Abstract of a new paper in "Nature" below, followed by a layman's summary from Revkin of the NYT and a critical comment from Carl Wunsch of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. There has of course been a lot of controversy over the paper but I think Wunsch is correct about the speculative nature of the paper. I see the value of the paper as focusing attention on where we undoubtedly are in geological time: At the end of a short natural warming period in a generally much colder climate
Transient nature of late Pleistocene climate variability
By Thomas J. Crowley & William T. Hyde
Climate in the early Pleistocene1 varied with a period of 41 kyr and was related to variations in Earth's obliquity. About 900 kyr ago, variability increased and oscillated primarily at a period of ,100 kyr, suggesting that the link was then with the eccentricity of Earth's orbit. This transition has often2-5 been attributed to a nonlinear response to small changes in external boundary conditions. Here we propose that increasing variablility within the past million yearsmay indicate that the climate system was approaching a second climate bifurcation point, after which it would transition again to a new stable state characterized by permanent mid-latitude Northern Hemisphere glaciation. From this perspective the pastmillion years can be viewed as a transient interval in the evolution of Earth's climate. We support our hypothesis using a coupled energybalance/ ice-sheet model, which furthermore predicts that the future transition would involve a large expansion of the Eurasian ice sheet. The process responsible for the abrupt change seems to be the albedo discontinuity at the snow-ice edge. The best-fit model run, which explains almost 60%of the variance in global ice volume6 during the past 400 kyr, predicts a rapid transition in the geologically near future to the proposed glacial state. Should it be attained, this state would be more `symmetric' than the present climate, with comparable areas of ice/sea-ice cover in each hemisphere, and would represent the culmination of 50 million years of evolution from bipolar nonglacial climates to bipolar glacial climates.
Nature Vol 456, 13 November 2008
A new analysis of the dramatic cycles of ice ages and warm intervals over the past million years, published in Nature, concludes that the climatic swings are the gyrations of a system poised to settle into a quasi-permanent colder state - with expanded ice sheets at both poles.
In essence, says one of the two authors, Thomas J. Crowley of the University of Edinburgh, the ice age cycles over the past million years are a super-slow-motion variant of the dramatic jostlings recorded by a seismograph in an earthquake before the ground settles into a new quiet state. He and William T. Hyde of the University of Toronto used climate models and other techniques to assess the chances that the world is witnessing the final stages of a 50-million-year transition from a planet with a persistent warm climate and scant polar ice to one with greatly expanded ice sheets at both poles.
Their findings have stirred a lot of skepticism in the community of specialists examining ancient records of past climate changes and how they might relate to variations in Earth's orbit and orientation toward the Sun and other factors. I'll be adding some of their reactions overnight (I'm on the road).
The Nature paper goes on to propose that humans, as long as they have a technologically powerful society, would be likely to avert such a slide into a long big chill by adding greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. That doesn't obviate the need to curb such emissions and the prospect of dangerous climate warming in the short run, Dr. Crowley said. But it is more evidence that like it or not, the future of conditions on Earth is likely to be a function of human actions, whether chosen or not.
The idea that human actions can dominate the climatic influence of things as grand as shifts in a planet's orbit is hard to grasp, but quite a few climate specialist say it's pretty clear this is the case. In 2003, I wrote an article exploring when scientists think we'll slide into the next ice age (the conventional variety). James Hansen of NASA echoed Dr. Crowley, saying that as long as we're technologically able, we'll be able to keep the big ice at bay. Strange, wonderful stuff, climate science.
Surely this isn't science in any conventional sense. Taking a toy model and using it to make a "prediction" about something nearly a million years in the future, is a form of science fiction-maybe interesting in the same way a novel is, but it isn't science. The prediction itself is untestable-except a million years from now, and the model "tests" that quoted are carefully chosen to be those things that the model has been tuned to get "right," with no mention of the huge number of things it gets wrong. How many times do "if", and "may" get used in the paper?
If I make a four-box model of the world economy, and predict the US stock market level 500 years from now, who would pay any attention? Climate is far more complicated than the world economy, yet supposedly reputable journals are publishing papers that superficially look like science, but which are the sort of thing scientists will speculate about late at night over a few beers. It doesn't deserve the light of day except as the somewhat interesting mathematical behavior of a grossly over-simplified set of differential equations. Why should anyone take it seriously? The wider credibility of the science is ultimately undermined by such exercises.
Study finds Greenland Ice Melt 'Slowed Significantly'
But some dishonest Dutchmen don't want to admit it
No self-respecting global warming presenter would ever miss the chance to warn the audience that higher temperatures could melt ice in places like Greenland, the melting water could lubricate the interface between ice and rock, and watch-out . the ice could increase its velocity, fall or move quickly into the sea, and cause a rapid rise in sea level. If you happen to be Al Gore, you might show us melting ice, water pouring into some moulin, and then cap it off with an image of water drowning out the World Trade Center Memorial. This story in its near infinite varieties appears on literally thousands of websites dealing with the global warming issue.
A recent article in the prestigious Science magazine has an alarming title that should thrill the greenhouse crusade: "Large and Rapid Melt-Induced Velocity Changes in the Ablation Zone of the Greenland Ice Sheet." Holy cow - it's just like Gore warned us. Throw the words `large,' `rapid,' `melt-induced velocity changes' together in a title of an article in Science and expect to get some high-level media attention. However, once we dove into this article, we found an amazing twist given the threatening title, and we could not wait to feature the piece on World Climate Report.
To begin, the research was conducted by a large team with the Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research at Utrecht University, Netherlands; the authors state that "This work was supported by several grants from the Netherlands Organization of Scientific Research and the Netherlands Polar Programme."
van de Wal et al. focused their attention on measurements that are being made on the ice along the west coast of Greenland just north of the Arctic Circle (Figure 2). For the past 17 years, annual measurements have been made along the "K-transect" to measure movements of the ice sheet. However, they state "we started more detailed position measurements in 2005 by taking advantage of technological developments of GPS equipment and data processing. The new instruments record hourly position of stakes, which are drilled into the ice. The GPS (single-frequency) units need to be serviced only once in a year and deliver an ice velocity record with a temporal resolution of 1 day or better." To say the least, geospatial technologies are showing up everywhere in our lives from the family car to the golf course and now to our favorite transects in Greenland.
Probably the largest surprise in the article can be seen in the Figure 3 in which we can see the velocity changes at many sites over the 17-year period. The authors note that "The overall picture obtained by averaging all stake measurements at all sites for individual years indicates a small but significant (r=0.79, P < 0.05) decrease of 10% in the annual average velocity over 17 years". Despite all the talk about moulins, melting, rapid acceleration of ice, van der Wal et al. reveal that the ice movement in western Greenland over the past 17 years has . slowed significantly!
In discussing their results we find some very interesting language, to say the least. At one place they write "it has been suggested that the interaction between meltwater production and ice velocity provides a positive feedback, leading to a more rapid and stronger response of the ice sheet to climate warming than hitherto assumed. Our results are not quite in line with this view." At World Climate Report, we are far less polite, and instead of saying "our results are not quite in line with your view", we tend to say "our results suggest you are wrong"!
van der Wal et al. further write "Longer observational records with high temporal resolution in other ablation areas of the ice sheet are necessary to test the importance of the positive-feedback mechanism between melt rates and ice velocities. At present, we cannot conclude that this feedback is important." Again, we tend to say this moulin link to drowning the World Trade Center Memorial is nonsense, and the empirical evidence is overwhelmingly in our favor.
More here (See the original for links, graphics etc.)
Painful contortions from the alarmists at the National Snow and Ice Data Center
Warmists are good at saying everything is explained by Warming but they are beginning to sound desperate below in reporting the current cooling episode
As is normal for this time of year, ice extent increased rapidly through most of October. However, this year, the increase was particularly fast, which contributed to above-average air temperatures near the surface. A look back at the entire melt season from March through October reveals that the Arctic sea ice is showing some unusual changes in growth and melt cycles.....
October ice extent was 0.89 million square kilometers (0.34 million square miles) less than for the 1979 to 2000 average, but 1.63 million square kilometers (0.63 million square miles) greater than for October 2007.....
At its fastest point on October 15, the 2008 ice growth exceeded the 2007 growth rate on the same date by 92,000 square kilometers (36,000 square miles) per day. The near-record daily growth rate slowed toward the end of the month and has now fallen below the 2007 growth rate. It is important to reiterate this fast rate of growth is not unexpected under current conditions.....
Arctic sea ice and climate are behaving in ways not seen before in the satellite record-both in the rate and extent of ice loss during the spring and summer, and in the record ice growth rates and increased Arctic air heating during the fall and winter.
'Fixing' global warming called 'another meaningless promise'
Fellow Canadians, it's time to start thinking of "fixing" global warming the same way we do "ending" child poverty. Or "settling" native land claims. Or "shortening" medical wait times. Like these other issues, "fixing" global warming has become yet another meaningless promise that all politicians of all stripes will be paying lip service to in perpetuity. One they will spend billions of our dollars "fixing" year after year. To no avail.
In the end, "fixing" global warming will be a boon only to present and future generations of lobbyists, activists, consultants and other rent-seekers who will be, in the famous phrase coined by Tom Wolfe, "mau-mauing the flak catchers" into eternity. "Mau-mauers" are the professional whiners who perpetually haunt the corridors of federal, provincial and municipal governments, demanding ever-increasing amounts of our money to "fix" global warming.
In response, the "flak catchers" -- complicit and cowed politicians -- will keep shovelling our money out the door to appease them, although nothing will ever be "fixed," prompting new demands for more money.
Don't look to the media for help. They're still trying to explain why U.S. president-elect Barack Obama -- the guy they've been describing for months as the jolly green giant, who would leave Prime Minister Stephen Harper choking in the dust on global warming -- has a weaker climate change plan than Harper.
Yep. Harper's promising to reduce Canada's man-made greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to 3% below 1990 levels by 2020. Obama's only promising 1990 levels by 2020. Then again, both promises are nonsense because:
(a) neither Harper nor Obama can promise anything beyond one, four-year election cycle;
(b) both targets fall laughably short of what the Kyoto accord calls for;
(c) even if the handful of industrialized countries required to reduce emissions under Kyoto achieved their targets (most, including us, won't), the fact the developing world, led by China and India, is exempt means Kyoto actually guarantees GHG emissions will go up, not down;
(d) both Obama and Harper support a cap-and-trade market in carbon dioxide, which has been a fiasco in Europe, where emissions are rising.
On the "bright" side, if Al Gore is right and humanity has only a few decades to change its ways before unstoppable man-made global warming fries us or drowns us, then we're only looking at having to pay billions of dollars annually in worthless attempts to "fix" the climate, for a relatively short time. Which would in a twisted way be comforting, if Gore himself wasn't living an obscenely high-carbon consumption lifestyle, along with his celebrity friends, while lecturing the rest of us to take a vow of poverty, beyond the one we're already being force-fed because of the global recession.
And no, neither Gore nor his pals can wipe out their huge carbon footprints on the Earth by retroactively purchasing "carbon offsets," as they claim. Sorry. The only effective way to reduce your GHG emissions is not to emit them in the first place. Indeed, to paraphrase environmental journalist George Monbiot: "Every time someone dies as a result of floods in Bangladesh, every pseudo-environmentalist politician, movie star, rock star, rap star and professional athlete shopping on Rodeo Drive, should be dragged out of the store and drowned." After all, if we're going to be stupid about this, and, trust me, our politicians are, let's get serious.
"Coolest" is now a bad word
The global temperature has been cooling for the last couple of years -- with record cold weather being reported incessantly from numerous places worldwide -- so how do global warmers deal with that? By substituting "less warm" for "cool"! So instead of saying that 2008 will be the coolest year of the last 10 years, they say that it is the "least warm"! I kid you not. See below:
"This year is on track to be about the 10th warmest globally since records began in 1850 but gaps in Arctic data mean the world may be slightly underestimating global warming, a leading scientist said on Tuesday. A natural cooling of the Pacific Ocean known as La Nina kept a lid on temperatures in 2008 despite an underlying warming trend, said Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia in England. "This year is about 10th," he told Reuters in a telephone interview. "La Nina in the Pacific lasted longer than we envisaged."
Jones's unit is one of the main sources of global climate data for the United Nations. The warmest year on record was 1998, followed by 2005 and 2003, with other years this century closely bunched. Tenth place would make 2008 the least warm since 1999.
It takes a bit of seeing it through the propaganda but they are actually admitting that global warming stopped in 1998 -- which it did.
Australia: State Labor Party leaders opposing federal Labor over greenhouse plans
Premiers are in revolt over Kevin Rudd's plans for an emissions trading scheme, urging changes to the proposed formulas for compensating export industries to ensure they are not pushed offshore. The premiers of South Australia and Tasmania have written to the Prime Minister raising specific concerns about the design of the scheme, its impact on major industries and expressing fears that the ETS will spark major losses of jobs and revenue. Queensland, Victoria and the West Australian Liberal Government have raised concerns about the effects on emissions-intensive trade-exposed industries.
The concerns come as one of the world's largest petroleum companies warned that a $7billion gas project could literally be floated out of Australian waters to avoidthe impact of the Government's ETS. Woodside chief Don Voelte said the company would consider locating a floating LNG plant in Timor Leste waters to process gas from its Sunrise fields rather than pipe it to Darwin. "Carbon leakage; we'd be the first project that Australia could lose," Mr Voelte said.
Tasmanian Premier David Bartlett yesterday launched an extraordinary attack on the scheme, saying Mr Rudd and Climate Change Minister Penny Wong had "got it wrong" because they were penalising companies that used renewable energy. He also stepped up pressure on the federal Government to deliver on an election promise to introduce mandatory renewable energy targets.
Mr Bartlett told The Australian he wrote to the Prime Minister this week, requesting changes to the scheme to ensure global smelting giant Nyrstar did not close the doors of its Hobart zinc smelter. The company, which employs about 3000 people, warned on Wednesday the ETS would wipe $70 million a year off its bottom line, threatening the future of its operations in South Australia's Port Pirie as well as Hobart. "I wrote to him about the carbon pollution reduction scheme and the potential for perverse outcomes on Tasmanian trade-exposed industry such as Nyrstar," Mr Bartlett said.
He said he had urged the Prime Minister to reconsider the compensation formula, which was based on emissions per unit of revenue, as it failed to account for the "materiality of the carbon cost impact" on companies like Nyrstar. He also asked that companies receive recognition for using renewable energy sources, which were prevalent in Tasmania.
SA Premier Mike Rann revealed he had made submissions to the Prime Minister a month ago asking for "special exemptions" for Nyrstar. "We've made submissions to the federal Government to see if we can get some special exemptions for Nyrstar and I'm sure that will be sorted out," Mr Rann said. "The federal Government doesn't want to export jobs to another country. What it wants to do is to see companies transition to become much more energy-efficient and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions."
Senator Wong attempted to hose down concerns about Nyrstar and other trade-exposed companies, saying consultation on the scheme was still continuing. "The Government has considered and will continue to consider the views put to us by industry and by state governments," Senator Wong said. She has also been pressured from those within her party to change the ETS compensation formula. Parliamentary Secretary for Pacific Island Affairs Duncan Kerr, whose electorate takes in Nyrstar's Hobart smelter, said he had raised the company's concerns with Senator Wong, including "their argument about the metrics of (the compensation formula)", but the Government was still "some distance" from finalising the scheme.
Victorian Premier John Brumby warned the states expected to be fully consulted on the design of the ETS. "Our Government has made repeated and strong representations to the commonwealth on behalf of Victorian industries," a Brumby Government spokesman said. He said the Brumby Government had argued for one-off assistance to existing coal-fired generators and transitional assistance for trade-exposed businesses.
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