Thursday, February 25, 2010

Climate change climbdown: scientists agree to reexamine data

CLIMATE scientists are to re-examine 150 years of global temperature records in an attempt to regain the public trust rocked by revelations about errors and withheld data.

The Met Office put forward the proposal, which was accepted, at a meeting of the World Meteorological Organization this week.

In a document entitled Proposal For A New International Analysis Of Land Surface Air Temperature Data, the Met Office said: “We feel it is timely to propose an international effort to re-analyze surface temperature data in collaboration with the World Meteorological Organization.” The new assessment would be ­independent and based on publicly available data that could be challenged by climate-change skeptics.

Met Office spokesman John Hammond said: “The assessment would bring together the best scientists from the top meteorological institutions around the world.”

And he said they would be using data collected worldwide, dating back as far as 1850.

The re-analysis is designed to support claims put out by the Inter governmental Panel On Climate Change but could overturn the widely believed theory that global warming is man-made. The World Meteorological Organization said the Met Office proposal had been approved in principle by delegates at a meeting in Turkey this week.

(Personally, I think this is a very good idea. Open the entire process up for public inspection. Shine a light on the scientific method and how "good science" is performed. This is a necessary step to regain public trust on this issue. The entire article in the UK's "Express" is here).

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Snow job: winter weather doesn't disprove climate change

First in an occasional series.

The Claim

"It's the most severe winter storm in years, which would seem to contradict Al Gore's hysterical global warming theories." -- Sean Hannity, Fox News host

"Historic snow storm in Washington -- third this year -- where is Al Gore to explain it snows this heavily as a sign global warming is imminent." -- Newt Gingrich, former Republican Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives

The Context

A harsh winter in Washington, D.C., has, predictably, been the source of plenty of Al Gore jokes. Many climate skeptics have held up recent snow storms as evidence that climate change is not actually happening.

The Evidence

First things first -- weather is not climate. But the likelihood of certain weather patterns is determined by climate. What we've seen in the snow-covered middle Atlantic this winter isn't just possible in a warming world, but it was actually anticipated.

Let's go straight to the U.S. Global Change Research Program's very useful synthesis report, Global Climate Change Impacts in the United States. On the subject of winter storms, it says: "There is also evidence of an increase in the intensity of storms in both the mid- and high-latitude areas of the Northern Hemisphere, with greater confidence in the increases occurring in high latitudes. The northward shift is projected to continue, and strong cold season storms are likely to become stronger and more frequent, with greater wind speeds and more extreme wave heights. " (Emphasis ours.)

(The complete article at is here).

Antarctic ice melting supports global warming

A new study of Antarctic ice suggests that in spite all the fuss around climategate, the controversy over whether scientists have withheld facts casting doubt on the theory of global warming, there continues to be evidence that the world is heating up. The latest evidence is from the US Geological Survey, which said its research is the first to document that every ice front in the southern part of the Antarctic Peninsula has been retreating from 1947 to 2009, with the most dramatic changes occurring since 1990.

Its latest research, on the southern part of the Peninsula, is particularly alarming, according to the USGS, because that area has the Peninsula’s coolest temperatures. Because the USGS has found ice shelves are retreating in the southern section of the Antarctic Peninsula, it feels certain that global warming is affecting the entire length of the Peninsula. In the words of USGS scientist Jane Ferrigno:

This research is part of a larger ongoing USGS project that is for the first time studying the entire Antarctic coastline in detail, and this is important because the Antarctic ice sheet contains 91 per cent of earth’s glacier ice. The loss of ice shelves is evidence of the effects of global warming. We need to be alert and continually understand and observe how our climate system is changing.

The USGS says the retreating ice shelves could result in glacier retreat and sea-level rise if warming continues, threatening coastal communities and low-lying islands worldwide. It explains the importance of this:

The ice shelves are attached to the continent and aready floating, holding in place the Antarctic ice sheet that covers about 98 per cent of the Antarctic continent. As the ice shelves break off, it is easier for outlet glaciers and ice streams from the ice sheet to flow into the sea. The transition of that ice from land to the ocean is what raises sea level.

(The complete article in the Financial Times is here).