The Climate Show #7: Box and Boxsters – the cryosphere special

by Gareth on February 17, 2011

Highlight of this week’s show is a fascinating — and sobering — interview with Greenland expert Professor Jason Box. His perspective on current events in the Arctic — from the dangers of permafrost methane, through rapid warming over Greenland and the potential impacts on sea level is essential listening and viewing. And he can surf, too. Glenn and Gareth discuss warm weather in New Zealand during a La Niña summer, drought in the Amazon and the complex interactions between climate and weather extremes, food production and political stability. John Cook from Skeptical Science debunks the favourite sceptic arguments about ice at both poles, and in the solutions segment we discuss the recent WWF report on renewable energy, and the new all-electric Porsche Boxster.

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Show notes below the fold.

News & commentary:

NZ bakes in hottest month ever and weather in Waipara.

Russian roulette with a rainforest — Amazon suffers another severe drought, could have dire consequences for atmospheric carbon.

China prepares for ‘severe, long-lasting drought’

Starving North Korea pleads for aid

Mexico’s Corn Crop Hit Hard By Cold Temps

From The Guardian: The World Bank has given a stark warning of the impact of the rising cost of food, saying an estimated 44 million people had been pushed into poverty since last summer by soaring commodity prices. Robert Zoellick, the Bank’s president, said food prices had risen by almost 30% in the past year and were within striking distance of the record levels reached during 2008.

Graph of the FAO food price index from a story at Daily Kos.

Egypt unrest fueled by high food prices.

Feature interview: One the world’s leading experts on Greenland and its ice sheet: Jason Box, Assoc. Prof., Department of Geography, Byrd Polar Research Center, The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA, currently on sabbatical as a visiting professor, University of California, Santa Cruz. We’re talking to him a few weeks before he makes his first trip of the year to Greenland.

Extreme Ice Survey

Meltfactor.org

Debunking the skeptic with John Cook from Skeptical Science.
This week: popular myths about the cryosphere.
Greenland is thickening in the middle
Himalayagate

Arctic sea ice has recovered? Harrison Schmitt: “Artic (sic) sea ice has returned to 1989 levels of coverage” Heartland: “in April 2009, Arctic sea ice extent had indeed returned to and surpassed 1989 levels.”
(No it hasn’t)

Monckton’s Arctic ice loss = Antarctic ice gain

Plus: an excellent overview of the world’s melting ice.

Solutions

Here comes the sun: 100% renewables by 2050 — WWF report: press release and PDF.

Porsche produces EV version of Boxster

Thanks to our media partners: Celsias.co.nz, Scoop and KiwiFM.

Theme music: A Drop In The Ocean by The Bads.

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Mauri Pelto February 18, 2011 at 7:18 am

This is an excellent investment of time whether you are a climate scientist or an interested citizen. Of course as a glaciologist I enjoyed the section with Jason Box. I have a bit of a different take on the potential for Humboldt Glacier , but this reflects how much we have to learn on the topic.

paulm February 18, 2011 at 12:13 pm

Hey, I was hopping you’d bring up the observation of the early sunup in the arctic circle seen last year by natives and scientist.

There have been a few explanations, atmospheric properties, cloud cover change, but the one I find fascinating is that the ice height on the horizon has fallen by so much ast to cause this phenomena of the sun rise 2 days early!

Glenn Williams February 18, 2011 at 1:44 pm

Wow, keen to find out more about that as well.

Susan Anderson February 18, 2011 at 2:52 pm

on that sunup thing, depends on the angle, but it’s more likely refraction due to water vapor.

I watched the whole thing – great work.

Food supply and social unrest – excellent to see straight talk about that.

cindy February 18, 2011 at 3:46 pm

Gareth the website link is still broken – not sure if you knew that? but http://www.theclimateshow.co.nz ain’t working

Glenn Williams February 18, 2011 at 3:57 pm
cindy February 18, 2011 at 4:03 pm

re: China – interesting factoid about drought last year … from my colleagues there:

The eight-month 2010 drought in south-west China, that covered five provinces, was considered one of the worst droughts this century. By the time the drought ended, one in four people no longer had access to drinking water. The drought also pushed 4.5 million people back under the poverty line.

cindy February 18, 2011 at 5:52 pm

I, too, watched the whole thing… it took all afternoon.
Great show, but, erm, terribly long. Constructive criticism n all that

:-)

Gareth February 18, 2011 at 9:18 pm

You must have short afternoons… ;-)

We’ve talked about length. It would be nice to be a little more concise, but when you have a really interesting guest like Prof Box, I think it’s worth taking the time to explore his views in depth.

cindy February 19, 2011 at 1:43 pm

I know – but I’ve sent it to some colleagues, some on ships, etc, and they’ve come back to me screaming about the length. It just decreases the reach (and this should go far and wide, as we know). Agree Jason Box i/view worth every second… maybe break it up into two segments?

Sceptic Lank February 18, 2011 at 6:14 pm

The same Dr Jason Box, glaciologist from Ohio State University, who proposes wrapping Greenland in a blanket by covering the valleys that form darker areas, therefore attracting the sun’s heat, he hopes to significantly slow the melting of the glacier….. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/climatechange/4611654/Crazy-ideas–to-fight-global-warming-revealed-by-scientists.html.

Yep I’d suggest you all listen closely to what this guy has to say!!

Sceptic Lank February 18, 2011 at 6:30 pm

Here is Jasons big plan in a nut shell …
http://dsc.discovery.com/tv/project-earth/lab-books/greenland/greenland-guide1.html
Of course propylene is produced primarily as a by-product of petroleum refining so we will need more oil wells to make the propylene. Of course the hemp blankets, ‘sewn together by hand’ sound far more environmentally sensitive. Perhaps he could wrap his Xmas gifts and the Antarctic too.

adelady February 19, 2011 at 11:15 am

Sorry sceptic lank.

That description of the properties of polypropylene – and all those other “by-products” of oil processing – is yet another support to the argument that this stuff is too valuable to burn.

Future generations will curse us for incinerating their heritage of valuable materials for high value plastics.

Keith Hunter February 18, 2011 at 9:36 pm
FrankD February 18, 2011 at 11:43 pm

Gareth – you muse on whether the Australian floods have had an impact on the wheat supply. Its a complex question, the answer is that the impact is a bit of a curates egg. Sorry the following is so long – I don’t do brevity…

The floods themselves have had little direct impact, but many areas have had torrential rain without newsworthy flooding. Early on that rain was a good thing, and the winter wheat crop was heading towards a record 25-26 million tonnes (Mt).

The heavy rain in November / December didn’t cause much flooding (saturated the soil and set us up for the big floods later), but came just as the winter crop was nearing harvest. That rain simply destroyed some of the crop, but caused some of the remainder to shoot before being harvested – when that happens, the wheat is suitable only for stock feed. The rain continued, potentially causing further downgrading. And indirectly, the floods have restricted transport, meaning more losses to inadequate storage.

All up the rains caused the outright loss of 2-3 Mt of wheat, and Australian will probably export ~14 Mt, 2 Mt less than would have been the case without the heavy summer rain. That said, its still more than we’ve been able to export in several recent years. But while the numbers are high, the quality – how much is fit for human consumption – remains an unknown for now. Some millions of tonnes cannot be used to feed people, thats certain.

For comparison, I think the Russian heatwave destroyed as much as 40 Mt (in several countries), and the deficit from the China drought looks to be in the 15 Mt range – much more than Australian losses. Exporters naturally keep back reserves which will cushion these losses, but exports will be hit hard, and there lies the rub.

Out of a world crop of 650+ Mt, the numbers are bad but not disastrous. But of that about only 110 Mt is put on the export market. And of that, perhaps 15 to 20 Mt that would normally be on the market has been lost, and countries like China want to buy more. Supply and demand says prices must rise further. For import-dependent poorer countries, that’s a disaster.

FrankD February 19, 2011 at 12:00 am

A little more texture to “Himalaya-gate”. As John Cook mentioned, IPCC quoted it from WWF, quoting it from New Scientist. Now, neither WWF discussion papers nor New Scientist are peer-reviewed, but it’s important to note that the error appears in a section of the IPCC report which is specifically NOT restricted to peer-reviewed papers. WG1 is the peer-reviewed stuff, WG2 takes a wider range of inputs. So the error – while significant – was *not* a failure of IPCC’s quality standards.

The other thing to note is that the New Scientist article, which appeared in 1999, quoted an Indian government official, who was himself quoting a report which had a typo (for 2350, I believe). The journalist who wrote the article – Fred Pearce – has publicly stated that he knew the figure was wrong, but he chose to quote it anyway, presumably because it made such good copy. Ten years later, when Pearce jumped onto the “Climategate” faux-scandal, he suddenly had a chance to be an actual player in this rivetting story. And how did he play it?

“I wrote something ten years ago that I should have corrected”? Bzzzt. “Shock, horror, IPCC uses non-peer reviewed error in non-peer reviewed section of their report.” We have a winner!

Pearce’s sole motivation appears to have been boosting his own self importance as a newsmaker, not merely a reporter. But in so doing he has done irreparable harm to the reputation of a mag that is hugely important *because* it is aimed at the layperson, of whom there are rather more than practicing scientists. And Pearce himself is now reduced to clattering around *coff* skeptical conferences, making up fake quotes from real scientists, thinking he’s relevant because the fringe-dwellers will give him the time of day. His slide into irrelevance is really a bit pathetic.

Dappledwater February 19, 2011 at 12:13 am

Great show Gareth. Seems to be a lot less stuttering and mumbling too!.

Mauri Pelto February 19, 2011 at 2:27 am

With regard to the protective blanket. Jason Box does not have a plan to cover the GIS with such a blanket. This is merely a science experiment in an Arctic setting the only data before came from a temperate alpine setting on Stubai Glacier

Neven February 19, 2011 at 5:45 am

Gareth, thanks for dropping in on the Arctic sea ice blog to tell us about this new episode of the Climate Show. I have turned it into a blog post.

WRT length: perhaps you could divide the show up into different segments? But you guys probably already thought of that. :-)

Gareth February 19, 2011 at 9:05 am

Thanks for helping to spread the word, Neven. It’s appreciated.

Yeah, we’ve talked about “chapters” or something similar, but haven’t got anywhere yet. The best thing to do is to download the audio and stick it on an iPod so that you can listen whenever you have a moment. You lose the video, but convenience increases. We are looking at ways of podcasting the video version too, so that you could watch on a phone or pad…

Neven February 19, 2011 at 10:18 am

I’m listening to and thoroughly enjoying the interview with Jason Box right now, and just wanted to say: I WANT TO SEE THOSE IMAGES OF PETERMANN GLACIER LOSING THAT HUGE CHUNK OF ICE!

I’m going to church on Sunday to pray that the cameras got it on digital tape… :-)

Eric Horton February 20, 2011 at 6:20 am

Another great show guys! You are doing a great job. It would be nice if you would get any people from NASA GISS talking to you, maybe James Hansen or Robert Bindschandler.

I would also really appreciate a chat with either Paul Mayewski or Julia Daly. I am spreading the message you are delivering through the show to contacts I have around the world, and I wish you the best of luck in the future :-)

Gareth February 20, 2011 at 10:47 am

Hansen’s certainly at the top of my list of people to interview, and there are plenty of others. There are a lot of interesting people working in the field… including the distinguished academics at the University of Maine!

Biochar February 20, 2011 at 11:05 am

Great Show!

Have a look! Why not increase your user base and help our network jumpstarting? Present the Climate Show at the Earth Biochar Network (also a place to talk and share info on climate change!)

The scope of this website is to educate, provide information about Biochar and offer a User Platform to make Connection, Network building. The goal is to promote the Development & Deployment of Biochar on industrial scale. To avert DCC – Dangerous Climate Change, Help increase Crop Yields, to make soils more Drought & Erosion Resistant and to harness the many By-Products of Biochar.
http://biochar.me/

Cheers

Gareth February 20, 2011 at 11:28 am

You’re most welcome to embed the Climate Show at your biochar site. Helps to spread the word…

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