It is essential that the papers be published in scientific quality journals in order to ensure the credibility of the results. Nevertheless the IPCC reports undergo several additional reviews and revisions involving a large number of independent referees. Thus, the IPCC reports undergo a more stringent review process than common papers in the scientific literature.
This is the first of two pieces on the recent IPCC workshop in Hawaii, This brought together independent researchers from all over the world to analyse computer model simulations of the last 150 years and to assess whether they are actually any good.
Guest commentary from Natassa Romanou (Columbia University)
During the first 3 days of March 2005, balmy downtown Honolulu in Hawaii was buzzing with agile scientists conversing, chatting, announcing, briefing and informing about IPCC assessment reports, climate models, model evaluations, climate sensitivities and feedbacks. These were the participants of the Climate Model Evaluation Project workshop (CMEP) and came here from most (if not all) the major, most prestigious climate research laboratories of the world, including; The US labs National Center for Atmospheric Research, the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory and the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, the British Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction, the German Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis, the French Centre National de Recherches Meteorologiques and the IPSL/LMD/LSCE, the Australian CSIRO Atmospheric Research, the Chinese Institute of Atmospheric Physics, the Russian Institute for Numerical Mathematics and the Japanese Meteorological Research Institute. This meeting was sponsored by the benevolent NSF, NOAA, NASA and DOE.
Guest Commentary by Drew Shindell (NASA GISS)
The current winter and early spring have been extremely cold in the Arctic stratosphere, leading to the potential for substantial ozone depletion there. This has been alluded to recently in the press (Sitnews, Seattle Post Intelligencer), but what’s the likely outcome, and why is it happening?
Of possible interest to our readers, there was an interview yesterday on the BBC (“Today Programme”) regarding the supposed controversy about the “Hockey Stick”: A climate scientist Professor Michael Mann suggests global warming is caused by mankind (mp3 file). Also available on the BBC website is the real audio file of the interview.
Nature this week published a letter from Dr. Huang (U. Mich) highlighting how this ‘brave new world’ of science blogging works. He writes:
I was concerned to find that … [a figure] included an outdated and erroneous reconstruction of borehole data. … In my view, the website should have used a later version … To be fair, the authors of the website added a correction after I drew their attention to this.
In an early post, we used a figure that contained a minor error regarding how a borehole temperature reconstruction had been scaled. This mistake had been properly corrected in the literature, and so this was indeed an oversight on our part. Dr Huang was kind enough to remind us of this and we amended the caption immediately to point this out and direct readers to the correction should they be interested. Since this mistake was not central to the point being made in the post, we left the original figure in place.
The Internet is nothing if not flexible, and unlike in journals where mistakes can persist an awfully long time, we are able to correct such problems very quickly. In this respect, Dr. Huang’s letter seems to indicate that things are actually working quite well here.
We would like to take this opportunity to re-iterate our commitment to getting the science right, and as importantly, getting it right in real-time. We welcome all corrections or clarifications and we will endeavour to fix any errors, great or small, as quickly as we can.
A lot of press and commentary came out this week concerning a presentation and press release from Tim Barnett and Scripps colleagues presenting at the AAAS meeting (The Independent, John Fleck ,(and again) David Appell…etc). Why did this get so much attention given that there is no actual paper yet?
by Gavin Schmidt and Caspar Amman
Due to popular demand, we have put together a ‘dummies guide’ which tries to describe what the actual issues are in the latest controversy, in language even our parents might understand. A pdf version is also available. More technical descriptions of the issues can be seen here and here.
This guide is in two parts, the first deals with the background to the technical issues raised by McIntyre and McKitrick (2005) (MM05), while the second part discusses the application of this to the original Mann, Bradley and Hughes (1998) (MBH98) reconstruction. The wider climate science context is discussed here, and the relationship to other recent reconstructions (the ‘Hockey Team’) can be seen here.
NB. All the data that were used in MBH98 are freely available for download at ftp://holocene.evsc.virginia.edu/pub/sdr/temp/nature/MANNETAL98/ (and also as supplementary data at Nature) along with a thorough description of the algorithm.
This is just to note some personnel changes at RealClimate. Amy Clement is unfortunately too overcommitted to be able to participate as much as she would like, and so is dropping out of the team. She states: “I fully support what the contributors of RealClimate are doing. It is a real service to both the community of climate scientists and to the general public”. To balance that, we welcome aboard paleoceanographer Thibault de Garidel (Rutgers) , who some francophiles may have noticed has been helping organise the French translations of some of the posts. And of course, if there are any other scientists out there who’d like to contribute, we would love to hear from you.