Thursday, June 29, 2006

Climate change roundup

Greenland's icecap is disintegrating, glaciers are melting faster than ever before, and people are now planting olive trees in Devon to take advantage of the expected mediterranean climate. Meanwhile, our local cranks and shills are still in full denial mode. Nothing to see here, move along...


God these people are annoying. For example in the linked press release they claim.

"Before new Green Party co-leader Russel Norman starts calling another political party leader a "climate change denier", he should explain his own "scaremongering" in the face of NIWA evidence that temperatures in New Zealand have been cooling since 1998"

The recent cooling is because 1998 was an El Nino year, the overall trend over the last 50 years is still one towards warming. If Vincent Gray knows anything about climatology he must know this. So either he's lying or their number one guru hasn't got a clue. Just wonderful.

FWIW Tim Lambert has been devoting some space to NZ's climate lunies:

For example -

Posted by Terence : 6/29/2006 09:31:00 AM

In fairness to Grey, that graph was actually like that on the NIWA site at the time the release came out - it was taken directly (though it was sent without the caption that expained it all).

The thing that struck me
was that that graph didn't have 2005 on, where the temperature came back up quite a bit. Like Grey didn't know that.

Posted by Lyndon : 6/29/2006 10:25:00 AM

That's not 'melting faster than ever before' that's 'tropical mountain glaciers may be melting faster than at any point in the last 5000 years'. Tropical glaciers have been and are always ephemeral, and icecap retreat was very much faster during the Eemian interglacial than it is now. Also, the big retreat between the 17th and 19th centuries (large amounts of which happened pre-industrialisation) was also at a similar rate.

Posted by Weekend_Viking : 6/29/2006 11:43:00 AM

Of course we forget that NRT consults expertsin prediction modelling.Especially his hero Jerome Armstrong the astrologist..

Posted by Anonymous : 6/29/2006 07:39:00 PM

Anon: who?

The closest I've come to Astrology is writing software so loons who believe their lives are governed by distant objects can find them better. But that was simply physics and a bit of Delphi...

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 6/29/2006 10:36:00 PM

The Eemian interglacial? When sea level was up to eight meters higher than it is today? If we get even half the Eemian glacial melting, we're in trouble.

The "big retreat between the 17th and 19th centuries" were clearly rather less big than we're currently experiencing, since they didn't uncover 5,000 year old plants.

Posted by Commie Mutant Traitor : 6/30/2006 01:23:00 PM

Sigh. Look, I'm a geologist, and have been for a long time now. I spend lots of time tripping over glacial moraines all around the planet because I think glaciers are cool. Lots of the glacial retreats around the world in the 17th to 19th century exposed lots of moraines containing 5000 yearold plants, otherwise I wouldn't bother going about and mapping them, ok? Part of the whole problem with this global warming thing is that people (in particular, utterly scientifically unqualified politicians and media types) have this wierd idea that climate is _stable_. It's not. Even Slightly.

Look, I'm at work and have to drive the ion microprobe tomorrow, so here's a rant I prepared earlier (Some may recognise it from the KAOS list):

It's not that I'm anti-climatologist (I mean, the IPCC two inch thick tome on climate change from 2001 weighs down my bookshelf as we speak. I'm still reading it.) but that, as C***** observed, I disagree over timescales, severity and causes.

We're currently in an interglacial period, and its nice and warm. If we go back to the late medieval 'little ice age' of 1400 through to circa 1860, it was around 0.75 degrees C cooler than it is now. If you hop back to the Medieval Warm Period, it was around 0.2-0.3 degrees warmer than it was for most of the 20th century, and the highest average temperatures of the last decade or so are just scraping up to the same temperatures of that medieval warm period (which was a period of global human population explosion and migration, until the black death hit.) Before the little medieval warm period, things were a little cooler, with things being around 0.75 to 1 degree C cooler than current average between around 700AD back to around 4000BP, but fluctuating a bit (relatively warm during the roman era). Before that, things were warm, with from 4000BP to 8000BP being the Holocene Maximum, with temperatures around 1.75 to 2 degrees warmer than current average, and humanity was inventing agriculture and early empires across the middle east and China. From 8 to 10,000 BP, we were recovering from the Younger Dryas, the last gasp of the ice ages at around 11000 BP, with a low of around 3 degrees cooler than current average (EDIT: The younger dryas appears to have been caused by meltwater breakout from the Laurentide ice sheet mucking up the North Atlantic Drift that warms Europe and plunging it back into ice age conditions. Lets not think too much about the fact that the North Atlantic Drift appears to be slowing down a bit much at the moment (say by 30-50% in the last fifty years) and those people planting Olives in Devon may be in for a rude shock, Alaskan Style.). Things were only 1 to 1.5 degrees below current average for around 12-14000BP, as the current interglacial got started, and before that we were in the last ice age, from around 14000BP back to 120,000 BP, with global average temp around 4 degrees cooler than current average.

Back in the previous interglacial, the Eemian, around 125000 BP, it was around 2 degrees warmer than current average, and early Homo-sapiens broke out of Africa and colonised the rest of the world (Bad luck for the various homo-erectoid groups, that, but he who lives by the sharpened stick dies by it too). Before then, its Oscillating ice ages all the way back through the last 1.8 or so million years, I blame Milankovitch.

Now, every time its warm, humanity has had a great time - getting out of Africa, inventing agriculture and civilisation, building all those high medieval cathedrals and the great empires of the late roman and mongol era, having the industrial revolution and the tech race of the 20th century. Every time its cold, life sucks (although biologically speaking, the planet carries more biomass during an ice age. Cold oceans are better for plankton and fish). From the geological point of view, the current interglacial is pushing its last gasps, having gone on about as long as they usually go for, and got about as warm as they get, going by the past half a dozen or so such events.

Even if we are forcing climate by C02 production, its probably not going to warm us up much - ever notice that measured warming is usually below _modelled_ warming by about .5 to 5 degrees? I just don't think the climatologists have enough depth of good data, with barely a hundred years of basic surface temperature coverage, and only 30 years of satellite data. The geological record, while fuzzier, shows periods of dramatic cooling and warming that were warmer than now, and cooler than now, and there's just not enough evidence on half a degree of warming in the last hundred years to bother me that much.

I'm also suspicious of the politics. The IPCC report is good, peer reviewed, and accurate, but its a thick doorstop that policy drones will not like reading. The 5mm thick executive summary version
leaves out the error bars, and takes the consistently most dramatic warming predictions, and gives that to the government officials who make the decisions, and _This Bit Is Done Without Peer Review_!

Its that last bit that bothers me about the climate change stuff - that somewhere, the peer review of the data breaks down between the science and the policy decisions, which gives us shite like the Kyoto protocol - better than nothing, but pretty crap really (The world's Going to end! Quick, Fix it by turning the problem into A Futures Market In Carbon! Utter WuckFits!)

You want my real opinion? I think that 99.9% of modern humans are too greedy or too stupid to modify their behaviour enough in a short enough timespan to do anything at all meaningful about carbon dioxide release, and that we're perilously close to one of two tipping points - another younger dryas event as the North Atlantic Drift slows down enough to bugger up northern hemisphere temperatures, or the arctic oceans will warm enough to allow the methane hydrates to vent, and we'll end up with a circa 40 degree C ultra humid hothouse world.


Posted by Weekend_Viking : 6/30/2006 03:04:00 PM