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ICECAP in the News
Nov 20, 2007
Changes in European Storminess?

By World Climate Report

A recent article will soon appear in Climate Dynamics, and we suspect it will not be carried by any news service. The international team of scientists is from the Climate Research Division of Environment Canada, the Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics in Austria, the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute, and the Institute for Coastal Research in Germany.

Matulla et al. note that others have investigated trends in storminess in Europe over the timescale of 100 years, and based on daily wind data, they have detected no trend. However, long-term wind data “are characterized by spatial sparseness and inhomogeneities, caused by instrumentation changes, site moves and environmental changes.” North-Western European storminess starts at rather high levels in the 1880s, decreases below average conditions around 1930 and remains declining till the1960s. From then until the mid 1990s a pronounced rise occurs and values similar to those of the early century are reached. Since the mid 1990s storminess is around average or below. This picture—a decline that lasts several decades followed by an increase from the 1960s to the 1990s and a return to calm conditions recently, is to be found for the North European triangle as well. The increase, however, is far less pronounced. Central Europe features high-level storminess peaking around the turn from the nineteenth to the twentieth century which is followed by a rapid decrease. Since then a gradual increase prevails until the 1990s and most recent values show a return to average or calm conditions. In their own words, they conclude that their work is in agreement with other studies in Europe showing “that storminess has not significantly changed over the past 200 years.” Read full story here.

Nov 17, 2007
Nuclear Energy and the CO2 Fiction

By Zbigniew Jaworowski Letter to the American Nuclear Society in 21st Century Science & Technology, Fall 2007

In 1989 I was invited by Dr Hans Blix, then the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency for a chat in his Vienna office. Staunch defender of the truth, it was more than a decade before he hit the headlines proving his honesty and integrity, as the head of the United Nations Commission for Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. He had asked my opinion on future prospects for nuclear energy, in view of the societal effects of the Chernobyl disaster. I told him what I already said in an editorial to the Special Chernobyl Issue of the Environment International (Jaworowski 1988). Chernobyl was the greatest possible catastrophe of a nuclear power reactor—nothing worse could happen—and its worst effects were psychological. In terms of human losses, Chernobyl may be regarded as a minor one compared with other industrial catastrophes.

I doubt that my arguments convinced Dr Blix. He said that for gaining the public support for nuclear energy one should concentrate on its near-zero CO2 emissions, which may redeem us from the climatic warming doom scenario. Already at that time, I knew that this global warming scenario was a politicized science fiction, inflated with ideology and big money. I advised Blix that for the sake of honesty and scientific integrity, in promoting nuclear energy, the IAEA should refrain from using a fiction, the flaws of which sooner or later will be apparent.

The era of cheap energy (and thus of prosperity) is over, mainly due to insufficient and improper investments in energy production over the past few decades. This neglect in energy investment, partly sparked by environmentalists, combined with increased energy demand, may first lead to skyrocketing energy prices, and then to a decline of the world economy, with its drastic negative political, societal, and environmental effects. Read full letter here.

Zbigniew Jaworowski, M.D., Ph.D., D.Sc., is a multidisciplinary scientist and former chairman of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. He is now a senior advisor at the Central Laboratory for Radiological Protection in Warsaw.

Nov 13, 2007
No Consensus on IPCC’s Level of Ignorance

By Dr. John Christy, Professor of Atmospheric Science, University of Alabama

Scepticism, a hallmark of science, is frowned upon. (I suspect the IPCC bureaucracy cringes whenever I’m identified as an IPCC Lead Author.) The signature statement of the 2007 IPCC report may be paraphrased as this: “We are 90% confident that most of the warming in the past 50 years is due to humans.” We are not told here that this assertion is based on computer model output, not direct observation. The simple fact is we don’t have thermometers marked with “this much is human-caused” and “this much is natural”. So, I would have written this conclusion as “Our climate models are incapable of reproducing the last 50 years of surface temperatures without a push from how we think greenhouse gases influence the climate. Other processes may also account for much of this change.”

How could the situation be improved? At one time I stated that the IPCC-like process was the worst way to compile scientific knowledge, except for all the others. Improvements have been adopted through the years, most notably the publication of the comments and responses. Bravo.

I would think a simple way to let the world know there are other opinions about various aspects emerging from the IPCC font would be to provide some quasi-official forum to allow those views to be expressed. These alternative-view authors should be afforded the same protocol as the IPCC authors, ie they themselves are their own final reviewers and thus would have final say on what is published. At that point, I suppose, the blogosphere would erupt and, amidst the fire and smoke, hopefully, enlightenment may appear.  Read more here.

Nov 11, 2007
Consequences of Arctic Tundra Shrub Invasion and Soot Deposition

By John E. Strack, Roger A. Pielke Sr., and Glen E. Liston in JGR, November 2007

Invasive shrubs and soot pollution both have the potential to alter the surface energy balance and timing of snow melt in the Arctic. Shrubs reduce the amount of snow lost to sublimation on the tundra during the winter leading to a deeper end-of-winter snowpack. The shrubs also enhance the absorption of energy by the snowpack during the melt season by converting incoming solar radiation to longwave radiation and sensible heat. Soot deposition lowers the albedo of the snow, allowing it to more effectively absorb incoming solar radiation and thus melt faster.

This study uses the Colorado State University Regional Atmospheric Modeling System version 4.4 (CSU-RAMS 4.4), equipped with an enhanced snow model, to investigate the effects of shrub encroachment and soot deposition on the atmosphere and snowpack in the Kuparuk Basin of Alaska during the May–June melt period. The results of the simulations suggest that a complete invasion of the tundra by shrubs leads to a 2.2C warming of 3 m air temperatures and a 108 m increase in boundary layer depth during the melt period. The snow-free date also occurred 11 d earlier despite having a larger initial snowpack. The results also show that a decrease in the snow albedo of 0.1, owing to soot pollution, caused the snow-free date to occur 5 d earlier. The soot pollution caused a 1.0C warming of 3 m air temperatures and a 25 m average deepening of the boundary layer. 

See full paper here

Nov 10, 2007
Know the Past and Understand the Future

By Art Horn, Meteorologist

What has been lacking from the global warming story is a balanced viewpoint. Without some balance to the global warming story people can’t have a proper perspective on the issue. If all you watch is a black and white TV how can you know that the colors give you a better picture. The internet has helped to add some color and balance to the picture. The information revolution that is the internet has allowed scientists to circumvent the usual media highway. And it’s beginning to have an effect. People want to know what is really going on with our climate machine. At least those who want to listen and are open minded. And that is most people I believe.

I perform a program about climate change and global warming at various public and private functions. Recently I was picketed by people who seemed to feel that their opinion is the only one that should be heard or viewed. During my program I was continually interrupted by members of this group. Eventually they were quieted by other members of the audience. I thought this behavior curious because after all if they feel so confident that their opinion about what causes climate change is true why would they fear someone who does not agree with them? The answer is because they are not open minded people. If society is going to make informed decisions about this issue they need to know what is real and what is not or questionable. Free speech is a big part of what this county was founded on.

In the end nature itself with show us the answers. There is nothing that we can do about that. The truth is that there has been no rise in global temperature for 10 years. The major players in the climate machine are performing as they have for all of time. The changes in the relatively short term climate (25 to 30 years) have already started and will be self evident. The Pacific Ocean has turned colder again. The sun appears to be going into a quiet period not seen in maybe 200 years, a trend that may continue for several decades. Global cold periods historically have been associated with such quiet sun times.

As always the key to understanding the future is to know the past. We have seen these changes in nature before and we know how the temperature has responded. This is not to say we know everything about how climate works, we don’t although some think they do.  An educated person knows that there is always more to learn. There have been years of constant repetition about global warming and who is to blame. This confident tale is told to us over and over again by a news media that does not have all the answers but likes to give the impression that it does. I only hope it’s not too late to change the tide before we make very large and costly mistakes.

Read more thoughts from a forecast and television meteorologist with decades of experience here.

Oct 30, 2007
‘No link’ between Drought and Climate Change

By Paul Carter in the Australian

MOST farmers believe climate change is a natural phenomenon and not man-made, senior delegates to a farmers’ conference said today. NSW Farmers Association (NFA) executive councillors Howard Crozier and Ian McClintock’s comments were applauded by the 60 fellow NFA councillors at their bi-annual meeting in Sydney today. The pair say they do not accept the widely endorsed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finding that man-made carbon emissions are the main cause of global warming.

They rely on what they say is an emerging and eminent alternative school of climate change research which says global warming is almost entirely a natural occurrence. “The majority of farmers believe that climate change is really a natural cycle process,” he told AAP.


“There is no possible link between this drought and man-made climate change.” His climate change ally, crop and sheep farmer Mr McClintock, represents farmers in the Cootamundra area.  “Farmers by and large are far more skeptical about the claims being made that climate change is almost 100 per cent man-induced, simply because we work the land and we know what goes on,” he told AAP. “Otherwise, the broad spectrum of the scientific evidence is indicating that almost certainly the major component of the climate change we are experiencing is natural climate change.” NFA president Jock Laurie said there were many skeptics about the cause of global warming, which he added had been occurring since time began.  Read more here.

Oct 29, 2007
Global Warming and Nature’s Thermostat: Precipitation Systems

By Roy Spencer, Principal Research Scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville

Here I present a simplified (but hopefully accurate) explanation of the basics of global warming - call it a global warming primer. First, I will address the issue of how warm we are today, and some possible explanations for that warmth. Next, I’ll briefly describe the Earth’s natural greenhouse effect and global warming theory. Finally, I will explain the “thermostatic control” mechanism that I believe stabilizes the climate system against substantial global warming from mankind’s greenhouse gas emissions. Some of what I will present is an extension of Richard Lindzen’s “infrared iris” effect, support for which was published on August 9, 2007.

The bottom line is this: Precipitation systems ultimately control the magnitude of the Earth’s total greenhouse effect—which is mostly due to water vapor and clouds—and those systems change in ways that offset the small warming tendency from mankind’s greenhouse gas emissions. Sunlight is the source of energy for our weather, and so it makes sense that more (or less) sunlight will make the Earth warmer (or cooler). But the greenhouse effect (trapping if infrared heat) is the result of weather processes. Remember, most of the Earth’s greenhouse effect (over 90%) is due to water vapor and clouds, and so it is under direct control of weather processes—winds, evaporation, precipitation, etc.

I believe that precipitation systems act as a thermostat, causing cooling when temperatures get too high, and warming when temperatures get too low. It is amazing to think that the ways in which tiny water droplets and ice particles combine in clouds to form rain and snow could determine the course of global warming, but this might well be the case.

I believe that it is the inadequate handling of precipitation systems—specifically, how they adjust atmospheric moisture contents during changes in temperature—that is the reason for climate model predictions of excessive warming from increasing greenhouse gas emissions. To believe otherwise is to have faith that climate models are sufficiently advanced to contain all of the important processes that control the Earth’s natural greenhouse effect. Read more here.

Oct 26, 2007
Climate is Too Complex for Accurate Predictions

By Jim Giles, New Scientist

Climate change models, no matter how powerful, can never give a precise prediction of how greenhouse gases will warm the Earth, according to a new study. The result will provide ammunition to those who argue not enough is known about global warming to warrant taking action.

It now appears that the estimates will never get much better. The reason lies with feedbacks in the climate system. These positive feedbacks accelerate global warming and also introduce uncertainty into estimates of climate sensitivity, say Gerard Roe and Marcia Baker of the University of Washington in Seattle.

What is more, they found that better computer models or observational data will not do much to reduce that uncertainty. A better estimate of sensitivity is the holy grail of climate research, but it is time to “call off the quest”, according to a commentary published alongside the paper.

That is likely to fuel attacks by critics in the oil industry and elsewhere who argue against investing in measures like clean energy until more is known about climate change. Others say that we need to act even if climate sensitivity lies at the low end of the scale, since coastal areas would still be threatened by rising seas, for example.

Ultimately, the papers also illustrate the limits to which models, even those produced by powerful supercomputers, can help politicians make decisions. “This finding reinforces not only that climate policies will necessarily be made in the face of deep, irreducible uncertainties,” says Roger Pielke, a climate policy expert at the University of Colorado at Boulder, US. “But also the uncomfortable reality – for climate modellers – that finite research dollars invested in ever more sophisticated climate models offer very little marginal benefit to decision makers.” Read more here.

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