Monday, March 23, 2009

The latest alarmist concerns about sea level rise

Comment received by email from S.Fred Singer [], referring particularly to the recent Warmist conference in Copenhagen:

Apparently the IPCC-4 (2007) estimate for sea level rise by the year 2100 are now considered to be not catastrophic enough. As reported by the BBC, the preferred estimate seems to be 200 cm, about five times the median IPCC value and ten times the observed rate of rise over the last few centuries. The only justification given, in a paper published in Science, is a more rapid melting of glaciers and ice sheets from Greenland and Antarctic - all this in spite of the fact that no such events occurred during the Medieval Warm Period about 1000 years ago.

One member of this group, Shad O'Neel from the US Geological Survey, warns that even 18 cm/century might turn out to be catastrophic. He's apparently unaware of the fact that 18 cm/century is the ongoing rate of rise -- which implies no additional rise in sea level. In other words, the human influence is essentially zero.

Al Gore's documentary An Inconvenient Truth has received much criticism, and so has James Hansen, for implying that a rise of 20ft (6m) was possible in the near future. Their fond hopes have been dashed by recent publications on the "collapse" of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS). Apparently, it will slowly melt away in a few millennia - unless a new ice age intervenes. (But we have known this for more than a decade.)

Andrew Revkin (NYT) reports on two new papers in the journal Nature focusing on the WAIS. The paper by David Pollard at Penn State and Robert M. DeConto of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst provides an estimated time frame for the loss of ice that its authors say should be of some comfort. (If the entire WAIS melted, sea levels worldwide would rise more than 15 feet.)

They ran a five-million-year computer simulation, using data on past actual climate and ocean conditions gleaned from seabed samples (the subject of the other paper) to validate the resulting patterns. The bottom line? In this simulation, the ice sheet does collapse when waters beneath fringing ice shelves warm 7 to 9 degrees Fahrenheit or so, but the process at its fastest takes thousands of years. Overall, the pace of sea-level rise from the resulting ice loss doesn't go beyond about 1.5 feet per century, Dr. Pollard said in an interview, a far cry from what was thought possible a couple of decades ago.

The Maldives

The Maldives are a very low-lying set of Islands in the Indian ocean so sea-level rise worries those who live there. The following excerpt from the NYT seems to go along with the scare

The Maldives, a strand of coral atolls south of India, is just about the most tenuous country on Earth. No patch of land in the island chain, where the population has risen from 200,000 to 400,000 in the last 25 years, is more than six feet or so above sea level. Even modest projections for a rise in sea level from global warming would increase flooding from storm surges. A higher rise could render hundreds of islands uninhabitable.

That’s why the country has paid particularly close attention, since the early days of discussion of the issue, to scientists who warn of a growing human influence on climate and sea levels. On Sunday, the new president of the island nation, Mohamed Nasheed, prodded the world to get serious about cutting emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases by pledging, in a short piece in England’s Observer newspaper, to make the Maldives the first carbon-neutral country within a decade.

The announcement was made in the Maldives, but synchronized with the London premiere of “ The Age of Stupid,” a new film on global warming and oil that is a mix of documentary, dramatization and animation. (I haven’t seen it yet, but the description reminds me of the work of Randy Olson, particularly his mock documentary “ Sizzle.”) Officials in the Maldives made the decision after soliciting a report on how to cut fossil fuel use and otherwise trim the country’s climate footprint from Chris Goodall and Mark Lynas, British environmentalists and authors of books on energy and climate.

The proposal recommended a mix of wind turbines, rooftop photovoltaic panels and a backup power plant that burns coconut husks (coconut is a substantial export), among other steps. The estimated cost: about $1.1 billion over 10 years. But the new energy options could pay off in the long run by greatly reducing the country’s reliance on imported oil, the report concluded.


And there is some scientific basis for the scare. See the following paper:
Sea-level rise at tropical Pacific and Indian Ocean islands

By John A. Church et al.


Historical and projected sea-levels for islands in the tropical Pacific and Indian oceans are a subject of considerable interest and some controversy. The large variability (e.g. El Niño) signals and the shortness of many of the individual tide-gauge records contribute to uncertainty of historical rates of sea-level rise. Here, we determine rates of sea-level rise from tide gauges in the region. We also examine sea-level data from the TOPEX/Poseidon satellite altimeter and from a reconstruction of sea level in order to put the sparse (in space and time) tide-gauge data into context. For 1993 to 2001, all the data show large rates of sea-level rise over the western Pacific and eastern Indian Ocean (approaching 30 mm yr− 1) and sea-level falls in the eastern Pacific and western Indian Ocean (approaching − 10 mm yr− 1). Over the region 40°S to 40°N, 30°E to 120°W, the average rise is about 4 mm yr− 1. For 1950 to 2001, the average sea-level rise (relative to land) from the six longest tide-gauge records is 1.4 mm yr− 1. After correcting for glacial isostatic adjustment and atmospheric pressure effects, this rate is 2.0 mm yr− 1, close to estimates of the global average and regional average rate of rise. The long tide-gauge records in the equatorial Pacific indicate that the variance of monthly averaged sea-level after 1970 is about twice that before 1970. We find no evidence for the fall in sea level at the Maldives as postulated by Mörner et al. (2004). Our best estimate of relative sea-level rise at Funafuti, Tuvalu is 2 ± 1 mm yr− 1 over the period 1950 to 2001. The analysis clearly indicates that sea-level in this region is rising. We expect that the continued and increasing rate of sea-level rise and any resulting increase in the frequency or intensity of extreme sea-level events will cause serious problems for the inhabitants of some of these islands during the 21st century.


But the Church et al. paper has been rejected by Nils Axel Morner [], who is probably the world's leading expert on sea levels and who has published work showing no cause for alarm in the Maldives. His comments by email:

The paper by Church et al. represent desk-work at the computers. Tide gauges have to be treated with care. There are pitfalls both with respect to stability (compaction, etc) and cyclic patterns (disqualifying regressionline approaches).

Our Maldives story is based on multiple criteria: off-shore, on-shore, lagoonal, back-shore, swamp environment. Detailed morphology (in different environmental settings) is combined with stratigraphy and biological index + numerous C14-dates.


(1) Church was invited to speak in Copenhagen. Why? – because he said what they wanted to hear: a rise. Though field observations tell a totally different story

(2) The tree on the shore marking no rise in at least 50 years (Viligili Island, the Maldives) was by hand pulled down "by a group of Australian scientists" according to local obserations (2003). See: The Greatest Lie Ever Told (2007)

(3) I was the one (not Church or any other) who was awarded by the sea level community The Golden Condrite of Merit "for his irreverence and contribution to our understanding of sea-level change" This gives some sort of quality guarantee.

(4) So, why was I not invited to Copenhagen. Of course - because I would have told a story they didn't want to hear.

More Greenie misanthropy

The OPT is the descendant of the old ZPG movement and still features dinosaurs like Paul Ehrlich

JONATHON PORRITT, one of Gordon Brown’s leading green advisers, is to warn that Britain must drastically reduce its population if it is to build a sustainable society. Porritt’s call will come at this week’s annual conference of the Optimum Population Trust (OPT), of which he is patron. The trust will release research suggesting UK population must be cut to 30m if the country wants to feed itself sustainably.

Porritt said: “Population growth, plus economic growth, is putting the world under terrible pressure. “Each person in Britain has far more impact on the environment than those in developing countries so cutting our population is one way to reduce that impact.”

Population growth is one of the most politically sensitive environmental problems. The issues it raises, including religion, culture and immigration policy, have proved too toxic for most green groups. However, Porritt is winning scientific backing. Professor Chris Rapley, director of the Science Museum, will use the OPT conference, to be held at the Royal Statistical Society, to warn that population growth could help derail attempts to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Rapley, who formerly ran the British Antarctic Survey, said humanity was emitting the equivalent of 50 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year. “We have to cut this by 80%, and population growth is going to make that much harder,” he said.

Such views on population have split the green movement. George Monbiot, a prominent writer on green issues, has criticised population campaigners, arguing that “relentless” economic growth is a greater threat. Many experts believe that, since Europeans and Americans have such a lopsided impact on the environment, the world would benefit more from reducing their populations than by making cuts in developing countries. This is part of the thinking behind the OPT’s call for Britain to cut population to 30m — roughly what it was in late Victorian times.

Britain’s population is expected to grow from 61m now to 71m by 2031. Some politicians support a reduction. Phil Woolas, the immigration minister, said: “You can’t have sustainability with an increase in population.” The Tory leader, David Cameron, has also suggested Britain needs a “coherent strategy” on population growth.

Despite these comments, however, government and Conservative spokesmen this weekend both distanced themselves from any population policy. ”


British wave power project hits the rocks

Mechanical setbacks on a key project have come at the same time as the collapse of one of its backers

A pioneering 8m pound British green energy project has been halted because of a series of setbacks, including malfunctioning of the innovative equipment designed to turn wave energy into electricity and the financial collapse of one of the scheme’s backers. Pelamis Wave Power, based in Edinburgh, said its equipment had been towed back to shore in Portugal after it broke down. It will not be repaired immediately. Pelamis’s wave-energy converters are considered to be the most advanced of their kind, and the future of the technology is now in doubt.

If the problems persist they could threaten a similar deal between Pelamis and Eon, the energy group. The partnership was the first instance of a big utility ordering a wave-energy converter for installation in British waters. The equipment was to be tested off Scotland next year.

Energy analysts say the difficulties over the Portuguese project, named Agucadoura, call into the question the viability of this type of wave power. The technical problems were compounded by the collapse of Babcock & Brown, the Australian company that has a 77% stake in the project and which went into administration last week. “We are in limbo,” said Max Carcas at Pelamis. “We are progressing and sorting out some problems on a cash-manage-ment basis. But we can’t get the equipment back in the sea on our own.” Carcas was confident the project would continue but could not say when.

Agucadoura was launched amid a lot of hype last summer as a joint venture between Pelamis, Energias de Portugal (EDP), Efacec, the Portuguese electrical engineering company, and Babcock & Brown. The official unveiling in September was attended by the Portuguese economy minister. The venture was hailed as “the world’s first commercial wave-power project” and began transmitting electricity to the national grid.

Named after the sea snake Pelamis, each machine is 140 metres long, 3.5 metres wide and is partially submerged in the sea. The sections are linked by flexible joints and each section contains a hydraulic pump. The wave motion drives the pumps, which in turn work hydraulic motors that generate an electric current.

In the first phase, three Pelamis wave-energy converters were towed three miles out to sea with the aim of generating 2.25MW of power. If successful, a second phase was planned in which energy generation would rise to 21MW from a further 25 machines – enough to provide electricity for 15,000 Portuguese homes.

Even before the launch, though, the installation was plagued by problems. The date had to be set back after part of the structure sprang a leak. In November, after two months of generating electricity, the three converter units developed further problems and the apparatus had to be disconnected from the grid and towed back to shore. Then came the news about Babcock & Brown.

Anthony Kennaway at Babcock & Brown, said: “Our business is winding down over the next two years. Agucadoura is one of the assets that we hope to sell. “This is early-stage technology and you would expect the machines to be in and out of the water. It would be deeply disappointing if people start writing it off at this stage.”

The problems in Portugal cast a shadow over plans to repeat the experiment in trials at the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney. Last month Eon announced that it had ordered a more advanced P2 machine from Pelamis which, at 180 metres long, is about 40 metres longer than the Pelamis units in Portugal. It will be built at Pelamis’s Leith Docks facility in Edinburgh.

Both companies claim that the deal will go ahead. A spokesman for Eon said: “We still expect to be the first utility company to test a full-size wave-powered generating plant in UK waters. But we have to bear in mind that this technology is in its early stages. It’s where wind power was a decade ago.”

The failure of the Portuguese project highlights the problems engineers have in attempting to harness the power of the sea to create renewable energy. It could also put a question mark over the future of wave energy in the EU’s plan to get 20% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

Ian Fells of Newcastle University, who has his own energy consultancy, said: “Wave power is very immature and very expensive compared with other renewable resources because you have to overengineer it to cope with extremes of weather. “We have to get these things in perspective. Throughout the world wave power generates about 10MW of electricity. You would need something like 10,000 wave power units to replace one nuclear power station.”


Michael Steele: ‘We Are Not Warming’

The Republican National Committee Chairman, Michael Steele, has weighed in on climate change.

In a March 6 radio appearance that is only now percolating through the blogosphere, Mr. Steele apparently fielded a skeptic’s question about global warming. As transcribed by The Huffington Post, a liberal site, Mr. Steele thanked the questioner and replied this way:
We are cooling. We are not warming. The warming you see out there, the supposed warming, and I am using my finger quotation marks here, is part of the cooling process. Greenland, which is now covered in ice, it was once called Greenland for a reason, right? Iceland, which is now green. Oh I love this. Like we know what this planet is all about. How long have we been here? How long? No very long.

Mr. Steele -– the originator of the “drill baby drill” slogan that dominated last year’s Republican National Convention — appears to be aligning himself with Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, also a Republican, who has denounced the idea of a global warming catastrophe as “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people,” and said that many of the Obama administration’s early moves amounted to “environmental thuggery.”

Representative John Boehner, the House minority leader, has described cap-and-trade as a “carbon tax that increases taxes on all Americans who drive a car, who have a job, who turn on a light switch.”

Many other Republicans argue that climate change is real and needs to be addressed. Sen. John McCain, the presidential nominee last year, is one of the original architects of a Congressional cap-and-trade bill, though he forcefully opposes the Obama administration’s plan to auction off emissions allowances to polluters (Mr. McCain would prefer to give the initial allowances away free).

Jon Huntsman, the Republican governor of Utah, also favors a cap-and-trade system for limiting carbon emissions, as mentioned in this New York Times profile. So does Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California.

In Washington, however, many say it is not Republicans, but the coal-state Democrats in the Senate, who will decide the fate of any cap-and-trade bill.


That global warming sure is pesky

Camelback ski resort in PA has longest season

Today, Monday, March 23, 2009, Camelback Mountain Resort is proud to announce that it has matched the record for its longest season in history. Camelback is excited to set a new mark tomorrow, and invites all skiers and riders to celebrate this historic milestone on Wednesday with some sensational pricing. In recognition of this notable "Hump Day" and the 124th day of the season, Camelback will offer a special $12.40 lift ticket.

Officially, Camelback anticipates drawing a new line in the snow on Saturday, April 4, 2009 - which Camelback expects to be its 130th day of operation for the 2008-2009 season. This record-setting accomplishment will also be observed with noteworthy specials throughout the resort, highlighted by an incredible $9.99 lift ticket.

"This is a great time for Camelback," comments Arthur Berry, President of Camelback Mountain Resort. Berry continues, "Obviously, we are proud of the internal accomplishment and it's a great tribute to our snowmaking team - many of whom have been doing it since I started skiing here in high school." Berry concludes, "Perhaps more significant this year, an extended ski season positively impacts the regional economy, driving tourism and providing jobs."

For some historical perspective on this feat, consider that when Camelback first opened its doors, The Beatles had just released "I Want to Hold Your Hand," at age 23, Jack Nicklaus won his first of six Masters Championships, and Dr. King delivered his famous, "I Have a Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Furthermore, the last time that skiers and riders enjoyed this much time on the snow at Camelback; Bill Clinton had just been sworn in and the "Storm of the Century"- the Blizzard of '93 - had just hammered the east coast with record snowfalls from Alabama to Canada.



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