I felt the chill before the winter came

Being keen on accuracy in all things, I feel I should draw the attention of the readers of Hot Topic to a prediction failure. Back in August, in a post called Arctic Sea Ice Forecast: It’s going to be tough to stay cool, I made a number of predictions about how the climate crank echo chamber would respond to the record-breaking Arctic sea ice summer minimum that was then on its way. A number of those predictions came to pass, as this recent accounting demonstrates, but I made some longer term predictions that we can now examine.

Here’s what I wrote on August 12:

When the re-freeze starts, and the Arctic basin is covered in ice once more (early December), Anthony Watts will report on the record rate of ice formation, calling it a “stunning recovery“.

I wish to apologise to Mr Watts, because I got both the timing of his statement and his precise words wrong. Here’s what he said in a post dated October 18 – Sea Ice News Volume 3 Number 15 – Arctic refreeze fastest ever:

After all of the news about a minimum record ice extent last month, this is interesting. As we know when water loses its ice cover, it allows a lot of heat to radiate into space as LWIR. many predictied that as a result of the extra open ocean surface, we see a very fast refreeze in the Arctic. It appears they were right. In fact, this is the fastest monthly scale refreeze rate in the NSIDC satellite record going back to 19791. [My emphasis]

He couldn’t wait until December before commenting on the freeze-up, but perhaps he’s saving the phrase “stunning recovery” for later use — or leaving it for his friend Steven Goddard, who has been exploring novel metrics for the autumn freeze. Sorry, Anthony.

[Elvis Costello]

  1. Copied and pasted from µWatts, so the typos are his. []

Record Arctic Sea-ice minimum 2012 declared – it’s the Silly Season!

In early August I posted my predictions for the “sceptical” response to the record sea ice minimum. Time to call myself to account. I had planned to do my own analysis, but John Mason at Skeptical Science has done such an excellent job of ploughing through the mountains of bullshit that I asked his permission to repost his comprehensive scorecard here…

The truth is incontrovertible. Panic may resent it, ignorance may deride it, malice may distort it, but there it is. Winston Churchill, 1916.

Late summer has long been known in media circles as the Silly Season, when any old story, embellished a bit here and a bit there, is trundled out to fill column space normally occupied by the graver matters of politics and business.

In the world of climate science, late summer is of course rather more important, marking the peak of the annual sea-ice melting season of the Northern Hemisphere, and this year has been extraordinary, with the canary in the coal mine tweeting louder than ever that something is seriously amiss with the climate.

With Arctic sea-ice having reached a record low extent, area and volume, several weeks ahead of the usual end-of-melt date, the Blogosphere has been ablaze with lengthy discussions of this event and its potential and worrisome ramifications. There have also been mass-outbreaks of denial accompanied by varying degrees of silliness, as one might expect when faced with an event like a record Arctic melt-out. Many commentators could see the meltdown approaching, both in the Arctic and around parts of the Blogosphere, with Gareth Renowden over at Hot Topic speculating in early August as follows:

“When Arctic sea ice area sets a new record low in the next couple of weeks, the usual suspects will say: “You can’t trust area, sea ice extent is the only valid metric“.

When Arctic sea ice extent sets a new record low in September, the following arguments will be run in parallel:

1) There will be a frantic search for a definition of extent in which a new record was not set

2) There will be a complaint that the satellite record has been blighted by the failure of a sensor and the calibrations needed to get a new sensor in operation have corrupted the record

3) It will be claimed that it was all caused by the major Arctic storm that hit in August, and thus can’t be attributed to global warming

4) It’s cyclical — it’s all happened before, in the 1930s, and is therefore nothing unusual

5) That it’s irrelevant, because it’s not global and not happening where anyone lives so can’t possibly matter.

When the sea ice extent and area anomalies blow out to record levels in early October because of the delayed freeze-up, there will be silence.

When the re-freeze starts, and the Arctic basin is covered in ice once more (early December), Anthony Watts will report on the record rate of ice formation, calling it a “stunning recovery“.”

They go on in strange paradox, decided only to be undecided, resolved to be irresolute, adamant for drift, solid for fluidity, all-powerful to be impotent. Winston Churchill, 1936.

How closely did Gareth’s predictions above conform to the reality on the media airwaves? In this post-minimum-declared Blogosphere round-up, we take a light-hearted look.

Continue reading “Record Arctic Sea-ice minimum 2012 declared – it’s the Silly Season!”

Wrapped up in books: Don Easterbrook drags Elsevier through the mud

Don Easterbrook, the retired geology professor with an unhealthy obsession about Greenland ice cores, is back. His latest book, the punchily titled Evidence-Based Climate Science – Data opposing CO2 emissions as the primary source of global warming, was published last month by Elsevier, “the world’s leading provider of science and health information” (they publish The Lancet, Grey’s Anatomy, and are part of the same group as the publishers of New Scientist). Don has penned an introduction, the opening chapter, and contributed to a couple of others, but he leaves the rest of the book to a hand-picked team of “leading climate scientists”. Here’s how the Elsevier blurb describes the book’s “key features”:

  • An unbiased, evidence-based analysis of the scientific data concerning climate change and global warming
  • Authored by 8 of the world’s leading climate scientists, each with more than 25 years of experience in the field
  • Extensive analysis of the physics of CO2 as a greenhouse gas and its role in global warming
  • Comprehensive citations, references, and bibliography
  • Adaptation strategies are presented as alternative reactions to greenhouse gas emission reductions

Regular readers will know that I have been following Don’s career as a climate expert with some interest, having caught him out stealing and altering other people’s work, misrepresenting the Greenland ice core evidence, and generally behaving in a manner unbecoming of a would-be distinguished academic. Imagine my surprise therefore when a little digging into the contents of Evidence-Based Climate Science (EBCS) showed that every one of the key features being trumpeted by Elsevier appears to be a gross misrepresentation of the content of the book. Let’s dig a little deeper…

Continue reading “Wrapped up in books: Don Easterbrook drags Elsevier through the mud”

Buffoons in arms: Goddard joins Monckton at SPPI

Oh frabjous day! Steven Goddard is joining “potty peer” Christopher, Viscount Monckton of Brenchley as one of the slithy toves contributing to the Science and Public Policy Institute‘s never-ending stream of climate denier propaganda, and on the evidence of his first “paper” he will be a valuable* addition to the team. The SPPI pantheon is in dire need of a fillip, given Monckton’s lacklustre recent performance (of which more later), and so Goddard is given his head to produce a truly wondrous counterblast to the recent NOAA 2010 Arctic Report CardTo a geologist, “the past is key to the future”. To give you a flavour of his wisdom, here are Goddard’s conclusions:

  1. The widespread belief that the poles are rapidly melting down is incorrect, particularly in the Southern Hemisphere.
  2. Arctic temperatures are cyclical. Much of the Arctic has been warmer during the last 100 years.
  3. The satellite record from 1979-2010 coincided with the warm phase of the PDO. It covers less than one half of an Arctic temperature cycle. Given this cyclical behavior, it makes little scientific sense to extrapolate linearly based on a time period which is too short. Until satellites record at least one entire Arctic cycle, the extrapolations are misleading.
  4. There is little (if any) evidence linking recent changes in the Arctic to CO2. At this point there is no solid reason to believe we are seeing anything other than natural Arctic cycles. Greenland temperatures are cooler than 70 years ago.

Great stuff. Either completely wrong, not supported by the evidence or pure wishful thinking. Positively Moncktonian in its cavalier disregard for the facts, but lacking the great man’s prolix delivery and intellectual turgidity…


Followers of events in the Arctic will know Goddard as the erstwhile author of numerous and inventive “sea ice updates” at Anthony Watts’ µWatts blog — a man with an amazing ability to conjure cooling out of nothing. A few months ago an obdurate Goddard appears to have strained the patience of the saintly Watts and he departed to set up his own blog called, with no apparent hint of irony, Real Science.

To illustrate just how far Goddard’s SPPI opus stays from reality, let’s consider his claim that “Greenland temperatures are cooler than 70 years ago“. To arrive at this conclusion he chooses two Greenland temperature stations from the NASA GISTEMP dataset (Godthab Nuuk and Angmagssalik), plots their annual averages over the last 100 years, finds two periods of warming, and then — after long detours around sea ice and CO2 — declares that Greenland has cooled over the last 70 years. Cherry-picking at its finest…

What does the NOAA Arctic Report Card have to say about current Greenland temperatures?

A clear pattern of exceptional and record-setting warm air temperatures is evident at long-term meteorological stations around Greenland. For instance:

Nuuk (64.2°N along Greenland’s west coast): Year 2010 summer, spring, and winter 2009/2010 were the warmest on record since record keeping began in 1873.

Temperature records were being set all round Greenland during the last year, leading to a record ice melt season: the area of the ice sheet that melted was 8% greater than the previous record, set in 2007, and melt continued for much longer than usual:

The melt duration was as much as 50 days greater than average in areas of west Greenland that had an elevation between 1200 and 2400 meters above sea level.

The obvious disconnect between Goddard’s reporting and the real state of Greenland goes a long way to suggest why he was dropped by Watts, and it says just as much about SPPI’s decision to run his material. To paraphrase former NZ prime minister Rob Muldoon, Goddard’s move has raised the average IQ at both places…

Meanwhile, followers of the antics of Monckton will be puzzled by the poor quality of his recent output, and mystified by his inability to carry the floor at a recent debate in Cork. The peer’s attempted rebuttal of the dismemberment of his testimony to Congress earlier this year is thin stuff, long on words (of course) but woefully short of substance.

Slightly meatier is his attempt to debunk a recent keynote address given by Obama’s science adviser John Holdren in Oslo in September. Here’s a chunk of classic Monckton:

On go the lurid scares. “Melting permafrost” is next. The fact that many of the burial grounds of the Vikings around the Hvalsey settlement are still under permafrost to this day, when they were certainly not under permafrost when the bodies were buried, is conveniently overlooked.

This is a claim that has popped up in a number of Monckton’s articles, and one that’s often repeated by sceptics who want to pretend that conditions in Greenland are not unusual. Unfortunately, as is so often the case when you look into the details, it turns out that Monckton is talking nonsense. The Citizen’s Challenge blog decided to do some exhumation of the facts, and got in touch with a few experts who know the Hvalsey site well. Here’s what Georg Nyegaard, curator of the Greenland National Museum & Archives had to say:

I know the site of the Hvalsey Fjord Church very well – was the curator of the nearby museum of Qaqortoq for 12 years. You are completely right about your doubts: There is absolutely no permafrost at this site.

I look forward to Monckton’s retraction and apology for so grievously misleading his readers, but history suggests I would not be wise to hold my breath while waiting. But Monckton isn’t finished with permafrost. Here’s his next sentence:

In fact, melting permafrost is nothing but a good thing: despite the lurid tales of methane trapped in the permafrost and waiting to erupt and give the planet a fever, methane is really a non-issue now that the Russian pipeline to Europe has been repaired. There has been no noticeable increase in atmospheric methane since the repairs were completed in the year 2000. If the permafrost were to thaw, billions of acres of productive agricultural land would become available.

Breathtaking stuff. Manages to ignore the evidence, downplay the danger, and blame the Russians, all in one sentence. It’s the sort of claim Monckton can make in a debate, leaving his opponents wondering whether they should unpack the falsehoods or ignore them. But such sophistry didn’t work for the prolix peer when he took part in a debate with Graham Parkes, professor of philosophy and head of the school of sociology and philosophy for University College Cork, at the beginning of October. Scott Mandia has Parkes’ full speech here.

The result? Parkes won the debate by 100 votes to 3. Sic transit gloria Moncktonii…

(*) “Valuable”, in so far as it makes SPPI’s output look even less credible (if that’s possible).

[Dire, that’s what it is.]