The Climate Show #15: Michael Ashley and the ineducable Carter

We thought we’d try for a record short show — and failed, because once again there was just to much to talk about. We have more on Eritrean volcanoes, extreme weather over the last 18 months, a new report on the dire state of the oceans, and Stoat’s big bet. Special guest is Professor Michael Ashley from the University of New South Wales, discussing the state of play in Australia, John Cook does a rapid debunk of Bob Carter, and we have electric cars, more flow batteries and the gas we do not want to smell.

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Monckton: still digging for failure

Stoat alerts me to Monckton’s response (pdf — be warned, it’s an industrial grade whinge) to the epic debunking of one of his 2009 US tour talks by John Abraham . This prompts Eli the lovable lagomorph to crowd-source answers to the 500 questions the potty peer poses for Abraham by way of “reply”. I have been advised by certain sources (who might be expected to know) that the peer is indulging in a little inflation of his credentials. So, let’s have a go at #126…

Continue reading “Monckton: still digging for failure”

Ah, I see you have the Wishart that goes “ping”

n Ian Wishart’s lexicon, to “ping” someone seems to mean catching them out in a mistake or false claim. It’s a word he’s fond of using in his regular attacks on Hot Topic, most recently over my post on sea ice volume, and a comment thereunder by William “Stoat” Connolley. My post was “bad science” and I’m a “science illiterate” it seems. Unfortunately, all Ian does is demonstrate that his own science literacy is somewhat limited. His ping, like sonar, comes bouncing right back at him…


My post Feel floes (gone by 2016) was mainly concerned with looking at the issue of whether the Arctic sea ice was “recovering” from the record minimum of 2007. Wishart says it is “recovering strongly for the third year in a row”, but the volume data shows that to be nonsense. Wishart’s main bone of contention, however, seems to be about the impact of sea ice reduction on northern hemisphere climate. Here’s his first misdirection:

Gareth, incidentally, tries to argue in reply that volume is relevant because of the heat exchange to the atmosphere involved in re-freezing water.

My reply made no mention of volume versus area — I was just pointing out that albedo effects (though important) are not the only climate impact to be expected from a reduction in sea ice. The last three years have averaged around 2 million square kilometres below the average minimum over 79-00. That huge area of ice has to refreeze in autumn, and in so doing releases heat to the atmosphere. It seems Ian doesn’t have the foggiest how much is involved.

But here’s some news that evidently they missed over at HT: when ice grows in volume, it’s because sea water is converting to solid ice, with the same heat exchange taking place in regards to the first six inches of ice, the next six inches of ice, and all the ice thereafter. And sea ice grows because it is freakishly cold, and what little heat is liberated in the process is not strong enough to compensate for the cold.

Read that last sentence again: “what little heat is liberated in the process is not strong enough to compensate for the cold.” Time for today’s lesson. The heat required to warm 1 kg of water by 1ºC is a little over 4,000 Joules. The heat required to melt 1kg of ice is 333,550 Joules (aka the enthalpy of fusion) — about 80 times as much. The same applies in reverse — that is, when 1 kg of water turns to ice, it releases 333 kilojoules of energy. Now consider how much extra heat (compared with the long term average) is being liberated by the formation of 2 million km2 of new ice, which over winter will become about 1.5 metres thick. It’s a very big number indeed — my back of the envelope calculation (corrections and precisions welcome — William?) suggests it’s of the order of 11.5 x 1011 GJ (gigajoules). A big number. Let’s halve it, to allow for ice acting as an insulator. Still more than big enough to show up in the figures for Arctic climate. And it does.

Wishart dislikes Skeptical Science almost as much as Hot Topic (he describes John Cook as my alter ego, which is much more flattering to me than John). There’s a recent post there about a new paper describing the feedback loop between summer sea ice reductions and autumn and winter warming (also at Science News). But there’s an earlier paper to refer to, that I’ve written about before: The emergence of surface-based Arctic amplification by Serreze et al (The Cryosphere, 3, 11–19, 2009 – PDF) who examined Arctic climate data up to 2007 and found them to be “consistent with the emergence of surface-based Arctic amplification associated with declining sea ice extent”. There’s a good discussion of what this is and what it might mean for climate and weather in Mark Serreze’s chapter in last year’s WWF Arctic report, discussed at Hot Topic here. In any event, it’s not news. You might have expected someone as au fait with the literature as Wishart to have been keeping up. Or perhaps not…

Still, I did learn something interesting from his post. He’s finished his “Climategate” revision of Air Con, and apparently this “new edition also contains extensive new information on why ocean acidification is not being caused by CO2“. Oh really? That’ll be news to the oceanographers of the world. An excellent excuse for another look at his “work”, perhaps… ;-)

[The hospital sketch (bonus audio edit)]

Gone too soon

SIOJune2009iceages.jpg The June Sea Ice Outlook forecasts for the Arctic sea ice September minimum extent have been released today by SEARCH. Most groups are picking a minimum close to last year’s 4.7m km2, but the melt season is starting with an unusually small amount of multi-year ice. The report suggests that there is “a small but important probability of a major sea ice loss event this year, given that the ice is thinner and younger than previous years, combined with a possibility of atmospheric conditions that cause significant ice retreat.” The full range of forecasts is shown in this chart:


The range of individual outlook values is from 4.2 to 5.0 million square kilometers. All estimates are well below the 1979–2007 September climatological mean value of 6.7 million square kilometers. Half of the responses are in the range of 4.9–5.0 million square kilometers; the remaining estimates are in the range of 4.2–4.7 (Figure 1, above). The uncertainty / error values, from those groups that provided them, are close to 0.5 million square kilometers, thus many of the values overlap.

Interestingly, the forecasts showing the lowest minima are based on sea ice modelling driven by atmospheric forcings and initialised with current sea ice conditions. The projection by Jinlun Zhang (next to lowest in the chart) suggests that even with conditions like last year — that is, without the Transpolar Express of warm southerlies that set up in 2007 — the 2007 record could fall. On the other hand, a Russian scientist suggest thats Pacific sea surface temps could be priming a cooler pattern than last year.

The full report [PDF] is a very interesting read for all ice watchers (and gamblers). On this guide to the form, it looks as though I’ll lose my bets – but the weather over the next two months will be the deciding factor. Do I feel lucky…?

[Michael Jackson RIP]

North to Alaska

CT090609.png Interesting times in the Arctic, as spring turns into summer and the sea ice melts towards its summer minimum. Will this year’s minimum be a new record, or will the ice bounce back towards the long term (but still downward) trend? The first scientific forecasts of the season are expected soon from the Sea Ice Outlook project coordinated by ARCUS, the first yacht has set sail for an attempt to get through the Northwest Passage, and the usual suspects are insisting that the ice is continuing to recover. So what are the odds of a new record this year, and how is the ice really doing at the moment? The picture’s mixed…

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