Friday, February 22, 2013

New paper finds Antarctica has been gaining surface ice mass over past 150 years

A paper published today in The Cryosphere finds Antarctica has been gaining surface ice and snow accumulation over the past 150+ years, and finds acceleration in some areas noting, "a clear increase in accumulation of more than 10% has occurred in high Surface Mass Balance coastal regions and over the highest part of the East Antarctic ice divide since the 1960s."

Furthermore, the paper notes, "Global climate models suggest that Antarctic snowfall should increase in a warming climate and mitigate rises in the sea level."

 According to the paper, Antarctic surface ice mass is presently growing by 2100 gigatons per year.  Even the allegedly "vulnerable" West Antarctic Ice Sheet [WAIS] surface mass balance has not changed in 150+ years.
A synthesis of the Antarctic surface mass balance during the last 800 yr

By M. Frezzotti et al.


Global climate models suggest that Antarctic snowfall should increase in a warming climate and mitigate rises in the sea level. Several processes affect surface mass balance (SMB), introducing large uncertainties in past, present and future ice sheet mass balance. To provide an extended perspective on the past SMB of Antarctica, we used 67 firn/ice core records to reconstruct the temporal variability in the SMB over the past 800 yr and, in greater detail, over the last 200 yr.

Our SMB reconstructions indicate that the SMB changes over most of Antarctica are statistically negligible and that the current SMB is not exceptionally high compared to the last 800 yr. High-accumulation periods have occurred in the past, specifically during the 1370s and 1610s. However, a clear increase in accumulation of more than 10% has occurred in high SMB coastal regions and over the highest part of the East Antarctic ice divide since the 1960s.

To explain the differences in behaviour between the coastal/ice divide sites and the rest of Antarctica, we suggest that a higher frequency of blocking anticyclones increases the precipitation at coastal sites, leading to the advection of moist air in the highest areas, whereas blowing snow and/or erosion have significant negative impacts on the SMB at windy sites. Eight hundred years of stacked records of the SMB mimic the total solar irradiance during the 13th and 18th centuries. The link between those two variables is probably indirect and linked to a teleconnection in atmospheric circulation that forces complex feedback between the tropical Pacific and Antarctica via the generation and propagation of a large-scale atmospheric wave train.

The Cryosphere, 7, 303-319, 2013

Where were the appeals to feed starving polar bears in 1974?

Pesky!  It is COLD that is bad for polar bears

The so-called “policy paper” that polar bear biologist Andrew Derocher has been promoting over the last few weeks, which I commented on briefly when the press release came out, is still grabbing headlines. Online news outlets continue to run stories on this bizarre discussion of what officials might decide to do 40 years from now if global warming causes Western Hudson Bay polar bears to spend 6 months on land (Molnar et al. 2010), causing some of those polar bears to starve (see here, here, and here) – as if this is something likely to happen within the next couple of years.

But forget imagined future starvation: where was the media attention on the plight of starving polar bears back in 1974  and 1975 when polar bears were actually starving in large numbers in the eastern Beaufort Sea?

At least two of the co-authors of the paper getting all the attention – Drs. Ian Stirling and Nick Lunn – witnessed polar bears starving in the Beaufort in 1974 because of an especially cold winter and said nothing – even though polar bear populations worldwide at the time were already low due to the wanton slaughter of previous decades. Did Stirling and Lunn humanely euthanize the bears they saw starving? Contact the media? [If they did, I’d like to know.] Appeal to governments to make a plan in case it happened again? Apparently not, because it did happen again, at least twice in the following two decades – with no attendant hue and cry then either. No, those Beaufort Sea bears starved to death, time and time again, without a word to the media from Ian Stirling and Nick Lunn.

Polar bear biologists have known for decades that polar bear populations can plummet when there is an especially cold winter that results in thick shorefast ice in the spring (Stirling and Lunn 1997; Stirling 2002) – I’ve discussed this in previous posts here and here. The devastating effects that heavy ice cover has had on polar bears in the eastern Beaufort Sea (see map below) has been documented for 1974 and 1984, with similar events inferred from anecdotal information for 1964 and 1992.


IPCC Head Rajendra Pachauri Acknowledges Global Warming Standstill

THE UN's climate change chief, Rajendra Pachauri, has acknowledged a 17-year pause in global temperature rises, confirmed recently by Britain's Met Office, but said it would need to last "30 to 40 years at least" to break the long-term global warming trend.

Dr Pachauri, the chairman of the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said that open discussion about controversial science and politically incorrect views was an essential part of tackling climate change.

In a wide-ranging interview on topics that included this year's record northern summer Arctic ice growth, the US shale-gas revolution, the collapse of renewable energy subsidies across Europe and the faltering European carbon market, Dr Pachauri said no issues should be off-limits for public discussion.

In Melbourne for a 24-hour visit to deliver a lecture for Deakin University, Dr Pachauri said that people had the right to question the science, whatever their motivations.

"People have to question these things and science only thrives on the basis of questioning," Dr Pachauri said.

He said there was "no doubt about it" that it was good for controversial issues to be "thrashed out in the public arena".

Dr Pachauri's views contrast with arguments in Australia that views outside the orthodox position of approved climate scientists should be left unreported.

Unlike in Britain, there has been little publicity in Australia given to recent acknowledgment by peak climate-science bodies in Britain and the US of what has been a 17-year pause in global warming. Britain's Met Office has revised down its forecast for a global temperature rise, predicting no further increase to 2017, which would extend the pause to 21 years.

Dr Pachauri said global average temperatures had plateaued at record levels and that the halt did not disprove global warming.

"The climate is changing because of natural factors and the impact of human actions," Dr Pachauri said.

"If you look at temperatures going back 150 years, there are clearly fluctuations which have occurred largely as a result of natural factors: solar activity, volcanic activity and so on.

"What is quite perceptible is, in the last 50 years, the trend is upwards.

"This is not to say you won't have ups and downs - you will - but what we should be concerned about is the trend, and that is being influenced now to a large extent by human actions."

He said that it would be 30 to 40 years "at least" before it was possible to say that the long-term upward trend in global temperatures had been broken.

"If you look at the last century, records tell you that the increase in average surface temperature has been 0.74C," he said.

"If you have five or 10 years when you don't have the same trend, that doesn't necessarily mean that you are deviating from the trend - you are still around the trend."

Dr Pachauri said the record accumulation of Arctic ice this northern summer - following a record melt last winter - was consistent with the current understanding of climate change.

He said the IPCC had "clearly specified there are going to be extreme precipitation events".

"If in the Arctic, for example, we get a huge amount of snowfall this year, you will get ice formation," Dr Pachauri said.

"That again is something that doesn't deviate from the trend, which time and again has shown that ice cover in the Arctic is shrinking."

Dr Pachauri said the IPCC was yet to finalise its estimates for sea-level rises and the contribution from melting ice sheets.

Commenting on the global energy transformation, Dr Pachauri said renewables faced an uncertain future in Europe, where public subsidies were being wound back and the carbon trading market had slumped.


Academic journal "Global Environmental Change" intolerant of dissent

Roger Pielke Jr

Five days ago I critiqued a shoddy paper by Brysse et al. 2013 which appeared in the journal Global Environmental Change. Today I received notice from the GEC editor-in chief and executive editor that I have been asked to "step down from the Editorial Board." They say that it is to "give other scientists the chance to gain experience of editorial duties."

Over the past 20 years I have served on the editorial boards of about a dozen or so academic journals. I have rolled off some when my term was up, and continued for many years with others. I have never received a mid-term request to step down from any journal. My 6 years with the GEC editorial board is not long in academia, and certainly much shorter than many other serving members.

Are my critique and the request to step down related? I can't say. It is interesting timing to be sure. Perhaps it is an odd coincidence. Perhaps not. I did reply by accepting their request and asking the following two questions which might help to clarify the terms of my release:

    "Could you tell me which other members of the editorial board are being asked to step down at this time? And also, could you tell how many others have served on the board 6 years or longer and remain on the board?"

If I get a reply I will update this post.

    UPDATE: I just checked the GEC editorial board from 2005, the year before I was invited to join ($ here). There are 13 members of the 2005 board who continue through 2013 ($ here). If those 13 members (of 38 total in 2013) have not all be asked to "step down" at this time, then yes, I am getting "special" treatment.

    UPDATE 2: Neil Adger, editor of GEC, replies to explain, contrary to the earlier email, that I have been removed from the editorial board due to a perception of my "waning interest in the journal" citing my declining of 3 reviews last year (I'd guess overall that I declined 50 or more requests to review last year and took on about 12, welcome to academia;-).  Of course, he could have asked about my interest before removing me from the Board. He did not comment on my critical blog post. I take his response to mean that I am indeed the only one who has been removed at this time. So there you have it, another climate ink blot. Coincidence? You be the judge.

    UPDATE 3: Neil Adger has written a second email to me which has has asked me to post in the comments here. My response to him is here. And here is the original email from GEC dropping me from the Board. All info is in sight, people can make up their own minds about this academic tempest in a teapot.

I am of course happy to make way for other scientists to "gain the experience of editorial duties." However, if my critique of a GEC paper is in any way related to my removal from the editorial board, then the message being sent to those other scientists is pretty chilling. For my part, I value my academic freedom to offer critique as I see things far more than being allowed into certain clubs.


Explanatory note: The editors of the journal in question are:

Neil Adger, who is a member of the Tyndall Centre and was until recently at UEA.

Katrina Brown, who is a member of the Tyndall Centre and was until recently at UEA.

Declan Conway, who is a member of the Tyndall Centre and is at UEA.

In other words, all three are from one of the great temples of Warmism

Pat Robertson: Only ‘nutty’ Ph.D.s believe climate change causes more blizzards

Televangelist Pat Robertson on Thursday dismissed scientific evidence that large winter storms are linked to climate change, insisting that only “nutty” Ph.D.s believe the theory.

A Thursday 700 Club report pointed out that a recent Princeton study projected that there would be less overall snowfall, but larger snow storms and blizzards as carbon dioxide rates soared in the next 50 to 60 years.

“Only in Princeton would people say nutty things like that,” Robertson quipped. “You know, they get to be Ph.D.s and they wonder where they’ve studied and learned all these things. But I tell you, if you’re a true believer, bad things will happen because you see them coming.”


The Deadly Opposition to Genetically Modified Food

Vitamin A deficiency has killed 8 million kids in the last 12 years. Help is finally on the way

By Bjørn Lomborg

Finally, after a 12-year delay caused by opponents of genetically modified foods, so-called “golden rice” with vitamin A will be grown in the Philippines. Over those 12 years, about 8 million children worldwide died from vitamin A deficiency. Are anti-GM advocates not partly responsible?

Golden rice is the most prominent example in the global controversy over GM foods, which pits a technology with some risks but incredible potential against the resistance of feel-good campaigning. Three billion people depend on rice as their staple food, with 10 percent at risk for vitamin A deficiency, which, according to the World Health Organization, causes 250,000 to 500,000 children to go blind each year. Of these, half die within a year. A study from the British medical journal the Lancet estimates that, in total, vitamin A deficiency kills 668,000 children under the age of 5 each year.

Yet, despite the cost in human lives, anti-GM campaigners—from Greenpeace to Naomi Klein—have derided efforts to use golden rice to avoid vitamin A deficiency. In India, Vandana Shiva, an environmental activist and adviser to the government, called golden rice “a hoax” that is “creating hunger and malnutrition, not solving it.”

The New York Times Magazine reported in 2001 that one would need to “eat 15 pounds of cooked golden rice a day” to get enough vitamin A. What was an exaggeration then is demonstrably wrong now. Two recent studies in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition show that just 50 grams (roughly two ounces) of golden rice can provide 60 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A. They show that golden rice is even better than spinach in providing vitamin A to children.

Opponents maintain that there are better ways to deal with vitamin A deficiency. In its latest statement, Greenpeace says that golden rice is “neither needed nor necessary,” and calls instead for supplementation and fortification, which are described as “cost-effective.”

To be sure, handing out vitamin pills or adding vitamin A to staple products can make a difference. But it is not a sustainable solution to vitamin A deficiency. And, while it is cost-effective, recent published estimates indicate that golden rice is much more so.

Supplementation programs costs $4,300 for every life they save in India, whereas fortification programs cost about $2,700 for each life saved. Both are great deals. But golden rice would cost just $100 for every life saved from vitamin A deficiency.

Similarly, it is argued that golden rice will not be adopted, because most Asians eschew brown rice. But brown rice is substantially different in taste and spoils easily in hot climates. Moreover, many Asian dishes are already colored yellow with saffron, annatto, achiote, and turmeric. The people, not Greenpeace, should decide whether they will adopt vitamin A-rich rice for themselves and their children.

Most ironic is the self-fulfilling critique that many activists now use. Greenpeace calls golden rice a “failure,” because it “has been in development for almost 20 years and has still not made any impact on the prevalence of vitamin A deficiency.” But, as Ingo Potrykus, the scientist who developed golden rice, has made clear, that failure is due almost entirely to relentless opposition to GM foods—often by rich, well-meaning Westerners far removed from the risks of actual vitamin A deficiency.

Regulation of goods and services for public health clearly is a good idea; but it must always be balanced against potential costs—in this case, the cost of not providing more vitamin A to 8 million children during the past 12 years.

As an illustration, current regulations for GM foods, if applied to non-GM products, would ban the sale of potatoes and tomatoes, which can contain poisonous glycoalkaloids; celery, which contains carcinogenic psoralens; rhubarb and spinach (oxalic acid); and cassava, which feeds about 500 million people but contains toxic cyanogenic alkaloids. Foodstuffs like soy, wheat, milk, eggs, mollusks, crustaceans, fish, sesame, nuts, peanuts, and kiwi would likewise be banned, because they can cause food allergies.

Here it is worth noting that there have been no documented human health effects from GM foods. But many campaigners have claimed other effects. A common story, still repeated by Shiva, is that GM corn with Bt toxin kills Monarch butterflies. Several peer-reviewed studies, however, have effectively established that “the impact of Bt corn pollen from current commercial hybrids on monarch butterfly populations is negligible.”

Greenpeace and many others claim that GM foods merely enable big companies like Monsanto to wield near-monopoly power. But that puts the cart before the horse: The predominance of big companies partly reflects anti-GM activism, which has made the approval process so long and costly that only rich companies catering to First World farmers can afford to see it through.

Finally, it is often claimed that GM crops simply mean costlier seeds and less money for farmers. But farmers have a choice. More than 5 million cotton farmers in India have flocked to GM cotton, because it yields higher net incomes. Yes, the seeds are more expensive, but the rise in production offsets the additional cost.

Of course, no technology is without flaws, so regulatory oversight is useful. But it is worth maintaining some perspective. In 2010, the European Commission, after considering 25 years of GMO research, concluded that “there is, as of today, no scientific evidence associating GMOs with higher risks for the environment or for food and feed safety than conventional plants and organisms.”

Now, finally, golden rice will come to the Philippines; after that, it is expected in Bangladesh and Indonesia. But, for 8 million kids, the wait was too long.

True to form, Greenpeace is already protesting that “the next ‘golden rice’ guinea pigs might be Filipino children.” The 4.4 million Filipino kids with vitamin A deficiency might not mind so much.




Preserving the graphics:  Graphics hotlinked to this site sometimes have only a short life and if I host graphics with blogspot, the graphics sometimes get shrunk down to illegibility.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here and here


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