Thursday, September 11, 2014
Heavy pack ice in NW Passage ice creates tough conditions this year
Icebreakers and cruise ships travelling through the Northwest Passage encountered rough sailing conditions this past week: heavy ice closed the Queen Maud Gulf between the northern coast of the mainland and the southeastern corner of Victoria Island in Nunavut.
While the rate of ice loss during August in the Arctic Ocean overall in 2014 was near average, the Northwest Passage continued to be clogged with ice and was unlikely to open, the National Snow and Ice Data Centre said in its most recent Arctic ice report.
That’s because weather patterns are pushing more chunks of polar pack ice into the Northwest Passage than in 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2011.
In those years, atmospheric conditions led to “minimal ice inflow from the Arctic Ocean,” the NSIDC said.
But this, as of the end of August 2014, ice-clogged areas in the passage were tracking above the 1981 to 2010 average, said the Colorado-based NSIDC, which bases its reports on satellite information.
The heavy ice conditions come as no surprise to crew and passengers on board the Austral.
The French-owned mega-yacht with 132 cabins, on a 22-day, $16,000-minimum per person-plus voyage from Kangerlussuaq, Greenland to Anadyr, Russia, was stopped in its tracks last week in the Queen Maud Gulf.
The yacht was due into Cambridge Bay on Sept. 6. But the leader of the cruise wrote Cambridge Bay’s cruise ship organizer Vicki Aitaok Sept. 5 that the ship had to cancel its visit. “We have a big problem for our stop in Cambridge Bay!
The captain of the ice breaker Pierre Radisson (who open the ice for us), just advise us that he don’t want to continue the convoy during the night.
That means that now we are stopped in middle of the Queen Maud Gulf in middle of sea ice,” read the email posted by Aitaok on Cambridge Bay’s Facebook news page early Sept. 6.
Heavy ice conditions in 2014 also mean the Tandberg Polar tug and barge, now in Cambridge Bay, which will bring Amundsen’s ship, the Maud, back to Norway, postponed plans this year to raise the ship.
Overall, August 2014 ended up with the seventh lowest extent in the satellite record.
The ice that is clogging the Northwest Passage right now is mostly multi-year ice that breaking off from polar ice-packs and getting pushed in from the Arctic Ocean.
Even the circuitous route travelled by Norwegian Arctic explorer Roald Amundsen in 1905 and 1906 — when he became the first European explorer to successfully travel the route — was not entirely open, the NSIDC said.
Another cruise ship, the last of a season which saw has so far seen four cruise ships in Cambridge Bay, arrived on schedule Sept. 8. That’s the One Ocean Voyage’s Akademik Sergey Vavilov, with 63 crew and 92 passengers, which participated in Parks Canada’s effort to locate HMS Erebus and HMS Terror, the ships lost on Franklin’s 1845 British Arctic Expedition.
Overwhelming Majority Of Conservative MPs Are Climate Sceptics
Nearly three-quarters of Conservative MPs do not accept that climate change has been proven to be caused by human activity, according to a new poll.
The survey of 119 MPs from all parties was commissioned by PRWeek from Populus to establish the attitudes of parliamentarians to climate change and environmental issues as part of a special report on the subject.
Only 51 per cent of MPs agree that it is an established fact that global warming is largely man made, though there are substantial differences between parties.
Nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) of Labour MPs agree that man-made global warming is now an established scientific fact compared with 30 per cent of Tory MPs.
Over half (53 per cent) of Conservative MPs agree with the statement that “it has not yet been conclusively proved that climate change is man made”.
A further 18 per cent agree that “man-made climate change is environmentalist propaganda”.
Climate change has fallen down the political agenda in the past five years, said half of all MPs, compared with 23 per cent who believe the opposite.
Is Narendra Modi a climate sceptic?
India’s PM used to call climate action a moral duty, now he tells students ‘climate has not changed, we have changed’
India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, reportedly will be a no-show at the United Nations climate summit this month. Could it be because he does not accept the science behind climate change?
Modi used to be a supporter for climate action. But in public remarks on two occasions in the last week, the leader of one of the fastest growing – and biggest emitting – economies appeared to express doubt about whether climate change was even occurring.
“Climate has not changed. We have changed. Our habits have changed. Our habits have got spoiled. Due to that, we have destroyed our entire environment,” the rightwing leader told students in a video Q&A, according to India Today on Friday.
Modi was also vague on global warming and its causes in an interview with The Hindu a few days earlier.
“Climate change? Is this terminology correct? The reality is this that in our family, some people are old ... They say this time the weather is colder. And, people’s ability to bear cold becomes less,” he said.
“We should also ask is this climate change or have we changed. We have battled against nature. That is why we should live with nature rather than battle it,” he said.
Both sets of comments are at variance with Modi’s earlier views on climate change, set out in an e-book, published in 2011 when he was chief minister of Gujarat.
The e-book, called Convenient Action in an apparent tribute to Al Gore, frames action on climate change as a moral duty.
“Climate change is definitely affecting the future generations which, as of now, have no voice on the actions of present generation,” Modi wrote.
As Gujarat’s chief minister, he oversaw the final phases of construction of the hugely controversial Narmada dam. But he goes to great length in the e-book to promote his actions on climate change, expanding the use of solar and wind power, and switching to natural gas as fuel for vehicles.
In the book, Modi also took a swipe at climate deniers. “I remember, a few years ago, I used to read on lot of sceptic views of climate change, whether or not it was actually happening. Having been in public life, I am aware of behind-the-scene lobbying by vested interests that normally accompany any such carefully orchestrated campaigns.”
So what’s changed? Since his election, Modi has dismantled a number of environmental protections, clearing the way for new coal mines and other industrial projects. He also blocked funds to Greenpeace and other environmental groups and is known to be vehemently anti-NGOs.
But the real problem could be the fast rising pace of India’s emissions. In the past few months, the other giant emitters – China and America – have taken steps to reduce carbon pollution.
Projections from the Energy Information Administration show China’s emissions could start levelling off in 2030. India’s? They are due to rise by 60% between 2020 and 2040.
That could put Modi under some pressure on 23 September when the United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon convenes his climate summit of world leaders.
So while Modi has created confusion about his views on climate change, one thing seems clear: he does not want to have a conversation about what India plans to do about it.
Senate hopeful: GOP-majority would squash Obama's climate agenda
Republican Senate candidate Dan Sullivan (Alaska) blamed President Obama and Senate Democrats for locking up the country's energy resources in the party's weekly address, vowing that a GOP-controlled Senate would be the best fix.
Sullivan, who is challenging Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) this year, worries for his three teenage daughters, who he claims won't be able to take advantage of the state's wealth of oil, natural gas, hydropower, and more, if the administration's regulatory agenda continues unchecked.
"The Obama-Reid agenda has locked up America’s natural resources, burdened small businesses throughout the country with an avalanche of regulations and suffocated job growth through a complete disrespect for the rule of law," Sullivan said during the address on Saturday.
He added that the Environmental Protection Agency, and Washington, D.C., are trying to "dictate how we manage our state-owned lands."
That could all change, he explains, if voters put him, and fellow Republicans in charge. "The American Dream is resilient," he said. "All we need is new leadership in Washington to make it happen once again."
If Republicans win the Senate in November, Sullivan says the GOP will make energy a priority.
"A Republican Senate would approve Keystone XL pipeline jobs, because Canada is our neighbor and ally," Sullivan said.
“We’ll authorize more offshore development, because it’s good for coastal states and the rest of the country. We’ll seize the opportunity to expand our energy trade, because that will benefit our nation, and others who need energy – like Ukraine," he added.
Republicans won't stop there, they will also work to block the administration's carbon pollution proposal for existing power plants, and other regulations the EPA is trying to finalize by next year.
Sullivan accused the administration and Democrats of being "stuck in the last century" tied to a system of "burdensome federal regulations" that is "stifling" the nation.
Australia: Climate change deniers raise the heat on the Bureau of Meteorology
By Michael Brown (Michael Brown is an astronomer at Monash University's School of Physics)
A lot of airy generalizations from Mr Brown below but no actual figures. The work he criticizes DID give the figures. He sniffs at the qualifications of the skeptics but are his qualifications any more relevant? What has an expert on the stars got to do with terrestrial climate?
Australia is without a science minister for the first time in decades and some scientists now refer to the missing minister as "our invisible friend". The absent minister symbolises the current ambivalence of the Australian political right to science.
That ambivalence turns to open hostility when it comes to climate science. Five years ago Tony Abbott dismissed the science of climate change as "absolute crap" and that statement still resonates. Now, we are seeing more worrying developments.
Scientists hiding and manipulating data? Mysterious time travelling forces? Easily debunked myths being repeated as facts? Plucky amateurs and bloggers saving us from professional scientists?
Such notions are traits of pseudoscience and would be mocked if being promoted by crystal healers. Unfortunately we are hearing such nonsense being repeated by right wing media, government advisors and MPs.
Over the past few weeks there has been a concerted attack on the Bureau of Meteorology's temperature data. That data, taken with dozens of weather stations, shows temperatures increasing across Australia over the past century.
The warming trend is clear from both raw data and processed "homogenised" data. The homogenised data accounts for changes in data quality, including artificial jumps in temperature produced by relocating weather stations. For example, in rural towns many weather stations were moved from post offices to airports.
The Australian newspaper is publishing attacks on the Bureau's temperature record and the homogenisation process. These attacks are not based on published scientific studies, but instead rely heavily on the claims of former Institute of Public Affairs fellow, biologist and blogger Jennifer Marohasy.
The attacks use the pseudoscience tactic of selecting just a few towns where the homogenisation removes artificial cooling, while ignoring more towns where both the raw and homogenised data show warming. A few potential errors in the data have been highlighted, while ignoring the fact that warming across Australia is seen in both raw and homogenised data utilising millions of individual measurements.
These attacks on the Bureau of Meteorology have combined sloppiness with denigrating professional scientists. Is the Bureau really unwilling to provide 20th century data for town of Bourke? No, that data is freely available from the Bureau's website. Was the vital Stevenson Screen dumped from the Bourke weather station in 1996? No, the Bureau's catalogue has a photo of the Stevenson Screen at Bourke's current weather station. Is the Bureau hiding its methods? No, Blair Trewin details the Bureau's methods in a scientific paper.
Despite the attacks on Bureau of Meteorology having little basis in fact, they are gaining traction amongst right wing MPs and commentators. Backbench MP George Christensen tweeted "It's time for an official investigation of Bureau's handling of temperature records". Columnist Miranda Devine has claimed the Bureau's actions are "fraudulent".
Before commentators and politicians get too excited, they should remember similar claims have been made before. In New Zealand climate change deniers launched a court case making similar claims about that country's temperature record. They lost the case and have been avoiding paying the taxpayers' costs since.
The connection between pseudoscience and politics becomes even clearer when we look at the contributions of Maurice Newman, the chairman of the prime minister's Business Advisory Council.
In two recent opinion pieces, Newman warns of imminent global cooling caused by variability of the sun, rather than global warming. In some instances Newman misrepresents expert opinion when constructing his case. For example, while Newman cites Professor Mike Lockwood's research, Lockwood himself has stated that solar variability may decrease warming by "between 0.06 and 0.1 degrees Celsius, a very small fraction of the warming we're due to experience as a result of human activity".
Newman also relies on climate skeptic David Archibald for expert opinion on climate. Archibald, who isn't a scientist, has been warning of global cooling for some years now, and has previously made cooling predictions that have not eventuated.
Archibald's most recent claims invoke a new force of nature. This force hasn't been observed by anyone, but is the invention of (anthropogenic) climate change deniers desperately trying to downplay the impact of carbon dioxide. Compounding the hubris of inventing new forces without evidence, this force travels through time, with reaction following action after an 11-year delay. This could be an amusing Dr Who plot device, but has zero connection with real world physics.
The current attacks on climate science are embracing pseudoscience. They are a desperate attempt to deny a century of science that proves global warming has occurred and will continue to do so. This is a denial of a century of science, from the physics of radiative transfer to increasing ocean heat content. Unfortunately this denial is being fully embraced by sections of the Australian media and parliament.
Disastrous British "eco-school"
Greenies understand a lot less than they think they do
A £7m claim has been launched against two firms involved in the design and building of an "eco-school" that closed after it developed leaks
Devon County Council is demanding the money from architects White Design and main contractors Interserve over Dartington Primary School. The claim is for the cost of repairs and relocating to temporary buildings.
White Design and Interserve confirmed legal action was under way but declined to comment further.
All the classrooms at the former school buildings have been emptied. Children will be taught from the start of the winter term in a number of temporary buildings
The authority said in a statement: "We've issued letters of intent to the architects and contractors amounting to over £7m.
"That covers the cost of the construction work and the cost of temporarily relocating the school, including the temporary classrooms."
The move has been prompted by "considerable problems" with leaks at the 310-pupil "zero-carbon" school which opened in February 2010.
A report commissioned by the council in 2013 said the building started letting in water shortly after it was finished, and that "significant" repairs were needed.
The technical specialist's report said the major cause of the leaks was "likely to be the result of the scheme design".
The report also highlighted "complexities within the rainwater harvesting system" and "concern with the specified use of materials".
The council said it had worked "very closely" with the school and parents and was "very grateful for the continuing support of the parents, staff, governors and children".
The letters of intent to take action on the claim were "part of a legal process" that it said it could not comment on further.
The £7m "flagship new eco-school" was intended to replace "dilapidated flood-prone" former buildings. Classes were held in four clusters of pod-like timber-clad buildings, with electricity and hot water from solar panels.
But rainwater was reported to be running down the walls after apparent faults in the structure.
Ordering the school had been a "bold decision" by the county council, said district councillor Jacqi Hodgson. "It's unfortunate that it had had so many problems and now it has come to this, it is really sad."
How much will remain of the school's green credentials is unclear.
Parent Chris Mockridge, 38, said: "I think this might put people off. If they see this they might think environmental building doesn't work and in my heart I really hope it does. "I wanted this to work and I still hope it does."
White Design has previously denied any liability. Founder Craig White said the claim was with the firm's insurers, adding: "There is a legal process and we cannot compromise that."
Rhys Jones of Interserve said: "This is currently the subject of legal action so it would be inappropriate to comment further."
The council said it expected repairs to be finished by spring 2016.
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Posted by JR at 7:44 PM