Tuesday, January 02, 2007

More On The Melting Arctic

Some have been trying to play down the significance of last year's break-up of the The Ayles Ice Shelf to the debate over Global Warming by arguing that there have been much larger break-ups in the past, in fact in the first part of the 20th century. Lance at Catprint in the Mash, for instance:

Now, while this [ the breakup] is a significant event, I think any conclusions based on the article are a little premature, another example of looking out the window and calling it climate. The G&M notes that Dr. Warwick Vincent of Laval who in 10 years of studying the Arctic flows had never seen it's like. That is true. Nothing as significant has happened in ten years. However, if you look back a little farther, you can see that significant events happen to the ice shelves (sea, glacial or composite) on a regular basis.

First, let's note an inaccuracy here. The claim in the original story is that the break-up is the largest such event in the last 30 years, not the last ten (that's just how long Dr. Vincent has been on the case). But whatever. The article goes on to state:

The largest observed ice island calving occurred at Ward Hunt Ice Shelf (Fig. l), where almost 600 km2 of ice broke away at some time between August 1961 and April 1962 (Hattersley-Smith, 1963.

In comparison, last's year's incident produced an ice island of about 66 km2. Hardly a big deal, right? Except that:

As noted...the amount of ice in the ice-shelves in only about 10% of what they were in 1905. In fact, from Point Moss on the north coast of Ellesmere down the west coast to the Ice Plug in Nansen Sound is estimated to have been one gigantic ice shelf.

So today, when there's about a tenth as much ice, when we see break-ups producing ice-islands about the tenth of the size as recorded previously. Warm a bigger ice-mass, and it can break into bigger pieces. Is that surprising? What is more telling is that the figures Lance provides actually show that this latest incident is just one in a chain date back about a century. And, oopsie!, look at the graph below!

Lance concludes:

Even moreso, [the event] isn't exactly something that you can bring to bear on a government that has been in power for almost a year.

True, Lance, but nobody was attempting to blame the Harper government for the incident, not in the post you first referenced or in anything I have written on the topic. However, I personally, and I imagine many others, would like to see him take the science seriously and GET ON WITH DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT, GODDAMN IT!


The Rat said...

So you're basically saying that the ice has been melting for over a hundred years? And that's now proof of global warming, or is it climate change now? Umm, so, basically any change in anything over time is evidence of climate change? And you know what? I agree! The climate does change! In fact we can show periods where the planet was covered in vast ice sheets and others where arctic regions were damn near tropical. So the real question isn't that climate changes, it's whether or not you believe government can stop it. Hmm. Liberals think the government is responsible for everything, right?

Jeff said...

Actually Lance I don't blame the CPC. It's a short post, you may want to read it again. I pointed to the incident as an example of something I'd like the CPC to pay more attention to, and one that I question the importance they hold it in.

Anonymous said...

Hot and Cold Running Alarmism
by Gary Benoit

The threat of catastrophic climatic change is nothing new. For example, the April 28, 1975 issue of Newsweek darkly warned: "There are ominous signs that the earth's weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production -- with serious political implications for just about every nation on earth. The drop in food output could begin quite soon, perhaps only ten years from now.... The evidence in support of these predictions has now begun to accumulate so massively that meteorologists are hard-pressed to keep up with it."

Unlike today, however, the mounting evidence that atmospheric scientists then struggled to keep up with was principally used to support a theory of global cooling, not global warming, The Newsweek article, entitled "The Cooling World," continued: "In England, farmers have seen their growing season decline by about two weeks since 1950, with a resultant over-all loss in grain production estimated at up to 100,000 tons annually. During the same time, the average temperature around the equator has risen by a fraction of a degree -- a fraction that in some areas can mean drought and desolation. Last April, in the most devastating outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded, 148 twisters killed more than 300 people and caused half a billion dollars' worth of damage in thirteen U.S. states."

"Another Ice Age"

Newsweek patiently explained to its lay readers that scientists thought "these seemingly disparate incidents represent the advance signs of fundamental changes in the world's weather. The central fact is that after three quarters of a century of extraordinarily mild conditions, the earth's climate seems to be cooling down." So much so, in fact, that one possible solution cited by Newsweek was to melt the arctic ice cap by "covering it with black soot." But such a spectacular step, Newsweek acknowledged, might create a "far greater" problem than it solves. Today, of course, the concern among doomsayers is not too much ice, but too little.

Newsweek was not alone in spreading this eco-babble. Time magazine for June 24, 1974 declared: "However widely the weather varies from place to place and time to time, when meteorologists take an average of temperatures around the globe they find that the atmosphere has been growing gradually cooler for the past three decades." Not only did that supposedly alarming trend show "no indication of reversing," but "Climatological Cassandras are becoming increasingly apprehensive, for the weather aberrations they are studying may be the harbinger of another ice age." The Time article even included a map depicting the "expanding Arctic" and referenced one scientific finding that "the area of the ice and snow cover" in the Northern Hemisphere "had suddenly increased by 12% in 1971" and that this increase "has persisted ever since." "Areas of Baffin Island in the Canadian Arctic ... were once totally free of any snow in the summer," Time observed. "[N]ow they are covered year round." How different that is from today's alarmist headlines about disappearing glaciers!

Echoing the "cooling" rhetoric, the February 1974 issue of Fortune magazine warned that the temperature had already dropped about 2.7� F since the 1940s. That "hardly seems dramatic," Fortune admitted, "but the effects have been substantial. Icelandic fishing fleets that learned to range northward during the warm period have now had to return to traditional waters to the south. For the first time in this century, ships making for Iceland's ports have found navigation impeded by drifting ice." So serious was the cooling trend that "it could bring massive tragedies for mankind."

Authoritative Opinions

Of course, when issuing its dire predictions about global cooling the mainstream media was quick to cite various prestigious scientific authorities. One such authority widely quoted at the time was Dr. Reid Bryson, director of environmental studies at the University of Wisconsin. Bryson theorized that agricultural and industrial activities were causing an increase of dust and other particles in the atmosphere, and that these particles were increasingly preventing sunlight from reaching the earth, thereby fueling a cooling trend that, sometime after 1930, began overpowering the greenhouse effect of CO2. Fortune quoted Bryson as saying that this trend, "if it continues, will affect the whole human occupation of the earth -- like a billion people starving. The effects are already showing up in rather drastic ways."

Was this the uninformed gibberish of a pseudo-scientist? Not according to Fortune, which quoted another eminent scientist as noting that Bryson "is the most important figure in climatology today." Besides, "most climatologists agree that a diminution of the sunlight as small as 1 percent would suffice to initiate a cool period and perhaps even major glaciation." But now, the same industrialization these "experts" were blaming for part of the cooling is being blamed for part of the warming.

Another '70s proponent of the global cooling theory was Dr. Stephen Schneider, who spent two decades at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado before joining the faculty at Stanford University in 1992. In an article he co-authored for the July 9, 1971 issue of Science magazine, Schneider warned that "an increase by a factor of 4 in the equilibrium dust concentration in the global atmosphere, which cannot be ruled out as a possibility within the next century, could decrease the mean surface temperature by as much as 3.5� K [6.3� F]. If sustained over a period of several years, such a temperature decrease could be sufficient to trigger an ice age!" On the other hand, the warming effect of CO2 was much less significant, since, "as more CO2 is added to the atmosphere, the rate of temperature increase is proportionally less and less, and the increase eventually levels off." "[I]f CO2 is augmented by another 10 percent in the next 30 years, the increase in the global temperature may be as small as 0.1� K [0.18� F]," Schneider calculated, and doubling CO2 would change global temperature by 0.8� K (1.4� F). Consequently, "the net result" between the sunlight-blocking dust and greenhouse CO2 "will be a cooling of Earth."

But Schneider has now jumped from the "global cooling" bandwagon to sound the alarm about global warming, and places far more importance on the effect of CO2 on temperature. Regarding MIT scientist Richard Lindzen's estimate that a doubling of CO2 would result in an increase of only 1� F, for instance, Schneider scoffed: "I don't know what line from God he has." Unfortunately, the article in the June 18, 1996 New York Times that recorded this priceless contribution to the global warming debate somehow overlooked Schneider's 1971 predictions -- as have other elements of the establishment echo chamber that cite Schneider as an expert on the global warming phenomenon.

In 1976, 13 years before he wrote his book Global Warming, Schneider endorsed Lowell Ponte's book The Cooling, claiming that it "points out in clear language that the climatic threat could be as awesome as any we might face...." U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI) agreed, writing in the foreword that "The Cooling could prove to be the most important and prophetic popular science book of the 1970s."

The book warned that "the cooling will cause world famine, world chaos, and probably world war, and this could all come by the year 2000." And it cited the southward migration of the warm-climate armadillo as just one effect of the cooling that had already taken place. Now environmentalist Vice President Al Gore and others are voicing concern about global warming causing a northward migration of the warm-climate disease malaria. What they don't bother to mention is that the banning of DDT -- not global warming -- has made the resurgence of that disease all but inevitable.

Covering the Bases

Climatological "experts" who once embraced the global cooling theory have now rejected it in favor of global warming. Yet even in the context of the present debate, the spectre of global cooling can still haunt the excited imaginations of climatological chicken littles. Sometimes all it takes to provoke such speculation is a single cold snap, such as occurred in the winter of 1994. The January 31, 1994 issue of Time magazine published an article entitled "The Ice Age Cometh?" that pondered: "What ever happened to global warming? Scientists have issued apocalyptic warnings for years, claiming that gases from cars, power plants, and factories are creating a greenhouse effect that will boost the temperature dangerously.... But if last week is any indication of winters to come, it might be more to the point to start worrying about the next Ice Age instead."

Of course, the temperature sometimes goes up and other times goes down. In an attempt to cover all the bases, Newsweek went so far as to publish a cover story in its January 22, 1996 issue blaming global warming for blizzards as well as for floods and hurricanes. "According to the boldest climatological theories, global warming will produce more extreme weather of all kinds -- hot as well as cold and, especially, wet as well as dry," claimed Newsweek. "The Blizzard of '96 [which had occurred while the magazine was preparing its "global warming" story] was the perfect peg to look at the issue of global warming. And so we have" -- complete with a photo of blizzard conditions on the cover to complement the chilling headline "The Hot Zone." Thus, if we are to accept this theory, man-induced "global warming" must be held accountable for whatever bad weather takes place.

Stephen Schneider once noted that "as scientists ... ethically bound to the scientific method ... we must include all the doubts, the caveats, the ifs, ands, and buts." On the other hand, "we need to get some broad-based support, to capture the public's imagination," which entails "getting loads of media coverage." Consequently, that means "we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have." This dilemma for Schneider and his fellow catastrophic climatologists is made easier by the fact that the opinion cartel has assigned their embarrassing "ice age" predictions to the memory hole.

Anonymous said...

""New NASA satellite temperature data reveals that the Southern Hemisphere has not warmed in the past 25 years, contrary to 'global warming theory' and modeling," Morano said. "This new data may require a name change from 'global warming' to 'Northern Hemisphere warming.'""

Anonymous said...

Earth to BCL. Its not the warming globe that is the problem but rather the fact that you want the government to fix it. No baby...you fix it. Get rid of that car. Stop heating your home. Grow your own food...can't have all those trucks delivering produce for you... quit your job...it must take energy to keep your computer going, (you do this at work right?) The Liberals signed on to Kyoto but you greedy energy hogs have upped the energy use instead of lowering it. Thats YOU, not the government. So quit your boring bellyaching and YOU get on with it. Yeah, I know...telling a Liberal to actually do something, (anything!) instead of crying for the government to fix it is pretty much a waste of time but what the heck..its fun to see them squirm.

bigcitylib said...


Thanks for responding. 10% or 21% percent of 1905 is still a huge whack of ice gone, so I think the point stands. If you have much bigger ice-shelves, you can have bigger ice-shelf breakups.

You write:

"As greater than 60% of ice-shelf loss occured in the first half of the century (with 1906 being the control at 100%) when warming was occuring, but not when GHG emmissions where at their peak, then what proof of the correlation?"

Lets say you have a single ice cube in a glass of water, and you cool the glass to -1 Celsious, until it freezes into the water around it. Then over the course of a few hours you raise the temp. 2 degrees until its at + 1 (above freezing), and then you leave it long enough that most of the ice-cube has melted and you're down to a tiny little piece. Then you raise the temperature another five degrees. The amount of ice loss will necessarily be much less, because there is simply ice to lose.

I'm actually not a climate scientist, so that may not be the correct explanation. But its certainly one way an increase in GHG might not lead to a similar increase in ice-loss.

Anonymous said...

I think the Rat's mom needs to re-visit the parental control settings on her little sunshine's computer.

Anonymous said...

your graph says what skeptic have always been saying - temperature has been rising slowly for about teh last 200 years. The agreed to number is just over 1 degree . . .

Your graph refutes your claim, but then I doubt if you have nay science background and certainly no climatology, geomorphology or glaciology knowledge.

Best stick to doing whatever it is you do best, climatology is not a "strength"

Anonymous said...

Wow. Global Warming debunked conclusively, in one comment, at BigCityLib's blog, January 2nd, 2007...20:42 EST.

I'll always remember where I was when it happened.

The Rat said...

"I think the Rat's mom needs to re-visit the parental control settings on her little sunshine's computer.

BCL, how do you feel about getting "Joooooos" McLellan's sloppy seconds?

Anonymous said...

Ask your mom. She's knows all about slopp...

No, I won't. I am a gentleman.

So, Rat...been stalking me, eh? You know, you might have sent me a Christmas card. All my other stalkers did.

Anonymous said...

at the end of 2004, Canada after 13 years of Liberal inaction and dithering and wasting $6 billion, was 40% OVER its targeted level for GHG emissions ( 6% below 1990). We are now probably closer to 50% above the target.

Shut down every factory AND eliminate all vehicles - planes, trains, buses, planes and Canada would still be over-emittting by about 20MT. Some target.

Thank you Jean fuck'n Cretin for signing us up to a useless treaty.

But lets be good Liberals - after all Dion named his dog Kyoto and take personal responsibility.

- turn off the heat
- no more air conditioning
- park the car - bike or walk
- forget fuel cells - water vapor is a major GHG
- support nuclear power only

Reality check time kiddies . . doesn't matter a whit of its getting colder or warmer. Its all red-herring talk.

Liberals, NDP & Greenies . . folks who can't handle reality but like to bitch whine & complain. A lot. too much.

Anonymous said...

bcl "So you are saying that the 'largest event in 30 years' statement is false?"

Depends on your definition of "largest event." (Thank you Bill Clinton)

If you're referring to the size of the principal ice sheet set adrift, it represents the biggest event since 1982. The really big ones are relatively rare, but a major event could involve the formation of two or three smaller ice islands plus a lot of smaller
growlers. In 1962 there was a massive breakoff off about 600 square km which subsequently divided into several smaller pans.

The biggest individual ice-island
actually tracked (and occupied by the Yanks for several years) was Ice Island T-3 with an area of about 100 square kilometers. It was first observed in 1951, drifted in the Arctic Ocean for more than 30 years, went as far west as western Alaska and eventually disappeared, much reduced in size, off of the east coast of Greenland.

The volume of shore-fast ice has been progressively decreasing (with a burst of activity in the 1950s and '60s) for at least 100 years and probably much longer. This is a function not only of calving (the most impressive thing that ice shelves do) but of the rate of ice growth, which depends on temperature, amount of precipitation, prevailing wind direction and possibly other variables as well.

The bottom line, as I stated in my last post, is that the event of 2005, although spectacular was far from unique. Just old Ma Nature doing her thing but, this time, somebody was watching.

Sleep well. Even if one takes the Suzukian view that the end of the world is nigh, the ice shelves are behaving normally.

Anonymous said...

other sky is falling,

That piece by Benoit is the best layman's article re global warming that I have seen in ages. Great post.

(Or maybe he's not a layman and just writes without jargon.)

Anonymous said...

Liberals, NDP & Greenies . . folks who can't handle reality but like to bitch whine & complain. A lot. too much.

Ok, Rona. We know the prospect of the axe falling soon is making you a little bitter, but is the trolling really appropriate?

Anonymous said...

the "other sky"...that is a excellent summary of the evolution of climate science, from one apocalyptic extreme to another. Unfortunately the climate cultists here have their heads so far up Al Gore's butt all they can see is warm sludge.

Anonymous said...

If the climate change deniers hadn't consisted of so many fools, liars and paid shills, the rest of us might have taken alternative views a little more seriously.

The rest of you should have taken these miscreants to task, rather than harass and irritate average people (for mostly partisan reasons), most of whom are just trying to find their way around an exceedingly complex issue. Having failed to do so, you revealed you don't have much integrity and can safely be dismissed.

Don't like that? Too bad. Blame "Historical Climatologist" Tim Ball.

Anonymous said...


You agree with his snarky reference to Dr. Ball ????? Where is the science in that?

bigcitylib said...


Dr. Ball is pretty close to being a fraud. Sorry,thats the way it is.

Anonymous said...


I came over to this site because I thought you were an adult with whom one could have an intelligent exchange of views. Obviously a mistake, because here you are playing the ad hominem game. Tim Ball "close to being a fraud". Jeezus Christ! 'Bye.

bigcitylib said...


One thing that the people who are skeptical of global warming are just going to have to learn to deal with is that the quality of their "experts" is crap. Tom Ball, according to interviews, does not "want to know" where the funding from the "Friends of Science" comes from, but it has a Calgary address and is linked to a PR firms with heavy oilpatch/Tory connections. He also has told people that he was the first climatologist in Canada, which is false, and in other ways exaggerated his credentials...wildly.

Anonymous said...

Lance, are you claiming that's there's an equal body of evidence for and against an anthropogenic explanation for Global Warming?

In any case, those of you who can find your way around the minutia of the science of Global Warming should, at the very least, attack the static coming from the Exxon-Mobil funded frauds before you make your cases for skepticism among the rest of us.

Just for the record, the debate for me is over. Energy conservation and a gradual weaning off fossil fuels make sense to me in any case.