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Warm reception to Antarctic warming story

Filed under: — gavin @ 27 January 2009 - (Español)

What determines how much coverage a climate study gets?

It probably goes without saying that it isn’t strongly related to the quality of the actual science, nor to the clarity of the writing. Appearing in one of the top journals does help (Nature, Science, PNAS and occasionally GRL), though that in itself is no guarantee. Instead, it most often depends on the ‘news’ value of the bottom line. Journalists and editors like stories that surprise, that give something ‘new’ to the subject and are therefore likely to be interesting enough to readers to make them read past the headline. It particularly helps if a new study runs counter to some generally perceived notion (whether that is rooted in fact or not). In such cases, the ‘news peg’ is clear.

And so it was for the Steig et al “Antarctic warming” study that appeared last week. Mainstream media coverage was widespread and generally did a good job of covering the essentials. The most prevalent peg was the fact that the study appeared to reverse the “Antarctic cooling” meme that has been a staple of disinformation efforts for a while now.

It’s worth remembering where that idea actually came from. Back in 2001, Peter Doran and colleagues wrote a paper about the Dry Valleys long term ecosystem responses to climate change, in which they had a section discussing temperature trends over the previous couple of decades (not the 50 years time scale being discussed this week). The “Antarctic cooling” was in their title and (unsurprisingly) dominated the media coverage of their paper as a counterpoint to “global warming”. (By the way, this is a great example to indicate that the biggest bias in the media is towards news, not any particular side of a story). Subsequent work indicated that the polar ozone hole (starting in the early 80s) was having an effect on polar winds and temperature patterns (Thompson and Solomon, 2002; Shindell and Schmidt, 2004), showing clearly that regional climate changes can sometimes be decoupled from the global picture. However, even then both the extent of any cooling and the longer term picture were more difficult to discern due to the sparse nature of the observations in the continental interior. In fact we discussed this way back in one of the first posts on RealClimate back in 2004.

This ambiguity was of course a gift to the propagandists. Thus for years the Doran et al study was trotted out whenever global warming was being questioned. It was of course a classic ‘cherry pick’ – find a region or time period when there is a cooling trend and imply that this contradicts warming trends on global scales over longer time periods. Given a complex dynamic system, such periods and regions will always be found, and so as a tactic it can always be relied on. However, judging from the take-no-prisoners response to the Steig et al paper from the contrarians, this important fact seems to have been forgotten (hey guys, don’t worry you’ll come up with something new soon!).

Actually, some of the pushback has been hilarious. It’s been a great example for showing how incoherent and opportunistic the ‘antis’ really are. Exhibit A is an email (and blog post) sent out by Senator Inhofe’s press staff (i.e. Marc Morano). Within this single email there are misrepresentations, untruths, unashamedly contradictory claims and a couple of absolutely classic quotes. Some highlights:

Dr. John Christy of the University of Alabama in Huntsville slams new Antarctic study for using [the] “best estimate of the continent’s temperature”

Perhaps he’d prefer it if they used the worst estimate? ;)
[Update: It should go without saying that this is simply Morano making up stuff and doesn’t reflect Christy’s actual quotes or thinking. No-one is safe from Morano’s misrepresentations!]
[Further update: They’ve now clarified it. Sigh….]

Morano has his ear to the ground of course, and in his blog piece dramatically highlights the words “estimated” and “deduced” as if that was some sign of nefarious purpose, rather than a fundamental component of scientific investigation.

Internal contradictions are par for the course. Morano has previously been convinced that “… the vast majority of Antarctica has cooled over the past 50 years.”, yet he now approvingly quotes Kevin Trenberth who says “It is hard to make data where none exist.” (It is indeed, which is why you need to combine as much data as you can find in order to produce a synthesis like this study). So which is it? If you think the data are clear enough to demonstrate strong cooling, you can’t also believe there is no data (on this side of the looking glass anyway).

It’s even more humourous, since even the more limited analysis available before this paper showed pretty much the same amount of Antarctic warming. Compare the IPCC report, with the same values from the new analysis (under various assumptions about the methodology).

(The different versions are the full reconstruction, a version that uses detrended satellite data for the co-variance, a version that uses AWS data instead of satelltes and one that use PCA instead of RegEM. All show positive trends over the last 50 years).

Further contradictions abound: Morano, who clearly wants it to have been cooling, hedges his bets with a “Volcano, Not Global Warming Effects, May be Melting an Antarctic Glacier” Hail Mary pass. Good luck with that!

It always helps if you haven’t actually read the study in question. That way you can just make up conclusions:

Scientist adjusts data — presto, Antarctic cooling disappears

Nope. It’s still there (as anyone reading the paper will see) – it’s just put into a larger scale and longer term context (see figure 3b).

Inappropriate personalisation is always good fodder. Many contrarians seemed disappointed that Mike was only the fourth author (the study would have been much easier to demonise if he’d been the lead). Some pretended he was anyway, and just for good measure accused him of being a ‘modeller’ as well (heaven forbid!).

Others also got in on the fun. A chap called Ross Hays posted a letter to Eric on multiple websites and on many comment threads. On Joe D’Aleo’s site, this letter was accompanied with this little bit of snark:

Icecap Note: Ross shown here with Antarctica’s Mount Erebus volcano in the background was a CNN forecast Meteorologist (a student of mine when I was a professor) who has spent numerous years with boots on the ground working for NASA in Antarctica, not sitting at a computer in an ivory tower in Pennsylvania or Washington State

This is meant as a slur against academics of course, but is particularly ironic, since the authors of the paper have collectively spent over 8 seasons on the ice in Antarctica, 6 seasons in Greenland and one on Baffin Island in support of multiple ice coring and climate measurement projects. Hays’ one or two summers there, his personal anecdotes and misreadings of the temperature record, don’t really cut it.

Neither do rather lame attempts to link these results with the evils of “computer modelling”. According to Booker (for it is he!) because a data analysis uses a computer, it must be a computer model – and probably the same one that the “hockey stick” was based on. Bad computer, bad!

The proprietor of the recently named “Best Science Blog”, also had a couple of choice comments:

In my opinion, this press release and subsequent media interviews were done for media attention.

This remarkable conclusion is followed by some conspiratorial gossip implying that a paper that was submitted over a year ago was deliberately timed to coincide with a speech in Congress from Al Gore that was announced last week. Gosh these scientists are good.

All in all, the critical commentary about this paper has been remarkably weak. Time will tell of course – confirming studies from ice cores and independent analyses are already published, with more rumoured to be on their way. In the meantime, floating ice shelves in the region continue to collapse (the Wilkins will be the tenth in the last decade or so) – each of them with their own unique volcano no doubt – and gravity measurements continue to show net ice loss over the Western part of the ice sheet.

Nonetheless, the loss of the Antarctic cooling meme is clearly bothering the contrarians much more than the loss of 10,000 year old ice. The poor level of their response is not surprising, but it does exemplify the tactics of the whole ‘bury ones head in the sand” movement – they’d much rather make noise than actually work out what is happening. It would be nice if this demonstration of intellectual bankruptcy got some media attention itself.

That’s unlikely though. It’s just not news.

231 Responses to “Warm reception to Antarctic warming story”

  1. 101
    Rod B says:

    Mike M. (89), I (for one at least) agree that warmer climate will likely produce more food, but I’m not sure about the “less disease”. Do you have any reference(s) for that?

    [Response: On what basis do you agree with this. Did you not see the recent article in Science about what will happen to food security in the tropics under warmer-than-present conditions (here)? Simply assuming that warmer climate will be “good” for food production is very very naive.–eric]

  2. 102
    Hank Roberts says:

    Mike: rate of change.

    You can eat one hot dog every day of the year.
    Try to eat 365 hot dogs all in the same day.


    Natural systems handle rates of change.
    We’re changing much, much faster.

    Enormous amounts of carbon dioxide can be dissolved in the ocean, over thousands of years, very slowly, without nasty rapid consequences.

    We’ve overloaded the ocean’s ability in 100 years.
    Rate of change too fast.

  3. 103
    Rod B says:

    James (85), that’s not the way I heard it, but I could easily be wrong. In that case a manufacturer just can’t sell any trucks and very few large-sized automobiles. How much more of a GM, say, bailout will that cost us, since they will otherwise surely go broke.

    But more to the practicalities, which seem to be missing in the grandiose bravado pronouncements, the 2010 model year vehicles have fully completed their design work and manufacturing plans are already finalized. To upset the fruit basket means that if the 36MPH average is to be met it’s likely with the 2012 model year at best, probably more like 2015 model year. I think Obama (and others) ought to know some stuff before running off at the mouth.

  4. 104
    Chris Colose says:

    We already knew West Antarctic was warming, but I thought this recent paper in GRL would be a good supplement to the topic at hand. Different methodology and applicable only to WAIS, but here it is

    Barrett, B. E., K. W. Nicholls, T. Murray, A. M. Smith, and D. G. Vaughan (2009), Rapid recent warming on Rutford Ice Stream, West Antarctica, from borehole thermometry, Geophys. Res. Lett., 36, L02708, doi:10.1029/2008GL036369.

    [Response: Thanks. Yes, this is very nice confirmation of our results — at one location at least. It is probably good luck to some extent (since there are uncertainties in both methods), but it happens that they get the same number — 0.17C/decade — as we do for West Antarctica, but for the last 80 years, not just the last 50.–eric]

  5. 105
    Khebab says:

    I was looking at the result from Johanson and Fu (2007) based on MSU data:

    Johanson, C.M., and Q. Fu, 2007: Antarctic atmospheric temperature trend patterns from satellite observations. Geophys. Res. Lett., 34, L12703, doi:10.1029/2006GL029108.

    The trend estimate from Steig et al. seems pretty similar:


    [Response: Thank you. However, the comparison — while very very good– may not be quite as good as that juxtaposition shows. Johanson and Fu find cooling in both summer and fall, even in West Antarctica, whereas we find cooling only in fall and only in East Antarctica. On the other hand, the agreement in Spring and Winter — the seasons we emphasize in our paper — is excellent. And Bromwich showed at AGU that his calculations for the troposphere are more in line with our results for the surface in other seasons as well. In any case, this all shows that the comments by Singer, Christy, and others about the MSU data are flat out wrong.–eric]

  6. 106
    Maya says:

    Rod B (81): I don’t know. If the evidence points to perjury, then it/he should be investigated.

  7. 107

    RE #89 & “The danger is not inaction, the real danger is in climate alarmism itself. My prime example is bio-fuel. It’s the most arrogant, elitist ’solution’ imaginable; feeding FOOD to our machines.”

    This raises an interesting issue. I, for one, have always been against turning food crops into biofuel right from the get-go, tho I’ve always thought ag wastes make good candidates, such as manure, which otherwise pollutes localities near industrial livestock farms. And I understand the remainder from getting biogas from manure actually makes better crop fertilizer, so it’s a win-win-win situation. Add an extra “win” for the facility not getting fined for the pollution.

    There are many win-win-win situations in reducing our greenhouse gases (good for mitigating GW, other problems, & saving money without lowering productivity or living standards), and the environmentalists I know are promoting those solutions, which can get us down to a 75% or more reduction.

    The problem is those who have not taken GW seriously for years and decades (as they should have) suddenly jumping on the bandwagon & coming up with ill-considered quicky solutions. Or, the vested interests getting on the bandwagon to attract money or political capital their way — e.g., farmers & politicos representing farm districts/states — without concern that biofuels from food actually increase GHG emissions. Think of all the energy that goes into farming, watering, ag schools, manufacture of farm equipment, tearing up rainforest floors to mine bauxite for the aluminum for that equipment, shipping it, smeltering it, all the paperwork (& trees) at each stage, etc etc; think of the real GHG emissions (and other harms) per calorie of energy obtained from the biofuel-from-food crops.

    Just heard a great idea from a British farmer — harvest & send the entire corn stalks to a facility that will separate the corn for food and the stalks for cellulosic biofuel.

    If people were REALLLLY concerned about life on planet earth, they would be able to come up with 1000s of such solutions AND implement them.

    I don’t see ANY evidence whatsoever of alarmism. The U.S. has increased its GHG emissions by 20% since 1990 (while we & a few others substantially reduced ours cost-effectively). At the very least, if alarmism would frozen people stiff with fear, and that in itself would have helped reduced GHG emissions. They wouldn’t have been going around willy nilly in an enhanced BAU mode, as they obviously have been doing from the evidence of increased emissions.

  8. 108
    Chris S says:

    Re: Disease incidence and climate change. A case study can be made of the spread of Blue Tongue Disease, as seen here: it seems that warmer winters lead to increased survival rates of both the disease & its vector, and the northward spread of this disease seems clear.
    Re: Food production & climate change. It seems that the effect of climate change on crop pests goes relatively unnoticed, there is a summary of potential impacts on the UK here: it makes for some interesting reading (IMHO)

  9. 109

    Rod B #101

    Just some thoughts. Climate stability and regional shift are definitely factors. Having a longer growing season or warmer temps sounds nice on the surface but think about the likely potentials. Regional climate shifts causing short and long term drought events. This leading to the need for infrastructure shift.

    Pretend the climate system shifts north, sort of like it seems to be doing now. Just how easy is it to pick up a farm and move to where the rain is?

    So a farmer can sell the farm, in the now worth-less region he/she is in, because of the climate shift; and then with all that money lost, go buy land in the area where the water is, which is now much more expensive because that’s where the water is.

    Then of course in those areas north, there will be other climate problems, like more floods probably, and cold spells destroying crops.

    Generally the picture has some challenges. Of course there was the idea floated that more Co2 in the air will increase crop output, but studies have already shown that increased Co2 increases biomass, but does not increase produce output.

    As I recall, in the paleo history, really big plants and increased food came with increased oxygen in the atmosphere, not increased Co2.

    So warmer might sound nice, but from a crop production output perspective it has many challenges to contend with.

    Just some thoughts.

  10. 110
    RichardC says:

    64 Rod B says, “to require an average 36 MPG over the entire company’s fleet in the 2010 model year in order to sell any, the result will be no — that’s zero — vehicles being sold after about Nov 09”

    Rubbish. CAFE imposes a $5.50 USD fee per 0.1 mpg under the standard. A manufacturer could pay the small fee, or reduce the price of more efficient models and increase the price of inefficient models and let the market adjust. Heck, increase the price of a larger engine! “zero vehicles being sold!” :eyeroll:

  11. 111
    Hank Roberts says:

    Rod, do you have that issue of Science, to read the whole article Eric points to answering your question? Or is the abstract enough?
    30 January 2009 at 12:06 PM

    Joel, 29 January 2009 at 11:32 PM, the decisions are made every day.
    It’s not going to some other world, it’s living differently in this one.

  12. 112

    Can anyone put me onto a good annual time series for methane? CDIAC has good monthly figures for 1992-2007, but I’d like them back to 1880 if possible. I have Law Dome figures for 1841-1978, but they’re spotty, with many individual years and long stretches of years missing.

    Captcha: “this Cloud”

    [Response: Doesn’t exist. The time series you see published are blends of Law Dome, Siple Dome and the CDIAC numbers. – gavin]

  13. 113
    Mark says:

    re: 107 the problem is that it was to be marginal land use, interstitial crops and waste plant product that was to be used for biofuel.

    But that has lots of problems with the farming voting bloc:

    1) Marginal land use. Now there’s no need to pay farmers to leave land fallow. The fallow land now becomes a non-food crop source.

    2) interstitial crops. Many of them reinvgorate the ground meaning less need for chemical fertilisation and for the farmers another reason not to pay to leave land fallow (free money)

    3) Waste plant product. Nothing for the farmers here either.

    But a biocrop that is based on, say, corn, means that lots more money is available for corn and the “green taxes” that some seem so petrified of can be funnelled into the already primed arms of the corn producers, leaving everyone else learning how to grab that cash. And a first-mover advantage means that the first one to take, gets it. Best of all, for the corn growers, they don’t have to change a thing.

  14. 114
    Mark says:

    Further to the reply in #52 (re #44) and just because heart failure is a natural death doesn’t mean that if I zap someone across their heart and stop it it isn’t murder.

  15. 115
    william says:

    I don’t understand the fixation with mandating Auto MPG levels. All it does is hobble the Auto companies while they try to develop hybrids or electric cars. If they do not get the development dollars we’ll all be driving vehicles with a Chinese nameplate on them. The amount of CO2 emitted by autos is irrelevant. My question is , when are they going to start a crash building program to get enough nukes to power not only electric cars but the increasing levels of electricity required to power the air conditioning required to keep us all comfy after the planet warms?

  16. 116
    Mike Walker says:

    RicharC #110 – 30 January 2009 at 2:55pm.

    CAFE is a ridiculous attempt to legislate improved fuel economy by requiring automakers to build cars no one wants. When fuel is cheap, Americans don’t want small cars. Fuel prices have come down dramatically in the past few months and sales are already shifting back to larger cars. The automakers lose because they have to produce and sell enough small cars at a loss to enable them to sale the cars the consumer really wants. In the end you have more fuel efficient cars plus cheap gas which encourages suburban sprawl because people can afford to commute long distances, so then you end up with people buying bigger houses (which use more energy) further out into the ever expanding suburbs.

    Rather than mandating stupid policies, the simpler solution is to do what most of the rest of the world does and simply put a tax on gas that makes it expensive. Then Americans will desire fuel efficient cars, the automakers can do like other companies do and produce the products their customers want, and you won’t be simultaneously subsidizing and encouraging big houses in the suburbs. Again, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line. But our politicans are wimps, so they would rather resort to complex regulation than address the problem head on.

    And the same thing applies to carbon trading. Why implement a complex trading scheme as opposed to a simple straight forward tax? If you want to discourge something, history shows that a tax is the best and simplest way to get less of it. Of course the answer to this question is pretty simple, too. Just follow the money to see who gains from carbon trading and who loses if it were a simple tax.

  17. 117
    william says:

    Lynn #107
    You state “Just heard a great idea from a British farmer — harvest & send the entire corn stalks to a facility that will separate the corn for food and the stalks for cellulosic biofuel.”

    Current practice is to till the stalks back into the soil kinda of like recycling them into the soil and sequestering the carbon. How long do you expect the soils to be productive without this recycling process and/or how much additional nitrogen fertilizer will need to be used to replace it? What are the ecological consequences of doing that? Biomass is a highly inefficient way to extract something that will explode to make things move.

  18. 118
    dhogaza says:

    CAFE is a ridiculous attempt to legislate improved fuel economy by requiring automakers to build cars no one wants. When fuel is cheap, Americans don’t want small cars.

    Ah, so THIS explains how Toyota grew to become the largest automaker in the world!

    And why I see more japanese than american cars in my west coast city neighborhood (in fairness, quite a few are small trucks/SUVs and even a few full-sized Toyota pick-ups, but Honda has never made a truck-chassis SUV and still does quite well here in the old USA).

    You could try a statement that makes a bit more sense, like Detroit has focused on higher-margin SUVs, a class that was invented when Detroit succeeded in getting a sizable duty charged on every imported vehicle built on a truck chassis.

  19. 119
    Hank Roberts says:

    > cellulosic

    There’s no industry set up yet; current corn ethanol relies on using the easily digestible food grain. You need different chemistry and/or different enzymes to handle cellulose and for that matter lignin. Remember the plant’s goal is to keep the plant’s structural material intact while making the seed attractive to consumers to spread it.

    > carbon trading [vs.] simple tax


    > CO2 emitted by autos is irrelevant …

    Here’s what I found, looking for any reason to believe that is true. Couldn’t agree based on the numbers. Do you have different numbers?

    “This report details, by automaker and vehicle type, the greenhouse gas contributions from America’s auto sector, for the first time….”

    “… the U.S. light vehicle stock now has a “half-life” of roughly eight years …. It takes 16 years for the American automotive fleet to be 90 percent replaced in terms of the carbon emitted ….”

  20. 120
    Hank Roberts says:

    Er, but, I got suckered into digression. Sorry, wrong topic for that.

    Back to the reception — what are the scientists hearing from other scientists, if y’all care to update us on your reception?

  21. 121
    Mike Walker says:

    118 dhogaza 30 January 2009 at 5:33 PM

    My Infiniti Q56 says “made in Japan”. Replaced a GMC Yukon. It pulls the boat better.

  22. 122
    Harold Pierce Jr says:

    ATTN: Maya and May


    Boats, planes, freight trains and trucks, construction, mining and agricultural machines, most cars and light trucks with spirit and muscle (i.e., hot V-8’s), motorcycles, motorhomes, snowmobiles, ATV’s, all military vehicles, go-carts, golf course and sports field grass mowers, etc will always require and use liquid fossils fuels becasue these fuels have HIGH ENERGY DENSITY and are easily prepared from readily recoverable crude oil, which exits abundantly free in Nature, by fractional distillation and blending low energy processes that do not require the breaking of chemical bonds. Even catalytic cracking of heavier distillate fractions to lighter hydrocarbons is a low energy process.

    The “Fuels of Freedom” are non-toxic, chemically inert but readily react with oxygen, halogens and several other highly reactive chemicals such as ozone, noncorrosive, highly portable, and can be stored indefinitely in sealed containers (e.g., steel drums) and under an inert atmosphere (e.g., nitrogen) in large tanks. The low solvent power of hydrocarbon fuels ls extremely important because this property greatly reduces the cost of the materials used in fuel handling and delivery systems. These fuels can be formulatrd for use in climates as cold as -40 and as hot as +40 deg C.

    In heavy industy, fossils fuels will always be required for lime and cement kilns, metal smelters, steel mills, foundries and metal casting plants, metal cutting and braising torches, all factories that make ceramics (e.g., bricks, tiles, china, glass, etc), all food production, processing and distribution, space and water heating, cooking and baking, BBQ’s, manufacture of porcelain-coated metals, harvesting of wood and lumber manufacture, isolation of essential oils by steam distillation for prepartion of fine fragrances flavors, etc because the fuels provide HIGH HEAT.

    The reasons we use thermal plants for generating electricity is that these plants have a small footprint, can be located close to consumers, and produce electricity reliably at very high energy-densities.

    Fossils fuels are the feedstock for the petrochemical ndustries (sometimes called the chemical process industries), which manufacture everything from A to Z, such as tough synthetic fibers and exotic material suchas silicones and Teflon. There is not enough suitable land for growing cotton, flax, plants for cordage and sheep to meet present world demand for fiber.

    We will always have lots of fossil fuels because we can always use coal for manufacture of synthetic hydrocarbons. Germany did this on a massive scale during WW II. South Africa use the Fisher-Tropsch process and it supplies about 40% of liquid hydrocarbons which can be manufactured into a wide range of useful materials. GO: for more info.

    Although the amount of convential oil will continue to decline, there are estimated 10-15 trillion barrels of oil equivalent in unconvential oil which include heavy and extra heavy crude oils and the oil shale and sand. Shell R and D has several project in northwestern Colorado the use in-situ resistive heating to crack kerogen in oil shale to a crude oil that can be pumped out of the formation. If this process can be brought into sucessful commerical production, crude oil will come out the formation like water from a well.

    Go: http:/// and and read about the new technologies that have been develop to exploits these resources.

    If you two have any schemes that will replace fossil fuels for the above applications and uses, I’m quite sure the engineers will gladly welcome your suggestions.


  23. 123
    Jim Eager says:

    Pardon the digression, but…
    The CBC Radio One program Ideas has produced an outstanding 3-part series entitled Climate Wars.
    The series, conducted by military analyst Gwynne Dyer, explores climate change and it’s potential physical, social and geopolitical impacts.

    Part one introduces the series themes and basically reviews the current state of the science, while part two outlines how climate change impacts could lead to global demographic, agricultural and political instability and even outright armed conflict, including a nuclear exchange in South Asia over rapidly depleting water supplies. Part three will look at the political hurdles that must be overcome in time to avoid triggering critical feedbacks, and if they are not overcome in time, how geoengineering may have to be employed to buy time.

    I can not recommend the series too highly. Parts 1 and 2 have already broadcast, but they can be downloaded as podcasts at Part 3 will broadcast on Monday, February 2, after which it, too, will be available as a podcast.

  24. 124
    J.D. Gibbard says:

    Harold Pierce Jr,

    Bwahahaha! Thanks for the laugh.

  25. 125

    Excellent explanations in the post and responses to comments — thanks to you all at realclimate for putting in so much of your time, once again.

    ReCAPTCHA gone wild: 4:30(2)Mike ALLAN

  26. 126
    Jim Eager says:

    Re the CBC series Climate Wars, I neglected to mention that RC contributer Stefan Rahmstorf is interviewed in Part 1.

  27. 127
    Jim Eager says:

    Thanks for pointing all that out, Herald Pierce.
    As you have done before.

    Now what do you advise we do about the problem, spread our legs, bend over and kiss our posteriors goodbye?

    How about setting to work on solving the problem, instead of dragging your feet as you continually tell us that it can’t be done?

    If that’s asking too much of you, then how about you just stand aside and keep the f out of our way, eh?

  28. 128
    GlenFergus says:

    Eric at #105:

    Nit picking Eric, but for a global audience you might like to watch that term “fall” (for the season between the (northern) summer and winter). Usage is pretty much restricted to North America. Applying it to the southern autumn season looks seriously odd from down here, and is potentially confusing.


    [Thanks. Good point! The Nature editors made me change “fall” to “autumn” for the same reason. But now you’ve added your own confusion to this! The “fall” season (or “autumn” if you like) is between summer and winter, no matter which hemisphere you are in!–eric]

  29. 129
    Rod B says:

    ike, “The major news outlets in this country are owned by banks… “??!!??

  30. 130
    Rod B says:

    eric (101), and I would say launching an isolated study or two (or more…) into a global axiom without missing a beat is very very simplistic.


  31. 131
    Rod B says:

    Maya (106), yet the question remains: where is there evidence of deliberate perjury? (Not including the hallucinations of the paranoid witch hunters… ;-) )

  32. 132
    James says:

    Mike Walker Says (30 January 2009 at 4:46 PM):

    “When fuel is cheap, Americans don’t want small cars.”

    This, I suppose, is why US automakers now have only about a 50% market share in the US (less if you consider the rebadged foreign products they mostly sell as their small cars), and the Japanese, Korean &c automakers have seen their share of the market steadily increase ever since the first VW Beetle hit these shores back in the ’50s. It seems that plenty of Americans must want small cars, because that’s what they’ve been buying.

    Harold Pierce Jr Says (30 January 2009 at 7:04 PM):

    “Boats, planes, freight trains and trucks, construction, mining and agricultural machines, most cars and light trucks with spirit and muscle (i.e., hot V-8’s), motorcycles, motorhomes, snowmobiles, ATV’s, all military vehicles, go-carts, golf course and sports field grass mowers, etc will always require and use liquid fossils fuels…”

    A lot of that is just plain wrong. Boats work just fine with sails, much of Europe’s rail network is electric, as is a lot of mining machinery. The electric Tesla & Fiskar Karma outperform most IC-engined cars, the military is actively developing hybrid power trains (electric “stealth” propulsion being a tactical advantage), my electric lawnmower works quite well, and there are even electric ATVs and airplanes

  33. 133
    Rod B says:

    RichardC (110), what you say is accurate and I agree with it. But that was not the idea that was floated. Try to keep up.

  34. 134
    Maya says:

    “ATTN: Maya and May”

    Apparently I’m two people, now? lol! Seriously, calling me May was a typo on the part of a previous poster – there’s only one of me, I promise.

    I’m not sure why you directed your post to me — I haven’t had anything to say about the practicalities of replacements for fossil fuels for specific applications. It’s by far not my area of expertise, and not an area I’ve done any research. I’ve been reading up on the possibilities of producing consumer electricity from renewable resources (my favorite is wind so far, with solar a close second) but have not even ventured into the areas you cite.

    Perhaps you have me confused with another poster?

  35. 135
    Harold Pierce Jr says:

    James, [edit]

    Go: and check out the photos of the new Super C Class Ferry Northern Expedition. You are going to put sails on the biggest passenger-car ever built. I don’t think so. Sails on Cruise ships, a floating city of 5000 passengers and crew? Yeah, right.

    You got 100 G’s for the Tesla? And what happens to the battery pack when a big honkin’ Lincoln Nav
    takes it out in rear ender.

    Come to Canada, go the diamond mines in the far north. The Ekati mine is pit 1 mile wide and 1000 ft deep. No juice plants up there. Everything runs on delightful Diesel. Ore trucks crawl in and out the pit like ants.

    [edit – please stop insulting people]

  36. 136
    Bill DeMott says:

    I can’t cite a source, but I think that Steven Chu (Obama’s Energy advisor) is an advocate of higher gasoline taxes. In my opinion, much high gasoline taxes make so much sense for the USA that their implimentation will be an important test of Obama’s energy policy.
    Perhaps tax rebates will help get the general public on board. The transportation lobby might prove a challenge.

  37. 137
    Mike Walker says:

    I read all of the global warming literature, both pro and con. I wish I were smart enough to know which side is right and which side is wrong, but I am not. I consider AGW potentially the biggest threat to life on earth, which I think most people who visit this blog would concur with. If AGW is real then the consequences of inaction are pretty clear and fatal. If AGW is an overblown and fallacious theory, then any misguided efforts to confront AGW will at a minimum reduce living standards for the entire planet for generations to come. Like most of the visitors to this blog, I am someone who cares very much about the outcome of this problem. I wish it were as simple as applying the precautionary principle so I could say let’s err on the side of caution and therefore go with the AGW believers solutions for saving the planet. The problem is, if the AGW camp is wrong then the consequences of wreaking our ecomomony has severe consequences for my children and grandchildren, and almost certainly their children as well, all of whom I care very much about. For many people here, the answer is much simpler based on their perception of man’s place in the world. Man is destroying the earth and it is very black and white that we must do whatever is necessary to fix the problem. But those solutions will not be painless. It would be nice if all we needed to do were build more wind farms and solar energy stations. But you don’t have to be a brain surgeon to know that if that were the solution that would already have been done.

    If wind and solar (and other renewables) were clear and robust solutions for our energy problems, they would already have been implemented. And no, I am not one of those types that believe that Exxon-Mobile is powerful enough to prevent the entire planet from implementing what is an obvious and relatively painless solution to our problems, simply because it would interfere with their monoploy on energy. Wind and solar are expensive alternatives, that require huge direct investments as well as huge investments in transmission capacity and storage while at the same time leaving the system vulnerable to significant disruptions in service. While you may be willing to forego heat in the winter on cloudy days, I am only willing to do so if it is clearly shown that there is no other alternative. And I do have a problem with someone that lives in a huge energy inefficient mansion, that flies around on private jets and that has huge investments in carbon trading firms telling me that I must make very basic and life shattering sacrifices to save the planet, but who obviously believes that because he invented the internet he is exempt from the same.

    I generally find government intervention in the affairs of men as distasteful as the American founding fathers, but I am not a libertarian, and I do realize that there are times that society must put the well being of the many ahead of the well being of the individual. I also believe that Barack Obama may be the smartest person to ever hold the presidency. But brains without backbone is not enough to save the world or America. CAFE is a classic example of spineless politicians trying to solve a problem, while not being willing to take the heat necessary to put the correct solution in place. If it is necessary that we increase fuel efficiency, and I think it is, then why mandate that auto-companies must build cars that consumers do not want, and then blame those companies for failing to be successful in the marketplace when they meet government mandates. While it is true that the Japanese companies have fared better under these regulations than the American companies, and I in no way mean to absolve the American auto-companies of much mismanagement, it is clear that American consumers, when provided with cheap fuel, will not choose energy efficient cars. I myself own an Infinity QX-56, because it provides the utility I need and I can afford the cost of fuel even when it is double or triple the current price. To say that the Japanese are more astute marketers in the automobile industry than American companies is very superficial. I can remember when (not to reveal my age), no one would seriously consider owning a Toyota or a Datsun, except as a second car for the spouse that needed to commute long distances during the Arab oil embargo. But the Japanese were persistant, and focused on quality, then moved into luxury and finally into those areas of the market “owned” by the American brands. The Infinity QX that I currently own is testament that the market demanded large SUVS and that the Japanese, as well as GM, Ford and Chrysler were only too happy to provide what the market demanded.

    Worse than what I have said above, the combination of significantly more fuel efficient automobiles plus the combination of cheap gas in the United States, has promoted the expansion of our suburbs so that Americans have been enticed into commuting huge distances so they can afford large homes in the suburbs. I consider myself as the quintessential example of the McMansion owner who daily braves the Atlanta commute to work so I can live outside the perimeter in my 20 room mini-mansion. Perhaps many of you can feel justified in condemning my choices, but the system we have not only makes this possible, but encourages it.

    If government is going to intervene in our lives, then it should do so in the most efficient way possible, and using the shortest path possible to obtain the stated goals. If government must dictate energy efficiency, then it must provide the incentives to make those policies successful. My point in #116 above had nothing to do with the relative merit of American versus Japanese automakers, but in the fallacy that government can dictate the affairs of the population unless our politicians are willing to make both the difficult decisions necessary to implement good policy, and are also willing to standup and explain why these policies are necessary.

    And my real point in #116 is how CAFE relates to carbon trading and why American taxpayers (or European or Australian taxpayers for that matter) should accept a system of cap and trade that provides subsidies for untold thousands of dubious projects such as building developing world hydro-electric plants that would have been built anyways, or that enriches untold thousands of individuals in cap and trade firms when a simple direct tax would accomplish the same goal more efficiently. I do understand the logic behind cap and trade, but the devil is in the details. How do you evaluate multi-million or multi-billion dollar carbon credit projects, when so much money is in play. Any such system is guaranteed to fail, even if the government weren’t involved. I’m not sure I am inclined to agree with Jim Hansen on very much, but I think if we are going to reduce carbon emissions, a tax is a hundred times more logical than a cap and trade system.

    And please Gavin, Eric or whomever is moderating, please do not edit my post in any way that changes the meaning of what I have said. If it is unacceptable to you, then please just delete the entire thing. If you do though, I really would appreciate an explanation as to why. You have my email address.

    [Response: Mike. Thanks for your thoughts. We don’t have much to say here about taxes vs. cap and trade, etc., because we’re scientists, not economists. I will say that I think this is a really difficult problem, and solving it is going to involve ideological clashes about *how* to solve it. That’s inevitable. We’re seeing it right now in a small way with the debate in congress and the senate over Obama’s stimulus package. I have no reason to doubt that opinions on both sides of the aisle are sincere, and that the vast majority want to do what is right. My own inclination is to agree with you on taxes vs. cap-and-trade, but I don’t know. There are a lot of problems that will arise with either one. But that’s not a reason to sit idly by. My advice is stop reading about the “debate” because there isn’t one. Instead, get involved in the policy debate. Help the world figure out what to do.

    As for your not being able to tell “which side is right and which side is wrong” in the global warming debate, consider this: When you go to the dentist, and he tells you to put fluoride on your kids teeth, do you do it? If not, why not? The reason some people don’t is that they live in a world where dentists are part of a vast conspiracy to poison our kids minds, or at the very least are complete idiots. Me, I live on a planet where dentists actually want to help me and my kids have healthy teeth. Maybe I’m wrong, and the members of the National Academy of Sciences, the leadership of the American Geophysical Union, etc. are all deluded, and the people that publish papers in professional scientific journals are frauds, and I make up data and enter it into my computer in my sleep while preparing my work for publication. On the other hand, maybe the money groups like Heartland Institute and the folks they list as part of their personnel are influenced by the money they get from Exxon Mobil. If you care about your kids, you probably need to think this out, and then go and make your voice heard on the right solution (either buy a Hummer, or get involved in efforts to get the right solution (carbon taxes, carbon trading, whatever) to happen.–eric]

  38. 138

    Gavin, the point is, I don’t see the time series published. Where I can I find one, however synthetic?

    [Response: Oh, sorry. Try here – gavin]

  39. 139

    Harold Pierce Jr. writes:

    We will always have lots of fossil fuels because we can always use coal for manufacture of synthetic hydrocarbons.

    No, we will not always have fossil fuels. If we go on using them on the scale you suggest, our civilization will crash and we’ll be getting our fuels from wood and animal fat.

    To replace fossil fuels, we can use either hydrogen from electrolysis or biomass ethanol or methanol or biodiesel (and no, it doesn’t have to come from corn).

  40. 140
    Harold Pierce Jr says:

    RE #124 ATTN: JD

    I forgot to mention the fourth Fuel of Freedom: methanol.

    Methanex (Vancouver BC) sells methanol for about $1.50 per US gallon. Flexfuel cars could easily be modified to use good ole wood alcohol. Addition of small amounts of dimetyl ether would lower the flash point to -40 deg C so it can be used in cold climates. I just informed T. Boone about this and I am waiting forh his reply.

    The reason people just love and drive their cars is quite simple: A car is absolute Freedom! And nothing ain’t ever goin’ to change that! And the “Fuels of Freedom” would be dirt cheap if it weren’t for taxes!
    Freedom Day for me was Aug 1, 1960, and the Wheels of Freedom was a deluxe Hillman Minx (export edition)
    given to my brother and me by Uncle Bob.

  41. 141
    Ray Ladbury says:

    Harold Pierce, Jr. says “I just informed T. Boone about this and I am waiting forh his reply.”

    Yeah, Harold. Be sure and update us when he gets back to you…and not before.

  42. 142

    I’m not sure I am inclined to agree with Jim Hansen on very much, but I think if we are going to reduce carbon emissions, a tax is … logical …

    Tax and dividend is what he says. Divide out the revenue so that millions of paid public servants, and other recipients of government money, aren’t strengthened in their ability and determination to protect the fossil fuel industries.

    I’ve tried to get him to say it the other way: “dividend and tax”. Divide out existing fossil carbon revenue — partially counted here — for the same reason. The public would be in favour of this because it would be a tax reduction. It would be a precedent that would make later increases in fossil C tax acceptable to them.

    Readers in fora I frequent seem to have a costly mental disability: they can’t read past the phrase “tax reduction”, or any words that amount to the same thing. That thread also suggests they can’t remember the parts of the message preceding it, and therefore cannot learn this method of making fossil C tax increases publically acceptable. (The less fossil-fired citizens would anticipate gaining by those increases.) Was anyone here able to hang on?

    — G.R.L. Cowan (How fire can be domesticated)

  43. 143

    RE 107 & 117, I’m wondering if perhaps the remainder from making cellulosic biofuel might also be good fertilizer, which could be then sent back to the farm. And, of course, as Hank mentioned there would have to be some advances to make such a project viable.

  44. 144
    Sekerob says:

    Just stumbled on a piece of news discussing how 30 satellite instruments have been honing in on a specific area of snow at the Antarctic for the purpose of comparing and improving data quality. This all happened Dec-08/Jan-09 NPL’s Snow Report . Years ago read that 80% of the expected SLR was mitigated by extra snow at the Antarctic. Is that still a current understanding?

  45. 145
    Hank Roberts says:

    Lynn, nope. Remember there’s simply not enough sunlight to run our business on the energy from photosynthesis. Look up “Overshoot” and “primary productivity” — the extra energy now is coming from old sunlight (fossil carbon), with problems. Look at BraveNewClimate for good sense on this from a biologist.

  46. 146
    Jim Galasyn says:

    OT, but there’s more lively debate about Hansen over at WaPo:

    Science Group Erred Giving Hansen Top Honor

    …But the AMS, which is a scientific society comprised of about 12,000 atmospheric scientists who mainly specialize in weather and have disparate views of climate science, erred in honoring such a lightning rod of controversy, despite the tremendous value his research has been to the scientific community.

    [Response: He is entitled to his opinion, but AMS don’t give these things out casually. If the argument is that no one who ever takes a public stance on something they know something about can ever be honoured for their science, it doesn’t make much sense. Scientists are citizens too, and have the right to communicate their political concerns as much as anyone. There is a better discussion at Dot Earth. – gavin]
    [I couldn’t have said it better. Thanks Gavin. And with that, I’m closing comments on this post. I’m off to Antarctica and won’t have a chance to respond to comments for a while.–eric]

  47. 147
    Hank Roberts says:

    > WaPo
    The column is “Capital Weather Gang” — I don’t see lively or debate.
    Just what you’d expect to hear.

  48. 148
    Bernie says:

    SM at CA has identified what appears to be a major error in the Steig et al paper that suggests that the perceived trend is an artifact of this particular error. Perhaps this is an opportunity to mend some fences and work towards a common goal of better data and clearer methods.

    [Response: No-one should be against better data. It would have been nice had SM actually notified the holders of the data that there was a problem (he didn’t, preferring to play games instead). If he hadn’t left it for others to work out, he might even have got some credit ;). As for the Steig et al paper, the typo in Table S2 is just a typo, as could be seen from examining the location files on Eric’s website or noting that the figure S4b has the correct location for Harry. As for the implications of the errors in the BAS Harry file on the study, that too is visible in figure S4b – removing Harry (and a bunch of other AWS stations) doesn’t change the answer in any meaningful respect. Correction it has no impact on any of the reconstructions made with the AVHRR data. Thus the answers to the ‘questions that are being raised’ were obvious all along. We might post some more on this later. – gavin]

  49. 149
    Tom Gray says:

    re 63

    Gavin states in a reply

    An implication that anyone who thinks something should be done about climate change is advocating that more people should die of Aids is reprehensible.

    Would Gavin please indicate where in the original comment this suggestion was made? For that matter, can he supply an example of where the suggestion was made anywhere?

    I don’t expect this will be published but it will have done its job if it makes an RC editor think before he makes intemperate comments.

    [Response: I didn’t say it had been made. It was simply a statement to head off a particularly offensive kind of argument that sometimes erupts when these kinds of issues are raised. If you don’t think that this gets implied, try reading some Lomborg-related texts elsewhere. – gavin]

  50. 150
    Anne says:

    Any comments on the Harry/Gill data splicing discovery?

    [Response: See above – gavin]