Thursday, September 20, 2007


Read the bit of attention-seeking below then see immediately after it part of what you are NOT being told

Sergei Zimov bends down, picks up a handful of mud and holds it up to his nose. It smells like a cow patty, but he knows better. "It smells like mammoth dung," he says. This is more than just another symptom of global warming.

For millennia, layers of animal waste and other organic matter left behind by the creatures that used to roam the Arctic tundra have been sealed inside the frozen permafrost. Now, climate change is thawing the permafrost and lifting this prehistoric ooze from suspended animation.

But Zimov, chief scientist at the Russian Academy of Sciences' North Eastern Scientific station, three plane rides and eight times zones away from Moscow, believes that as this organic matter becomes exposed to the air, it will accelerate global warming faster than even some of the most pessimistic forecasts. "This will lead to a type of global warming that will be impossible to stop," he said.

When the organic matter left behind by mammoths and other wildlife is exposed to the air by the thawing permafrost, his theory goes, microbes that have been dormant for thousands of years spring back into action. They emit carbon dioxide as a byproduct and -- even more damaging in terms of its impact on the climate -- methane gas.

Zimov, who has studied climate change in Russia's Arctic for almost 30 years, says the microbes are going to start emitting these gases in enormous quantities. Here in Sakha, a republic in the northeastern corner of Siberia, the belt of permafrost containing the mammoth-era soil covers an area roughly the size of France and Germany combined. There is even more of it elsewhere in Siberia. "The deposits of organic matter in these soils are so gigantic that they dwarf global oil reserves," Zimov said.

U.S. government statistics show mankind emits about 7 billion tons of carbon per year. "Permafrost areas hold 500 billion tons of carbon, which can quickly turn into greenhouse gases," Zimov said. "If you don't stop emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere ... the Kyoto Protocol will seem like childish prattle," he said, referring to an international pact aimed at reducing greenhouse emissions.

It might be easy to dismiss the 52-year-old, with his beard and shock of wavy hair, as an alarmist crank, but his theory is grabbing attention in the scientific community. "There's quite a bit of truth in it," said Julian Murton, member of the International Permafrost Association. "The methane and carbon dioxide levels will increase as a result of permafrost degradation."

A United Nations report in June said there was yet no sign of widespread melting of permafrost that could stoke global warming but noted the potential threat. "Permafrost stores a lot of carbon, with upper permafrost layers estimated to contain more organic carbon than is currently contained in the atmosphere," the report said. "Permafrost thawing results in the release of this carbon in the form of greenhouse gases, which will have a positive feedback effect to global warming."

At Duvanny Yar on the shores of the Kolyma River, the phenomenon that Zimov describes in speeches at scientific conferences can be seen first hand. The steep-sided riverbank, until now held up by permafrost, is collapsing as the ice melts. Every few minutes, a thud can be heard as another wedge of soil and permafrost comes tumbling down, or a splash as a chunk falls into the river. Nearby, Zimov points to an area unaffected by the melting so far -- a forest of larch trees with berries and mushrooms and covered with a soft cushion of moss and lichen. Farther down the slope though, the landscape is covered with trees toppled over as the soil disintegrates. Brooks murmur down the slope carrying melted ice.

Elsewhere, places that five or 10 years ago were empty tundra are now dotted with lakes -- a result of thawing permafrost. These "thermokarst" lakes bubble with methane, over 20 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

The permafrost thaw affects those rare outposts where humans have settled. In Chersky, a town of 3,000 people, apartment blocks have cracks running through their walls as the earth beneath them subsides. Many have been demolished because they were no longer safe.

So few people live in or visit this wilderness that the changing landscape on its own is unlikely to worry people on the other side of the world. But Zimov warned that people everywhere should take notice, because within a few years, the effect of the permafrost melting in Siberia will have a direct impact on their lives. "Siberia's landscape is changing," he said. "But in the end, local problems of the north will inevitably turn into the problems of Russia's south, the Amazon region or Holland."


I reproduce below a report from 16 Jan 2006

Record low temperatures were felt in western Siberia over the weekend, with temperatures in the Tomsk region reported at minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit and lower. "This morning people felt Arctic weather," a local meteorologist told the Interfax news agency Friday. A state of emergency was declared in the Tomsk region, where at least one man died because of the cold and hospitals treated dozens of people daily for cold-related health problems, while public transportation and electricity supplies were disrupted, The Moscow Times reported Monday. In the Novosibirsk region, temperatures fell to minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit -- the lowest in 100 years. In the city of Krasnoyarsk, celebrations for the Russian holiday known as Old New Year's Eve were canceled Friday after temperatures were also predicted to fall to minus 40. In the Komi-Permyatsky autonomous district, where temperatures were as low as minus 49 Fahrenheit, 85 people -- mostly preschoolers -- were evacuated from a settlement after a heating system serving 600 residents failed, Interfax reported Saturday. There was some good news, however: Scientists in the Tyumen region said the thousands of school closures across Siberia would reduce the spread of an expected flu epidemic among schoolchildren.


So what is going on? Simple: Siberia is affected by a regular climate cycle called the Arctic Oscillation. So its temperature can vary considerably from year to year. There is no evidence of an overall change beyond the changes due to the oscillation. Read all about it here and here


We don't know yet whether melting icecaps play any role, but scare stories don't help, says Jose Rial, professor of geophysics at the department of geological sciences, University of North Carolina []

Your article (Melting icecap triggering earthquakes, September 8) is misleading and alarmist. As a climatologist/seismologist working on glacial seismic activity in the Jakobshavn glacier basin - precisely the area your reporter mentions - I know that local earthquakes (or glacial quakes) are actually fairly common in the area and have been for a long time. I also know that there is no evidence to suggest that these quakes "are happening far faster than ever anticipated" in the region, as Dr Corell of the global change programme at Washington's Heinz Centre is quoted as saying.

Glacial earthquakes in Greenland have been monitored for decades using the global seismic network, and although their number has increased over the last five to six years - likely due to Arctic warming - in Jakobshavn their number has actually decreased since 1996, according to a recent report by G Ekstr”m and V Tsai from Columbia University. However, because these scientists used sensors quite remote from the area, small quakes may have been missed in Jakobshavn, which is not as glacially quake-active as other studied areas in eastern and north-western Greenland.

To take a closer look, in 2006 and again in 2007 I deployed an array of 10 seismic sensors near Swiss Camp, a permanent glaciological station some 50km north of the Jakobshavn glacier, operated by the University of Colorado. The unique data gathered by the close array have given us a better idea of what dynamic processes are involved in glacial quakes, as well as the realisation that it is still too early to know what it all means in terms of the evolution of the Jakobshavn glacier, or the icecap.

It is unfortunate that your article led with the falling-sky statement: "The Greenland icecap is melting so quickly that is triggering earthquakes as pieces of ice several cubic kilometres in size break off." Actually, just the opposite seems to happen. As ice melting increases, the number and size of glacial quakes eventually decreases, since there is more water around to lubricate ice motions (quakes occur if there is enough friction to temporarily keep ice from sliding smoothly).

We find that the area where glacial quakes are strongest and most frequent is along the margins of the ice stream that feeds the glacier, where ice rubs against the rock in the deep valley along which the ice stream moves; we find no evidence that the ice has been "fused to the rock for hundreds of years" and is just now breaking apart. Actually, it will take years of continued surveying to know whether anything here is "accelerating" towards catastrophe, as the article claims.

I believe that to battle global climate change effectively we need the strong support of a well-informed, actively engaged public. There is great urgency indeed in all these climate matters and I understand the threat of climate change to society; but the evidence needs to be there before we needlessly alarm the public who sustain our research.



Wildlife research director dismisses dire forecast by U.S. agency

Fears that two-thirds of the world's polar bears will die off in the next 50 years are overblown, says Mitchell Taylor, the Government of Nunavut's director of wildlife research. "I think it's na‹ve and presumptuous," Taylor said of the report, released by U.S. Geological Survey on Friday, which warns that many of the world's polar bears will die as sea ice vanishes due to a warming climate. "As the sea ice goes, so go the polar bears," said Steve Amstrup, who led the study.

But Taylor says that's not the case. He points to Davis Strait, one of the southern-most roaming grounds of polar bears. According to the USGS, Davis Strait ought to be among the first places where polar bears will starve due to shrinking seasonal sea ice, which scientists say will deprive the bears of a vital platform to hunt seals. Yet "Davis Strait is crawling with polar bears," Taylor said. "It's not safe to camp there. They're fat. The mothers have cubs. The cubs are in good shape."

Other than Davis Strait, which is hunted by Inuit from Pangnirtung, Iqaluit and Kimmirut, the USGS also predicts polar bears will perish in Baffin Bay, Foxe Basin, and South and West Baffin. In fact, the USGS predicts the only polar bears to survive by the end of the century will be those found in Canada's Arctic archipelago, and on the west coast of Greenland. Those in Alaska and Russia, and in much of Nunavut and all of Nunavik, will have perished.

But Taylor says the report is needlessly pessimistic. While he agrees that seals are essential food for bears as they fatten up during the spring and summer months - seal blubber makes up half of the bears' energy intake - he also suspects bears will be able to supplement their diet with other foods, such as walrus. During the summer months polar bears may also forage on berries, sedges and other plants, as well as bird eggs, to supplement their diet. And Taylor also points out female polar bears go nine months without eating at all during pregnancy.

Besides, Taylor says he and numerous Inuit hunters have seen bears catch seal without the presence of sea ice. Bears sometimes find a place on shore to pounce on seals swimming by. Or they may catch seals caught in tidal pools, or sneak up on their prey at night. Taylor even suggests polar bears may float still on the water to fool seals into thinking they are hunks of sea ice.

The Government of Nunavut is conducting a study of the Davis Strait bear population. Results of the study won't be released until 2008, but Taylor says it appears there are some 3,000 bears in an area - a big jump from the current estimate of about 850 bears. "That's not theory. That's not based on a model. That's observation of reality," he says. And despite the fact that some of the most dramatic changes to sea ice is seen in seasonal ice areas such as Davis Strait, seven or eight of the bears measured and weighed for the study this summer are among the biggest on record, Taylor said.

Yet anecdotes abound of skinny polar bears wandering from their traditional hunting grounds in search of food - such as an email circulated recently with a photo of a gaunt bear with skin hanging off its bones, spotted 160 kilometres inland from Ungava Bay. Taylor bristles at that photo's mention. He says the bear is clearly an elderly male in its late 20s, rather than a young female, as it has been otherwise identified. "It probably wandered out there to end its life in peace," he said. "That's nature. It's not climate change."

He also questions the claim that the papers used to support the position of the USGS on polar bears have been peer reviewed. "The first time I saw them was when I downloaded them today," he said. Taylor characterizes much of the public discussion over, as one headline has called it, "the appalling fate of the polar bear," as "hysteria."

Taylor admits he does not see eye to eye with many other polar bear biologist, many of whom have expressed concern over whether polar bears will survive in a warmer climate. "Unlike all the others, I live in the north. My friends and neighbours are Nunavummiut," he said. "I'm talking to people about polar bears all the time."

The Geological Survey produced its report to assist the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in its decision on whether to list polar bears as an endangered species. If polar bears make the endangered list, it would effectively end the U.S. sports hunt, which brings about $2 million to Nunavut communities each year. The Fish and Wildlife Service has until January 2009 to make its decision. Two-thirds of the world's polar bears live in Canada.



Discussing: Lucarini, V., Calmanti, S., Dell'Aquila, A., Ruti, P.M. and Speranza A. 2007. Intercomparison of the northern hemisphere winter mid-latitude atmospheric variability of the IPCC models. Climate Dynamics 28: 829-848.

What was done

The authors compared, for the overlapping time frame 1962-2000, "the estimate of the northern hemisphere mid-latitude winter atmospheric variability within the available 20th century simulations of 19 global climate models included in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [IPCC] 4th Assessment Report" with "the NCEP-NCAR and ECMWF reanalyses," i.e., compilations of real-world observations produced by the National Center for Environmental Prediction (NCEP), in collaboration with the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), and by the European Center for Mid-Range Weather Forecast (ECMWF).

What was learned

Quoting the five Italian researchers, "large biases, in several cases larger than 20%, are found in all [our italics] the considered metrics between the wave climatologies of most IPCC models and the reanalyses, while the span of the climatologies of the various models is, in all cases [our italics], around 50%." They also report that "the traveling baroclinic waves are typically overestimated by the climate models, while the planetary waves are usually underestimated," and that "the model results do not cluster around their ensemble mean," which is another way of saying they are all over the place.

What it means

Quoting once again the scientists who performed the model tests, "this study suggests caveats with respect to the ability of most of the presently available climate models in representing the statistical properties of the global scale atmospheric dynamics of the present [our italics] climate and, a fortiori ["all the more," as per Webster's Dictionary], in the perspective of modeling [future] climate change." Indeed, it gives one pause to question most everything the models might suggest about the future.


Journal abstract follows:

We compare, for the overlapping time frame 1962-2000, the estimate of the northern hemisphere mid-latitude winter atmospheric variability within the available 20th century simulations of 19 global climate models included in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change-4th Assessment Report with the NCEP-NCAR and ECMWF reanalyses. We compute the Hayashi spectra of the 500 hPa geopotential height fields and introduce an ad hoc integral measure of the variability observed in the Northern Hemisphere on different spectral sub-domains. The total wave variability is taken as a global scalar metric describing the overall performance of each model, while the total variability pertaining to the eastward propagating baroclinic waves and to the planetary waves are taken as scalar metrics describing the performance of each model phenomenologically in connection with the corresponding specific physical process. Only two very high-resolution global climate models have a good agreement with reanalyses for both the global and the process-oriented metrics.

Large biases, in several cases larger than 20%, are found in all the considered metrics between the wave climatologies of most IPCC models and the reanalyses, while the span of the climatologies of the various models is, in all cases, around 50%. In particular, the travelling baroclinic waves are typically overestimated by the climate models, while the planetary waves are usually underestimated, in agreement with what found is past analyses performed on global weather forecasting models. When comparing the results of similar models, it is apparent that in some cases the vertical resolution of the model atmosphere, the adopted ocean model, and the advection schemes seem to be critical in the bulk of the atmospheric variability.

The models ensemble obtained by arithmetic averaging of the results of all models is biased with respect to the reanalyses but is comparable to the best five models. Nevertheless, the models results do not cluster around their ensemble mean. This study suggests caveats with respect to the ability of most of the presently available climate models in representing the statistical properties of the global scale atmospheric dynamics of the present climate and, a fortiori, in the perspective of modeling climate change.

Global warming attracts the dumb and the devious

IT'S a toss-up as to who's making a bigger fool of themselves over climate change: our politicians or our Miss Earth contestants, Andrew Bolt writes from Australia

At least the girls in the Miss Earth beauty pageant can afford to look stupid, since they aren't in charge of anything important, like the vanishing water supplies of our cities. They've just wanted to preach green messages in a bikini and tiara, as they fought last week for the titles of Miss Earth Australia, Best in Swimsuit and Best Environmental Speech. So, we could smile to read contestant Snezana declare that "Salinisation (sic) of land is one of the major environemtal (sic) crises facing Australia", and Kirra warn that "the biggest problem in our enviroment (sic) today is our lack of water". At worst we'd have wondered how badly we teach English as Angelique demanded help for an "environmnet" in danger, and Natalia wept for an "enviornment (sic) that sustains us".

How cute, these earnest bikini babes, so keen to save something they cannot even spell. But how scary, too, that many of these contestants want to save this thing they cannot spell from a threat they cannot understand. You see, someone - a few of the girls dobbed in Al Gore - has filled their pretty heads with such wild fears of global warming that poor Amanda now wails that "the human race will eventually become extinct".

Scared silly, like so many children now, by professional panic merchants, it seems there's nothing these girls won't now blame on global warming; even tsunamis caused by earthquakes. Christine, for instance, says she's been worried about global warming "from when the tsunami happened in Thailand back in December 2004". "Hey! Me too," squeals Georgina. "Aside from an increase in natural disasters such as the fateful tsunami of 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, smaller changes to weather patterns are slowly being recognised."

Of course, we mustn't blame the girls for believing something so stupid when even Great Guru Gore has falsely suggested global warming caused Hurricane Katrina, the melting snows of Kilimanjaro, the drying of Lake Chad, the immigration of Pacific islanders and whatever else he dreams up when flying here to tell us to cut the kind of emissions he just blew out the back of his jet.

And I ask again: Who really is making a bigger fool of themselves over global warming; these harmless beauty contestants or our politicians, now watching our dams drain dry? The girls may think global warming causes earthquakes, but our politicians just as stupidly claim it's causing our cities to run out of water. Here is New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma last Friday, explaining why Sydney is getting permanent water restrictions: "The changes brought by climate change are going to change the way we use water." Victoria's politicians have used the same line. Here is our since departed Minister for No Water, John Thwaites, excusing water restrictions that are killing our playing fields and gardens: "So all the evidence points to a significant involvement of global warming in the present drought."

How handy, that global warming bogyman. Blame global warming for Melbourne's dams now being 7 per cent lower now than they were even last year, when things got grim. Blame global warming for the Brumby Government having to reassure us last week that Melbourne won't run out of drinking water this year, at least. Gosh, don't blame the Government instead for having such a green phobia about a new dam that we may run out of water the year after. What deceitful men. Or stupid.

For a start, no scientist can tell if any drought yet has been caused by the slight global warming of 0.7 degrees thought to have occurred last century. Let's not forget we've had many droughts before in our "land of droughts and flooding rains". Indeed, the driest five years in NSW in the past century were from 1940 to 1944, and Victoria's past five years have been no drier than what we suffered then, too. Bureau of Meteorology figures suggest we may just be returning to the drier weather of the first 45 years of last century.

In NSW, the average annual rainfall back then was just 475mm. Then came years of plenty, averaging 567mm, but since 1996 the annual rainfall has fallen back to an average of 511mm - still well up on the usual rainfall of the post-war years. So what drought? Victoria's weather has followed much the same pattern: Dry years until 1945, followed by years of good rain until a decade ago, when the dry returned. Our average annual rainfall from 1996 has been 571mm, much less than the post-war average until then of 671mm, but not much less than the pre-war average of 603mm.

Droughts come and droughts go, and it's impossible to see the influence of any man-made global warming. So why should this make you furious with our politicians? Because the history of this continent's weather should have told them to prepare for dry years of the kind we've had so often before. Because it should have told them they were mad to waste dam water on environmental flows for rivers that had survived years far drier than these. And because by blaming global warming instead of themselves, they make sweet girls like Miss Earth's Krystle shake on their stilettos, sure that "the ultimate end of existence of Earth and man is global warming". Fear not, Krystle, stupidity will kill us more surely than global warming.



The Lockwood paper was designed to rebut Durkin's "Great Global Warming Swindle" film. It is a rather confused paper -- acknowledging yet failing to account fully for the damping effect of the oceans, for instance -- but it is nonetheless valuable to climate atheists. The concession from a Greenie source that fluctuations in the output of the sun have driven climate change for all but the last 20 years (See the first sentence of the paper) really is invaluable. And the basic fact presented in the paper -- that solar output has in general been on the downturn in recent years -- is also amusing to see. Surely even a crazed Greenie mind must see that the sun's influence has not stopped and that reduced solar output will soon start COOLING the earth! Unprecedented July 2007 cold weather throughout the Southern hemisphere might even be the first sign that the cooling is happening. And the fact that warming plateaued in 1998 is also a good sign that we are moving into a cooling phase. As is so often the case, the Greenies have got the danger exactly backwards. See my post of 7.14.07 and a very detailed critique here for more on the Lockwood paper

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The BBC this AM brought on some stupid idiot to explain that MMGW is now proven because of, wait for it... BEDBUGS! yes you heard right! apparently bedbugs are on the increase because of global warming, according to this so called climate expert, the phrase clutching at straws comes to mind!
Are the BBC so desperate to flog its MMGW agenda that they will resort to such outright trash? The fact is that bedbugs live INDOORS and the outside temperature has NO bearing on the increase in bedbugs, Its dirty bedding that is not cleaned and treated with insecticide that encourages bedbugs to proliferate NOT fake MMGW fairy stories!
Is there no end to the lies that the eco nutters will peddle to gullible people to get its fake theories by fake scientists like AL GORE believed?