Upward over the mountain

Geodesic equipment dome high on Tasman Glacier
There are chilly weeks ahead for a team of six scientists — two New Zealanders, two Chinese and and two from the USA — who are heading into the Southern Alps around Mt Cook for a winter ice core drilling project organised by GNS Science. Winter drilling is necessary to avoid the cores melting on extraction — daytime temperatures will be around freezing, but could drop to -20ºC at night. Julian Thomson (blog — worth a read) of GNS explains how they will select sites:

“Ideal ice core sites are flat, at high altitude, with a slow-moving glacier and moderate snow accumulation. These sites enable good preservation of a long continuous record of annual ice core layers,” he said. “Such sites are rare in the Southern Alps where the highest areas are typically steep and with very high snow accumulation rates. New Zealand glaciers are therefore fast moving and dynamic.” Weather permitting, the scientists plan to retrieve ice cores from several sites.with altitudes ranging from 2200m to 3000m.

The logistics are a challenge:

The cores will be brought to the surface in 1m lengths, bagged in clear polythene and stored in purpose-built insulated boxes. Typically, it can take up to 12 hours to retrieve 50m of core from a site. The ice cores will be air-lifted off the glacier and taken to Mt Cook Village and stored in a walk-in freezer at The Hermitage Hotel. From there they will be taken in a refrigerated truck to the New Zealand Ice Core Research Laboratory at GNS Science in Lower Hutt.

Retrieving the climate records in the cores is becoming urgent because NZ’s glaciers have lost 60% of their volume since the 1850s. The Press coverage quotes Thomson:

“There is definitely a feeling that these glaciers are not going to come back for a good while. It is a priority to get the ice cores out as soon as we can,” Thomson said. “We’re not sure how old the ice is at the bottom. If we’re really lucky, we hope to go back a few hundred years. “That takes us back further than instrument weather stations, which have been around for about 150 years. If we went back into the thousands of years we’d be absolutely gobsmacked.”

We have to hope that the staff at The Hermitage resist the temptation to serve the ice with whiskey at the bar…

[Update: RNZ National’s Jim Mora interviewed Julian Thomson this afternoon: audio here at 14:10.]

[Iron & Wine]

Telling porkies to Parliament

NZETS.jpgThe Emissions Trading Scheme Review committee has released the first batch of submissions it has received — those made by organisations and individuals who have already made their presentations to the committee. There are some heavy hitters in there: from New Zealand’s science and policy community there’s the Climate Change Centre (a joint venture between the University of Canterbury and Victoria University of Wellington, plus all the Crown Research Institutes – from NIWA to AgResearch), VUW’s Climate Change Research Institute, and GNS Science, and from the world of commerce, we have the Business Roundtable‘s “evidence”. Why the quote marks? Because the Roundtable’s submission is a fact-free farrago of nonsense.

Continue reading “Telling porkies to Parliament”

Cry me a river

marbles.jpgI missed out on the field trip to the Waipara Gorge to look at the evidence for tropical temperatures around Eocene New Zealand, laid low by the dreaded lurgy, but TVNZ sent a film crew so that I could see what I missed. Plenty of big hammers on display… Meanwhile, GNS have sent along more details of the conference symposium on Wednesday next week (Jan 14), and it looks fascinating. One highlight (from the GNS release):

The symposium will conclude with a public lecture by Professor James Zachos from the University of California, Santa Cruz, on “Rapid global warming and ocean acidification 55 million years ago: Lessons for the future” in Oceania at Te Papa, 5.30-6.30 pm.

I don’t often wish that I lived in Wellington, but this is one occasion… 😉

The denial twist

hansen.jpg James Hansen [CV], the most outspoken climate scientist in the world, has been stirring up something of a furore. Invited by the Democrats to speak in Washington on the 20th anniversary of his famous 1988 testimony to Congress on the dangers of global warming, he used to opportunity to complain about the funding of climate disinformation campaigns by fossil fuel companies [full text]:

Special interests have blocked transition to our renewable energy future. Instead of moving heavily into renewable energies, fossil companies choose to spread doubt about global warming, as tobacco companies discredited the smoking-cancer link. Methods are sophisticated, including funding to help shape school textbook discussions of global warming. CEOs of fossil energy companies know what they are doing and are aware of long-term consequences of continued business as usual. In my opinion, these CEOs should be tried for high crimes against humanity and nature. Conviction of ExxonMobil and Peabody Coal CEOs will be no consolation, if we pass on a runaway climate to our children.

Prosecuted for “high crimes against humanity and nature”. That’s a pretty radical view and not surprisingly the climate disinformers have been hard at work trying to rubbish the idea – and Hansen and his work.

Continue reading “The denial twist”

In the land of make believe

NZETS.jpg Today’s lesson is taken from Jane Clifton’s Politics column in this week’s Listener (full text on the web next week). Her take on the current fuss over the Emissions Trading Scheme perfectly illustrates how the debate around this issue is being misunderstood and misrepresented, occasionally wilfully, sometimes from ignorance. This is not Clifton’s fault. She is reflecting only a certain kind of reality – the perception of the issue that is driving press coverage and political actions. Here’s a key passage:

“… most people have gotten the drift by now: to reduce carbon emissions means to reduce activities we currently benefit from and enjoy. And we will have to pay handsomely for our lack of pleasure.”

She then considers why the government is struggling with the scheme:

“It’s the ultimate non sequitur. A government that addressed this crisis seriously would become massively unpopular and lose office. A government that didn’t would be hideously irresponsible and deserve to lose office. Hard to avoid a certain fatalism.”

If the first part of the argument were true, then her “non sequitur” would follow. Happily, her assumption is completely wrong, so it doesn’t have to. But you’d be hard-pressed to glean that from the current discussion in NZ (or indeed from Clifton’s column).

Continue reading “In the land of make believe”