The most shocking revelation to me from the "leaked" Heartland documents is how little money they receive to do the massive tasks they undertake. I therefore urge readers to donate something to help them. The donation page is here. As I am always one to put my money where my mouth is, I have just sent them $2,500, although I am nowhere near being "rich" as defined by Obama.
Heartland fisks the NYT
The hate-oozing NYT story here. Heartland comments in square brackets
Leaked documents suggest that an organization known for attacking climate science
[Actually, we’ve produced more sound research on climate change than all but a very small number of very elite government and university-based organizations. Climate Change Reconsidered alone is 2 volumes totaling more than 1,200 pages of pure science and economic analysis.]
is planning a new push to undermine the teaching of global warming in public schools,
[Actually, we’re trying to make the “teaching of global warming” much more rigorous by replacing propaganda and agenda-driven rhetoric with real science]
the latest indication that climate change is becoming a part of the nation’s culture wars.
[“Culture wars”? we aren’t part of the religious right!! I suspect the reporter has a key programmed to spit out this line whenever writing about a “conservative” group!]
The documents, from a nonprofit organization in Chicago called the Heartland Institute, outline plans to promote a curriculum that would cast doubt on the scientific finding that fossil fuel emissions endanger the long-term welfare of the planet. “Principals and teachers are heavily biased toward the alarmist perspective,” one document said.
[Actually, we’re sharing the real opinions of real scientists on the causes, consequences, and likely future trajectory of climate change, and of economists and other policy experts on what should be done about it, if anything. And of course principals and teachers are biased… most are liberal Democrats, and large majorities of liberal Democrats believe in man-made global warming.]
While the documents offer a rare glimpse of the internal thinking motivating the campaign against climate science, defenders of science education were preparing for battle even before the leak. Efforts to undermine climate-science instruction are beginning to spread across the country, they said, and they fear a long fight similar to that over the teaching of evolution in public schools.
[“A rare glimpse”? We’ve been completely open about our efforts to oppose global warming alarmism, writing repeatedly about it in our newsletter the Heartlander, in our monthly public policy newspaper Environment & Climate News, in the prefaces of the two volumes of Climate Change Reconsidered, and many other places. The lamestream media have censored us, completely refused to report on our activities, and now they report a “rare glimpse” of what we’re up to? Please! We’ve hosted 6 international conferences attended by over 3,000 people. I’ve given opening remarks at every one. What we are doing is no secret, in fact has been highly effective.]
In a statement, the Heartland Institute acknowledged that some of its internal documents had been stolen. But it said its president had not had time to read the versions being circulated on the Internet on Tuesday and Wednesday and was therefore not in a position to say whether they had been altered.
Heartland did declare one two-page document to be a forgery, although its tone and content closely matched that of other documents that the group did not dispute.
[This is a false statement that we will demand be retracted. There is no “match.” The forged memo attributes motives and describes projects that are purely mythical and totally false.]
In an apparent confirmation that much of the material, more than 100 pages, was authentic, the group apologized to donors whose names became public as a result of the leak.
[We are apologizing because some donors were named, not because the document is authentic. We do not yet know if this document, and others that were stolen, have been modified before they were posted.]
The documents included many details of the group’s operations, including salaries, recent personnel actions and fund-raising plans and setbacks. They were sent by e-mail to leading climate activists this week by someone using the name “Heartland insider” and were quickly reposted to many climate-related Web sites.
[The stolen and forged documents were immediately posted, apparently by DeSmogBlog within HOURS of the forged document being written, with no effort made to contact us to assess their authenticity. Some were plainly marked “confidential,” and they were obviously stolen documents. It was an extreme lapse of journalistic ethics, and in some cases probably a criminal act, for many bloggers and “journalists” to do this. DeSmogBlog continues to keep the documents on its Web site.]
Heartland said the documents were not from an insider but were obtained by a caller pretending to be a board member of the group who was switching to a new e-mail address. “We intend to find this person and see him or her put in prison for these crimes,” the organization said.
Although best-known nationally for its attacks on climate science, Heartland styles itself as a libertarian organization with interests in a wide range of public-policy issues. The documents say that it expects to raise $7.7 million this year.
[“Styles itself”? We in fact address a wide range of topics, and always have. Our work on climate change is less than a quarter of our annual budget. We are major players on school reform, health care reform, and telecom issues. Geeze!]
The documents raise questions about whether the group has undertaken partisan political activities, a potential violation of federal tax law governing nonprofit groups. For instance, the documents outline “Operation Angry Badger,” a plan to spend $612,000 to influence the outcome of recall elections and related fights this year in Wisconsin over the role of public-sector unions.
[We are doing educational programs on Wisconsin’s collective bargaining reform, which is obviously within our 501(c)3 designation.]
Tax lawyers said Wednesday that tax-exempt groups were allowed to undertake some types of lobbying and political education, but that because they are subsidized by taxpayers, they are prohibited from direct involvement in political campaigns.
[Absolutely nothing in the memo suggested or implied “direct involvement in political campaigns.” This is a red herring, a slur masquerading as an “observation.”]
The documents also show that the group has received money from some of the nation’s largest corporations, including several that have long favored action to combat climate change.
The documents typically say that those donations were earmarked for projects unrelated to climate change, like publishing right-leaning newsletters on drug and technology policy. Nonetheless, several of the companies hastened on Wednesday to disassociate themselves from the organization’s climate stance.
“We absolutely do not endorse or support their views on the environment or climate change,” said Sarah Alspach, a spokeswoman for GlaxoSmithKline, a multinational drug company shown in the documents as contributing $50,000 in the past two years to support a medical newsletter.
A spokesman for Microsoft, another listed donor, said that the company believes that “climate change is a serious issue that demands immediate worldwide action.” The company is shown in the documents as having contributed $59,908 last year to a Heartland technology newsletter. But the Microsoft spokesman, Mark Murray, said the gift was not a cash contribution but rather the value of free software, which Microsoft gives to thousands of nonprofit groups.
[Gosh, maybe Heartland really does devote three-quarters of its efforts to issues other than global warming, which is why three-quarters of its donors have no interest in global warming. But no, that possibility was rejected earlier.]
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the Heartland documents was what they did not contain: evidence of contributions from the major publicly traded oil companies, long suspected by environmentalists of secretly financing efforts to undermine climate science.
[The one and only completely truthful line in this article.]
But oil interests were nonetheless represented. The documents say that the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation contributed $25,000 last year and was expected to contribute $200,000 this year. Mr. Koch is one of two brothers who have been prominent supporters of libertarian causes as well as other charitable endeavors. They control Koch Industries, one of the country’s largest private companies and a major oil refiner.
[Why not report, as others have, that the $25,000 gift was earmarked for our work on health care, not climate change? Or that the increase is similarly expected to be earmarked for health care reform?]
The documents suggest that Heartland has spent several million dollars in the past five years in its efforts to undermine climate science, much of that coming from a person referred to repeatedly in the documents as “the Anonymous Donor.” A guessing game erupted Wednesday about who that might be.
[Our mission is not to “undermine climate science,” and even a superficial examination of our corpus of work should persuade anyone with half a brain that we are sincere. Our mission is to report climate science (and economics) more objectively than the environmentalists and left-wing nuts who are using the issue to support their legislative agendas.]
The documents say that over four years ending in 2013, the group expects to have spent some $1.6 million on financing the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, an entity that publishes periodic reports attacking climate science and holds lavish annual conferences. (Environmental groups refer to the conferences as “Denialpalooza.”)
[It’s astounding that this would appear in a “news” story. We are not “attacking climate science,” we are defending it from advocates of an unrelated social and economic agenda. The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate change (NIPCC) does not “host lavish annual conferences.” I’m not sure it has ever held a conference. Heartland, though, has hosted 6 international conferences. And the only organization that calls these conferences “Denialpalooza” is DeSmogBlog, which is not an environmental group but a for-profit PR firm created to attack conservatives and libertarians.]
Heartland’s latest idea, the documents say, is a plan to create a curriculum for public schools intended to cast doubt on mainstream climate science and budgeted at $200,000 this year. The curriculum would claim, for instance, that “whether humans are changing the climate is a major scientific controversy.”
It is in fact not a scientific controversy. The vast majority of climate scientists say that emissions generated by humans are changing the climate and putting the planet at long-term risk, although they are uncertain about the exact magnitude of that risk. Whether and how to rein in emissions of greenhouse gases has become a major political controversy in the United States, however.
[The first clause is simply false. No survey of climate scientists exists that supports this claim. The second part is honest – there is extensive uncertainty about how much risk and whether it merits action. This is a rare admission by the New York Times.]
The National Center for Science Education, a group that has had notable success in fighting for accurate teaching of evolution in the public schools, has recently added climate change to its agenda in response to pleas from teachers who say they feel pressure to water down the science.
[Great, another left-wing organization wants to politicize curriculum. Heartland has never commented on the teaching of evolution, and we want to upgrade, not “water down,” how climate is taught in schools.]
Received via email
The leaked "Heartland" documents have certainly showed us SOME things -- about the dimness, dishonesty and inconsistency of Warmists
It looks increasingly like the Heartland Institute strategy document that is making gleeful rounds of climate alarm blogs is a fake — Heartland claims it is such, and details about the document and its metadata seem to confirm this. But just because a document is fake does not mean there is not a lot to learn from it, both about its authors and the reaction of those who received it. I want to offer two bits of learning from this episode.
One reason I am fairly certain the document is fake is this line from the supposed skeptic strategy document: "His effort will focus on providing curriculum that shows that the topic of climate change is controversial and uncertain – two key points that are effective at dissuading teachers from teaching science."
For those of us at least somewhat inside the tent of the skeptic community, particularly the science-based ones Heartland has supported in the past, the goal of “dissuading teachers from teaching science” is a total disconnect. I have never had any skeptic in even the most private of conversations even hint at such a goal. The skeptic view is that science education vis a vis climate and other environmental matters tends to be shallow, or one-sided, or politicized — in other words broken in some way and needing repair. In this way, most every prominent skeptic that works even a bit in the science/data end of things believes him or herself to be supporting, helping, and fixing science. In fact, many skeptics believe that the continued positive reception of catastrophic global warming theory is a function of the general scientific illiteracy of Americans and points to a need for more and better science education
The only people who believe skeptics are anti-science per se, and therefore might believe skeptics would scheme to dissuade teachers from teaching science, are the more political alarmists (a good example was posted today right here at Forbes, which you might want to contrast with this). For years, I presume partially in an effort to avoid debate, certain alarmists have taken the ad hominem position that skeptics are anti-science. And many probably well-meaning alarmists believe this about skeptics (since they may have not actually met any skeptics to know differently). The person who wrote this fake memo almost had to be an alarmist, and probably was of the middling, more junior sort, the type of person who does not craft the talking points but is a recipient of them and true believer.
Coming back to the the Heartland papers, let’s consider in this context of media mono-culture the example of Andy Revkin. Revkin is a journalist at the New York Times and proprietor of the Dot Earth blog, which frequently discusses climate issues. A couple of years ago Mr. Revkin refused to publish anything from the infamous “Climategate” emails (consisting of communications mainly between a number of scientists at and associated with East Anglia University on their climate work). He argued that these were stolen documents and he was not going to post any of them. Fair enough. But just this week, after having the documents in his hands for just a few minutes, Revkin immediately began tweeting out and publishing details of the stolen Heartland documents.
What’s the difference? Perhaps there is some reason I have not yet heard that made one fair game and one off-limits. But it certainly appears that Revkin, who is undeniably sympathetic to the alarmist side, made this decision based on his “biases” rather than any real news difference.
Don’t misunderstand me — I don’t have a problem with the New York Times employing an opinion blogger with an opinion, or that this opinion is different than mine. But it appears that the New York Times missed a big story (Climategate) and got suckered by a fake story (Heartland) because no one in the Times has a worldview on climate much different from Revkin’s.
Postscript #2: If the strategy memo turns out to be fake as I believe it to be, I am starting the countdown now for the Dan-Rather-esque “fake but accurate” defense of the memo — ie, “Well, sure, the actual document was faked but we all know it represents what these deniers are really thinking.” This has become a mainstay of post-modern debate, where facts matter less than having the politically correct position.
Update #1: Is Revkin himself seeking to win my fake-but-accurate race? When presented with the fact that he may have published a fake memo, Revkin wrote: "looking back, it could well be something that was created as a way to assemble the core points in the batch of related docs".
It sounds like he is saying that while the memo is faked, it may have been someones attempt to summarize real Heartland documents. Fake but accurate! By the way, I don’t think he has any basis for this supposition, as no other documents have come to light with stuff like “we need to stop teachers from teaching science.”
Update #2: Megan McArdle has this observation about the style of the strategy memo in question
"The memo, by contrast, uses more negative language about the efforts it’s describing, while trying to sound like they think it’s positive. It’s like the opposition political manifestos found in novels written by stolid ideologues; they can never quite bear (or lack the imagination) to let the villains have a good argument. Switch the names, and the memo could have been a page ripped out of State of Fear or Atlas Shrugged. Basically, it reads like it was written from the secret villain lair in a Batman comic. By an intern."
Like I said, useful, though not to understand Heartland’s world view, but to understand that of certain alarmists.
Hey Media – Skeptics are Scientists Too
I suppose I’m old enough not to be surprised by the behavior of the media anymore, but this garbage coverage of the Heartland scandal has done it again. The media has flatly ignored that the point of the funding for SKEPTICS was to put the temperature data on line. That’s it!! Put it up where people without a computer background can plot it, see it and understand it. How is that nefarious or anti-science in any way? I’ll answer – it isn’t!
You don’t have to wonder why blogs exist and why Fox News is taking over the news market. People want information, not distortions. Every article I run across has the same tone, the same ‘gotcha’ punch lines about skeptics and the poor naive scientists who were misrepresented in Climategate. They feed this garbage to the public in droves and wonder why their ad revenues drop like stones. It isn’t the paper or internet which is killing the media, it is what they put on it.
So when it is shown that the ‘primary’ leaked Heartland document with the main message is a complete forgery, where are the media reporters now? Where are the retractions? How about a simple investigation of the headers?
In the same place that the nefarious act of publishing the NOAA temperature data is. In the circular bin or the janitorial closet of the New York Times where it won’t see the light of day. There is no need to apologize to conservative groups after all, only to groups that push the correct politics like Media Matters or GreenPeace.
Even though I am regularly disappointed with the biased media coverage of things like Climategate, this time the unprofessional behavior is pretty special. They are only attacking the report because a small amount of money is being donated to a climate skeptic blogger who just happens to be a weather professional!! There is no attempt by the media to recognize that the money was to be put to use to place the primary data, the temperature data so central to the AGW message, on line. Any motivation on the part of the individual after that should be moot. The media and propaganda blogs like DeSmog should be proud to have the dataset on line and pleased that Heartland would invest that money for the common good.
We all should recognize that putting the information on line in a usable fashion, is a strongly pro-science endeavor.
When we read media articles about skeptics, they typically paint us as though we are non-technical, uninformed and motivated by our politics over our minds. “Skeptics need to get real, and do something about climate”, they say. This is despite the in-your-face reality that the IPCC represents exactly those political qualities. The truth is that most of us are technical people from other fields who like to discuss the details of the data and many have realized that there just isn’t much to be alarmed about! Climate Science has failed to alarm us. We are chemists, engineers, programmers, physicists, astronomers, medical professionals, meteorologists, statisticians and even climate scientists. We are not the ones who are uninformed in the debate, we are the ones who are qualified to read the science and where appropriate – disagree. Since we are unfunded by the government for climate and often better statisticians, I would even say we are more qualified to judge the science than those embroiled in the highly funded political morass of “getting the world to do something”. See Real Climate blog for a perfect example of the politics behind climate science.
We read articles from advocate media every day. They are very consistent, and very wrong about people like Anthony Watts. Not much exposes the bias of Climate Science more than the media-wide unabashed smear campaign against him for doing the right thing with data.
I guess I’m still not so jaded that I cannot be surprised. They keep working on it though.
I Heart Heartland
by Roy W. Spencer, Ph. D.
The unauthorized release of supposedly scandalous Heartland Institute documents has been pretty thoroughly addressed on many blogs over the last day or so. The documents are being used in an attempt to “expose” a “well-funded” “climate denial machine”, which is laughable on several levels.
The only document involved that could be viewed as damning in any way is almost certainly a fake. The others are fairly boring, unless you really are surprised that any organization would take (very modest) donations to explore alternative hypotheses on the subject of global warming and climate change.
Supporting alternative hypotheses in science…what a scandal!
Only fringe lunatic save-the-Earth-by-killing-everyone-but-me types could really believe that any organization would actually promote “dissuading teachers from teaching science”. The person who wrote this obviously fraudulent Heartland goal clearly knows little about science or what kind of organization Heartland is.
That so many media outlets (especially the Guardian) ran with the story without checking its veracity is another black eye for what passes as journalism these days.
I know Joe Bast, the president and CEO of Heartland. He is of the highest character and intelligence, and I would consider his motives on the climate subject to be at or above anyone I have met in this business, on either side of the issue. This is why I agree to take part in the Heartland climate conferences, for less than half of my normal speaking fee. I don’t necessarily agree with all the science and ideas presented there, but I would rather it be presented and discussed than be censored, which is the U.N. IPCC’s modus operandi.
The last conference even showcased a debate between me (a “luke-warmer”, I’m told) and a scientist-supporter of the IPCC position. That’s a level of openness you will not find on the IPCC’s side of the issue.
The real scandal is that it took a private organization like Heartland to compile the hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific publications which suggest that increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere might not be a problem for humanity or the biosphere. This is what the IPCC should have done, if it had any scientific objectivity.
I hope that this hoax backfires on the person who started it. I hope it leads to even more donations to Heartland, which has played the role of David in its battle against the Goliath multi-billion dollar climate alarmist machine.
International Scientists & Economists Expose Biofuels Boondoggle
The insanity of the biofuel boondoggle is devastatingly exposed in coordinated new action by international scientists and economists. Over 200 experts with Phd's in climate, energy and economics have put their names to a damning statement issued to European policymakers to abandon biofuels and avert a spiraling worldwide food crisis (H/T: Dr. Matthias Kleespies).
The backdrop to the latest plea for sanity is a 21st Century world of cooling temperatures and extraordinarily vast new oil and gas finds that confound last century 'peak oil' and man-made global warming fears. The experts' letter to the European Commission entitled, 'International Scientists and Economists Statement on Biofuels and Land Use' urges the EC to "recognize and account for indirect land use change impacts as a part of the lifecycle analyses of heat-trapping emissions from biofuels."
Planet Suffers Seven Percent Loss of Arable Land Due to Biofuels
Scientists are concerned that the unintended consequence of the mad rush to biofuels has inflicted a crippling loss of 7 percent of arable land to food production causing the price of basic foodstuffs to rocket in third world nations. They are issuing this heartfelt public plea for other concerned scientists to come forward and be counted by adding their names to their EC letter.
As land used for food or feed production is turned over to growing biofuel crops, agriculture has had to expand elsewhere. This has caused a totally avoidable new rush towards deforestation and destruction of other ecosystems, particularly in tropical regions in the developing world, according to the statement published by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
Last year, after an alert from Canadian geophysicist, Norm Kalmanovitch, my report that a whopping 6.5 percent of the world’s grain is now permanently stripped from the global food supply went viral ( see: Global Warming Fraud Creates Third World Food Crisis').
Such a catastrophic cut in food supply can trigger a tipping point so that Third World hunger explodes into mass starvation. But what caused this?
The answer lies enshrined in the now discredited Kyoto Protocol, the global warming treaty that required world governments to reduce their reliance on hydrocarbon fuels and to cut emissions of carbon dioxide. However, 50 leading climate experts insist that our planet is in the midst of a stubborn cooling trend.
Global Cooling & Huge New Hydrocarbon Finds Invalidate Biofuels
So with global temperatures falling naturally this century there is no longer any compelling reason to impose starvation on the world's poor by creating an unnecessary 85 billion liters of ethanol fuel per annum to appease the dictates of the discredited UN Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change.
Add to this the fact that the world has suddenly discovered huge new reservoirs of extractable cheap oil and gas and any non-expert can readily join the dots to see that peak oil is as bogus a Chicken Little scare story as catastrophic man-made global warming.
This scandalous sham is still being propped up by the beneficiaries of these scare stories: the mega corporatists (that insidious 'one percent' ) and ecological extremist hell bent on human depopulation.
In essence, basic food staples are being remorselessly removed from the global food supply for no other reason other than to serve the misguided selfish interests of a global elite. Canadian Kalmanovitch laments, " the wealthier portion of the world’s 6.6 billion people end up paying substantially more for their food but the poor simply starve, making this Kyoto Accord a true “crime against humanity” and those who have fabricated the false science on which this crime is based are therefore guilty of being complicit in this “crime against humanity."
The UCS is thus appealing to all scientists working in related specialisms who possess key insight on this matter to add their signatures to their letter to signify a powerful message to policymakers to bring to an end the insanity of biofuels and the devastating plunder of agricultural land.
If you are a concerned scientist and wish to make your opinion known then please sign here.
Greenland Glacier Cycle Found -- a natural fluctuation
Many of the more strident reports regarding runaway global warming center on rapid ice loss from the glaciers of Greenland. During the early 2000s the Greenland Ice Sheet experienced the largest ice-mass loss since accurate instrument readings have been kept. This was largely caused by the acceleration, thinning and retreat of large outlet glaciers in West and southeast Greenland. Now a new study in Nature Geoscience confirms that ice loss from the Helheim Glacier between 2003 and 2005 was the worst recorded—at least since the last period of rapid ice loss during the late 1930s.
We have all heard the reports by climate change alarmists, claiming that the glaciers of Greenland are losing ice at an accelerating rate—a sure indication of our impending doom as a result of anthropogenic global warming. A report in the journal Nature Geoscience by Camilla S. Andresen, et al., entitled “Rapid response of Helheim Glacier in Greenland to climate variability over the past century,” has confirmed that ice lost from some glaciers did, indeed, hit a peak during the last decade, even if the causes of this change in iceflow are not known. Quoting from the report:
The forcings behind the rapid increase in mass loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet in the early 2000s are still debated. It is unclear whether the mass loss will continue in the near future and, if so, at what rate. These uncertainties are a consequence of our limited understanding of mechanisms regulating ice-sheet variability and the response of fast-flowing outlet glaciers to climate variability. In southeast Greenland, Helheim Glacier, one of the regions largest glaciers, thinned, accelerated and retreated during the period 2003–2005 and although it has since slowed down and re-advanced, it has still not returned to its pre-acceleration flow rates.
The authors' work is based on sediments that have collected over time in the fjord below the glacier. From three core samples (see the illustration below), the researchers were able to construct a continuous history going back 120 years. By studying the debris and silt deposited in the fjord, estimations can be made about the rate of iceberg calving, and hence ice loss from the flowing ice of the glacier. As the authors' put it: “The massive diamicton facies in the cores is produced by delivery of heterogeneous debris from drifting icebergs, commonly referred to as ice-rafted debris (IRD; clay, silt, sand and pebbles), and the down-fjord diminishing input of fine mud (clay and silt) suspended in the turbid meltwater plume extending from the base of Helheim Glacier. This lithofacies interpretation is in accordance with the findings from other East Greenland fjords with marine-terminating glaciers”
The annual calving rate dominates the IRD deposition rates, but the report mostly concentrated on sand. “we propose that increased sand deposition reflects increased iceberg calving from Helheim Glacier and to a far lesser extent also from the Midgaard and Fenris glaciers,” the authors' state. The sand deposition rates from the three cores vary both in magnitude and variability, as can be seen in the figure below, taken from the paper.
After interpreting the data from all three sites, the researchers were able to create a history of ice loss for Helheim. As can be seen from the plot above, there loss of ice has varied quite a bit over the last 120 years, with a notable spike around 1939.
The reconstructed 120-year-long calving record from Helheim Glacier shows calving maxima and minima lasting 2–5 years and often bundled into longer episodes of 5–10 years. Two pronounced calving maxima are observed: one during the past 10 years, the other in the late 1930s/early 1940s. The long-term calving increase is probably due to a shift from the Little Ice Age conditions, which were characterized by low air temperatures and strong polar-water influence in the Denmark Strait region and ended after AD 1900 here.
The uncomfortable question for the climate alarmists is why was there a peak of ice loss matching today's rate before the great rise in atmospheric CO2? The answer of course is that it isn't global warming that is driving the ever changing ice loss from Greenland's glaciers. Here is how the authors' put it:
Our analysis indicates that the recent increase in calving activity observed at Helheim Glacier is not unique but that a similarly large event occurred in the late 1930s/early 1940s. These two episodes occurred at times when the temperature of the Atlantic-water source was high (positive/warm Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation phase) and the polar-water export was at a record low (even if fluctuating). The NAO index was also frequently negative, but not markedly more than during many of the other calving episodes. Interestingly, both episodes are characterized by record high summer temperatures since 1895 (1939, 1941 and 2003). These conditions probably resulted in increased surface and submarine melt that may have contributed to the marked mass loss from Helheim Glacier.
Here NAO is short for North Atlantic Oscillation, a climatic phenomenon in the North Atlantic Ocean characterized by fluctuations in the difference of atmospheric pressure at sea level between the Icelandic low and the Azores high. Through east-west oscillation motions of the Icelandic low and the Azores high, it controls the strength and direction of westerly winds and storm tracks across the North Atlantic and is closely related to the Arctic Oscillation (AO). The authors' conclude, “Our study provides evidence that Helheim Glacier responds to changes in atmosphere–ocean variability on timescales as short as a few years.”
Like many other natural climate patterns—the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the El Niño Southern Oscillation, the Interdecadal Pacific Oscillation, etc—the NAO is not reliably periodic like the changing of the seasons, but oscillate it does. Indeed, they all do. This means that most any set of conditions caused by these large patterns has happened before and will happen again, and again. And that is the trap that the climate change cheerleaders have fallen into here: the rapid loss of ice from Greenland's glaciers was not a sign of something “unprecedented,” as is so often claimed. No, it was just another episode in our ever changing climate.
Even more troubling than the over-hyping of natural variation by lay-idiots like Al Gore is the seeming blindness that many mainstream climate scientists have for long-term climate variation. It is almost as if any change that has not happened before in a researcher's lifetime is automatically “unprecedented.” Climate science could certainly benefit from a longer term perspective.
The fact of the matter is that there are many interacting and related oscillating patterns that drive the world's climate, and science is far from being able to make accurate long-term predictions based on our current knowledge. Currently the AO has handed most of the US an amazingly mild winter, attributed to global warming by the ignorant. At the same time, parts of Europe are about to experience the coldest winter conditions in memory. There is nothing abnormal about any of this. So the next time some know-nothing blatherskite tries to tell you melting glaciers in Greenland prove global warming tell them to check out the records from 1939.
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