The Climate Show #25: Box on ice (a polar special)

As the northern hemisphere starts to warm (rather rapidly in the USA), climate watchers’ thoughts turn to melting ice, and to tell us what happened last year and what might be in store this summer, Glenn and Gareth welcome back Greenland expert Jason Box from the Byrd Polar research Centre at Ohio State University. It’s a wide ranging and fascinating discussion, not to be missed. John Cook looks at the differences between sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic, and we have news coverage of the new HadCRUT4 global temperature series, summertime in winter in the USA, worrying news about sea level from the Pliocene, a new report on climate change in the Pacific, and new developments in solar power and biofuels.

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The Climate Show

News & commentary: [0:03:30]

Hadley Centre publishes updated global temp series, includes Arctic for first time, shows 2010 was hottest year – formerly 1998.

Astounding US winter “heatwave” continues: Joe Romm at Climate Progress

From Jeff Masters on the day we were recording (21/3/12):

International Falls, Minnesota hit 78°F yesterday, 42° above average, and the 2nd hottest March temperature on record in the Nation’s Icebox. The record of 79°F was set the previous day. Remarkably, the low temperature for International Falls bottomed out at 60°F yesterday, tying the previous record high for the date. I’ve never seen a station with a century-long data record have its low temperature for the date match the previous record high for the date. Yesterday was the seventh consecutive day that International Falls broke or tied a daily record. That is spectacularly hard to do for a station with a century-long weather record. The longest string of consecutive records being broken I’m aware of is nine days in a row, set June 2 – 10, 1911 in Tulsa, Oklahoma (with weather records going back to 1905.) International Falls has a good chance of surpassing nine consecutive records this week.

Fox News:

“6th, 7th Consecutive Days of Record-Warmth Likely Updated: Monday, 19 Mar 2012, 12:37 PM CDT Published : Monday, 19 Mar 2012, 7:38 AM CDT Sun-Times Media Wire Chicago – In what meteorologists are calling a “historic and unprecedented” streak, the Chicago area should hit the sixth day in a row of record warm temperatures on Monday, even on the last day of winter.”

Global Sea Level Likely to Rise as Much as 70 Feet for Future Generations

Even if humankind manages to limit global warming to 2 degrees C (3.6 degrees F), as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recommends, future generations will have to deal with sea levels 12 to 22 meters (40 to 70 feet) higher than at present, according to research published in the journal Geology.

Climate change and the future of our Pacific neighbours

…until recently there has been limited reliable detailed scientific information available to [Pacific Island] countries. A major new report recently released by the Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO is helping to fill this gap. It provides the most comprehensive scientific analysis to date of climate change in the Pacific region.
The 530 page, two-volume scientific report called “Climate Change in the Pacific: Scientific Assessment and New Research” shows clear evidence of how the climate in the Pacific has changed and may change in the future.

Entire nation of Kiribati to be relocated over rising sea level threat

Interview [0:22:30]

Jason Box, Assoc. Professor in the Department of Geography, Byrd Polar Research Center,
The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, USA.

NASA MODIS Arctic mosaic

Arctic Report Card, highlights

  • Arctic average surface air temperature remained high in 2011, ~1.5 C above the 1981-2000 baseline
  • shift in the Arctic [Ocean] system since 2006
  • persistent decline in the thickness and extent of the summer sea ice cover, and a warmer, fresher upper ocean.
  • As a result of increased open water area, biological productivity at the base of the marine food chain has increased
  • sea ice-dependent marine mammals continue to lose habitat.
  • increases in the greenness of tundra vegetation
  • increases in permafrost temperature
  • more downward sensible heat and positive albedo feedback, reduced sea ice
  • loss of habit for walrus and polar bears.
  • less duration of solid platform for seal to ‘pup’
  • Possibly linked to recent changes in wind patterns, ozone concentrations in the Arctic stratosphere during March 2011 were the lowest ever recorded during the period beginning in 1979.
  • Higher temperatures in the Arctic and unusually lower temperatures in some low latitude regions are linked to global shifts in atmospheric wind patterns.

Links to “Weird Weather”

  • While oceanic and atmospheric patterns such as El Niño, La Niña, and the North Atlantic Oscillation have been blamed for the spate of unusual weather recently, there’s now a new culprit in the wind: Arctic amplification…
  • new Arctic amplification (enhanced Arctic warming relative to that in mid-latitudes) news from: Francis and Vavrus (2012), Evidence linking Arctic amplification to extreme weather in mid-latitudes, Geophys. Res. Lett., 39, L06801, doi:10.1029/2012GL051000
  • a slower eastward progression of Rossby waves in the upper-level flow
    1) weakened zonal winds,
    2) increased wave amplitude.
    may cause more persistent weather patterns in mid-latitude


A persistent and strong negative North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) index was responsible for southerly air flow along the west of Greenland, which caused anomalously warm weather in winter 2010-11 and summer 2011.

Albedo feedback…

  • Greenland ice sheet mass loss has accelerated in the past decade responding to combined glacier discharge and surface melt water runoff increases.
  • During summer, absorbed solar energy, modulated at the surface primarily by albedo, is the dominant factor governing surface melt variability in the ablation area.
  • Using satellite observations of albedo and melt extent with calibrated regional climate model output, we determine the spatial dependence and quantitative impact of the ice sheet albedo feedback in twelve summer periods beginning in 2000.
  • We find that while the albedo feedback is negative over 70 % of the ice sheet, concentrated in the accumulation area above 1500 m, positive feedback prevailing over the ablation area accounts for more than half of the overall increase in melting.
  • Over the ablation area, year 2010 and 2011 absorbed solar energy was more than twice as large as in years 2000–2004.
  • Anomalous anticyclonic circulation, associated with a persistent summer North Atlantic Oscillation extreme since 2007 enabled three amplifying mechanisms to maximize the albedo feedback:
  • (1) increased warm (south) air advection along the western ice sheet increased surface sensible heating that in turn enhanced snow grain metamorphic rates, further reducing albedo;
  • (2) increased surface downward solar irradiance, leading to more surface heating and further albedo reduction; and
  • (3) reduced snowfall rates sustained low albedo, maximizing surface solar heating, progressively lowering albedo over multiple years.
  • The summer net radiation for the high elevation accumulation area approached positive values during this period.
  • while negative feedback has been reducing impact of warming, the surface radiation budget has gotten more positive, seems a threshold is about to be crossed! All what is needed more is another decadal trend increase like the last decade, THIS IS LIKELY! It is reasonable to predict that we will observe mid summer (mid July) melting over 100% of the ice sheet surface. Max melt extent was ~65% in 2010.
  • The area and duration of melting at the surface of the ice sheet in summer 2011 were the third highest since 1979.
  • The area of marine-terminating glaciers continued to decrease, though at less than half the rate of the previous 10 years.
  • In situ measurements revealed near record-setting mass losses concentrated at higher elevations on the western slope of the ice sheet, and at an isolated glacier in southeastern Greenland.
  • Total ice sheet mass loss in 2011 was 70% larger than the 2003-09 average annual loss rate of -250 Gt y-1. According to satellite gravity data obtained since 2002, ice sheet mass loss is accelerating.

Summer plans

  • “holistic” glacier study, Store Glacier, 70 N W Greenland…the idea is to observe the system not just make and analyze this or that measurement
  • in-situ crevasse widening measurements x 2
  • water filled crevasse depth measurements x 2
  • continuous GPS x 3
  • seismometers x 3
  • time lapse cameras
  • tide gauge
  • tidal modulation of flow dynamics
  • calving tsunamis
  • hydrophones
  • multi-beam swath sonar repeat survey of sub marine glacier front
  • hydrographic surveying (temperature, salinity, current; vs depth)
  • heat and water mass budget
  • acoustic doppler current profiler
  • aircraft and satellite remote sensing data

Debunking the sceptic [1:01:50]

John Cook from talks about Antarctic sea ice:

Solutions [1:17:00]

Waikato’s plan to harvest sunlight

Pretty pictures from National Geographic: solar thermal stations in Spain.

Electric Jeepneys to reduce pollution in Philippines.

NZ’s LanzaTech picked as one of world’s leading energy innovators

Thanks to our media partners: Idealog Sustain, Sciblogs, Scoop and KiwiFM.

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

This edition of The Climate Show is our entry in TckTckTck‘s Rio Blogger competition. Wish us luck!

18 thoughts on “The Climate Show #25: Box on ice (a polar special)”

  1. thanks

    I listened.

    Concerning solar panel costs, I have just become aware of a community group trying to put money together to install solar PV on a number of homes. They are collecting numbers and quotes. Community projects of course can be ways to take advantage of economies of scale without the advantage all going to shareholders in big corporations and I suspect that a community needs to include a town project to get real advantage as Victory Harbour south of Adelaid did from 2008 with over 2000 homes being converted. What I really want to see are real estimates of installed costs for say 2kw, 3 kw & 5 kw say, which would include inverter and metering, they being readily determined. Installation costs, which can vary, are not evident in prices found on line. Nevertheless I am interested to see one installer quoting landed cost of a container of modules at 095c/watt, various other costs then build this up, but what is a big variable not entirely related to the site is the installation charge. I’ve just gone through a round of getting quotes for solar heating which seems to be a desirable pre-requisite.It’s no surprise to discover that quite apart from the quality of the system, there were huge differences in what was quoted verbally for such a minor item as a tempering valve and in what was actually detailed in the quote, what uncertainties were included or excluded as additional charges.. I suppose we are greatly in need of reliable comparisons.

    In deciding how big a system there is also the matter of a realistic estimate of just what is to be expected in terms of kw hours per day or year. I did see this worked out for UK. My tiny 25 watt panel never slacks at keeping the water pump going but cloudy la ninya days often keep it below a charging rate of 5 watts or even just 1 watt at times. It is on a roof sloping at 17° oriented at 037°N . Maximum power delivered during the middle of the day has dropped from up to a sustained 63 watts in early january for 50 minutes when the battery was being recharged in one hit after 3 days work, to 30 watts in february to 25 watts in march.

    It is hard to know from on line searches what can actually be expected in Auckland say or wherever in NZ. Perhaps someone has the numbers?


    1. Noel, can’t say anything about NZ costs. But your tiny little panel might do better on the optimum slope. Unless it’s too dangerous or difficult to work on your roof, my understanding is that panels do best on a slope the same number of degrees as the latitude of the installation.

      So 17° is not optimum at a latitude of 36S as Auckland is. No idea how much more power you’d get for the trouble and any expense involved in refixing it, though. Might not be worth it anyway.

    1. And I note with considerable interest that Andy’s little hero, the charming Bishop Hill, is one of the people who is linking to this illegally hacked material.

      To whit, he provides a post with a link to one Tom Nelson, whoever the hell he is, who provides a link to the entire zipped cache on its Russian server. Nelson also plays hosts the bizarre ravings of the alleged ‘leaker’.

      Note that the trove includes participants email addresses, passwords etc..

      Whereas Watts, to his credit, has refused to play host to the material.

      Perhaps you’d like to appear and justify that for us all, Andy.

      1. Bishop Hill merely links to the Tom Nelson site. Not sure why I need to “justify” this when the hack is already documented here and elsewhere.

        The zip file appears to be unreachable anyway

        1. Gee whiz, Andy, one day when someone hacks your personal details and uploads them to some dodgy Russian server I’ll provide a helpful link to a link, shall I? And then I’ll say –

          Not sure why I need to “justify” this when the hack is already documented here and elsewhere.

          and perhaps add

          This is climate politics. It’s a dirty game. Get used to it. I’m just enjoying the show.


          So why is Watts refusing to participate, then? Could it be that he recognises breathtakingly grubby hypocrisy?

          It’s only the personal hack that counts in terms of impact, incidentally, because the ‘revelations’ are almost hilariously pathetic! It seems SkS are doing everything you’d expect them to to promote their site and their science. Wow.

          1. Sure, Bill, I’d be happy for you to post my personal details on the internet, since they are up there anyway.

            By the way, I checked the zip file and there was no personal information of any significance on it. Just a few usernames and partially redacted email addresses.

            It should be noted that I didn’t link to Bishop Hill. You did, Bill.
            So your link leads to BH, that links to Shub, that has a working link to the zip file.

            Like I say, you are wasting your time downloading it because it is quite unexciting really.

            1. I’m pleased to hear it’s unexciting in technical terms, just as it is in political terms (i.e any ‘revelations’ are squibs!) But Montford was hardly to know that.

              No IP addresses, then? Passwords? These have been the concerns raised at SkS, and people have been reporting odd experiences with email addresses other than their own appearing when they’ve attempted to alter their log-ins to change what they believe may be compromised passwords.

              Would the email redactions have been in the original data (seems unlikely), or should we assume this was done by the hacker before uploading the trove? I’m asking you all this because I understand this is your area of expertise.

              Kudos to Anthony Watts for actually directing SkS’s attention to the hack as soon as he was informed of it, too, as well as refusing to use the material.

            2. Andy, I asked you these questions in all seriousness. Can you confirm you found only partially redacted email addresses, as you said, and no IP addresses or passwords, encrypted or otherwise?

            3. bill March 26, 2012 at 11:01 am

              The user.csv file contains usernames, date of joining, user level (an integer 1-14 or so) and email addresses

              The email addresses are not really redacted as such. They seem to drop the last part of the domain (e.g) .com)

              Example would be joe@gmail,so therefore it is pretty easy to deduce the full email address in most cases.

              There are no IP addresses in the user csv, but I have since noticed that IP addresses are logged against user names in the forums (these are the “private” forums where mods and other power users are discussing SkS strategies etc).

              There are no passwords from what I can see. John Cook posted on SkS that passwords are encrypted on his website, so a hacker would have to get hold of the encryption key.

              It would be prudent, as Gareth has already stated, to change any passwords, especially if you share your SkS password with any other websites.

              By the way, I have no intention of sharing this information or using it for any malicious purpose. I tend to download stuff like this out of curiosity and to back up any claims made by others.

    2. With respect to the hack: anyone who is registered at SkS should change their passwords, at the very least.

      My sympathies go to John and the SkS team. Hot Topic has been hacked twice, and I know how horrible the recovery process can be.

  2. Another good show fellows. Regarding the quote that Box mentioned after 32:33, it probably comes from Henry Pollack, in his extremely well written book “A world without ice” that came out in 2010 in where he looks at the role of ice in the development of the earth landscape, in the development of earth’s climate, the effects it has on human civilisation and the reciprocal impact that people are now having on ice. Pollacks quote is “…Ice asks no questions, it presents no arguments, reads no newspapers, listens to no debates. It is not burdened by ideology, and it carries no political baggage as it crosses the threshold from solid to liquid. It just melts…”

  3. For a reason why the Antarctic sea ice extent is increasing… Apparently the outflow of land ice from the continent is affecting the locallity bringing down the sea surface temp in the region thus making it easier for the sea ice to form enhancing the process.

  4. adelady

    Yes It’s a nuisance having a roof that is not just right for solar:) so installers tend to tout about 13° tilt stands for people like me which invite wind problems and look wrong. My 17° slope is good for summer but bad for winter. In any case trees and slope effectively cut off direct sun about 3 p.m. standard time,more so as winter comes on. I have been thinking of putting a quick tilt adjustment on the panel mount for research purposes. It will be quite easy. A few numbers will give me an edge on installers who have a wide range of opinions on the subject and toss in figures which vary too much to suggest research.


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