Monthly Archives: July 2012

Polar Bear SWAG goes and goes

The Polar Bear has long been the poster child for global warming…and an excellent example of wild ass guessing.

We know very little about Polar Bears, but that has not stopped environmental groups from making claim after claim about the health of the species.  Polar Bears have been declared as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act because of predicted changes in the environment.  It is assumed that Polar Bear survival is directly tied to the size of the Arctic Ice Cap and that the ice cap is shrinking because of man caused events.

Good Arctic Ice Sheet Data is only 30 years old….we are all witness to wild extrapolation of that data. We are making policy decisions based on scientific wild ass guesses….or perhaps just wild ass guesses.

Today my local newspaper had a story about Polar Bear longevity.   Last March the conventional wisdom was that Polar Bears became a distinct species about 150,000 years ago.  In April that number was adjusted to 600,000 years and now (just 3 months later) it has been adjusted again to 4.5 million years.  I think it’s safe to say the first guess (150,000) was more than a little bit speculative. More WAG than SWAG.

If the Polar Bear has been around for 4.5 million years what does that mean?   Well for starters it means he is much more adaptable than previously thought.  We currently live in an Ice Age cycle that is 2.5 million years old….and it was warmer ….not colder before that cycle started.

Maybe it’s time to stop making wild ass guesses sound like statistical certainties.

Shell Drilling Delays

Shell Oil, the British/Dutch oil conglomerate is going to drill in the Arctic this August.  It is big news up north. Today, July 27, 2012,  The Anchorage Daily News lead story was all about their project.

Shell leased the lands in the waning days of the Bush presidency and has spent 4 years and 4 billion dollars getting ready to drill in the Arctic off Alaska.   It was big news up here when the Obama administration allowed the project.  The Sierra Club and various environmental groups are understandably disappointed with Mr. Obama.

Every Shell misstep has made the news…and now the project is threatened by lingering ice along the coast in the Arctic.   Hmmm.   Don’t tell Al Gore…he predicted the Arctic would be ice free in Summer by 2015.

I’m not a big fan of Arctic offshore drilling…but I am pretty confident the feds and Shell are going to do a good job.  I’d rather see the onshore areas developed first…which, of course, means the third rail of environmental politics,  ANWR.

The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is an area of Northeast Alaska that is so large it is difficult to comprehend.   The picture above and the map below are both from the US Fish and Wildlife Site.

That’s a lot of wilderness.  The road shown on the western edge of the map is the only road from Fairbanks to the North Slope.   It is over 500 miles from Fairbanks to the coastal plane of the Refuge…and there is only one road….and it stops at Deadhorse (who said oil guys have no sense of humor), the town that supports the oil industry on the slope.

There is one North- South road and there are no East West roads that cross Alaska….the entire state with a few exceptions is wilderness.  The area that the oil interests would disturb is about the size of Manhattan Island….an island of development in all that wilderness.

I would prefer for ANWR to be developed now and the offshore properties later. I think the environmental risks are lower and the potential for success is higher when the drilling is done from an onshore location.  Unfortunately, that is a political impossibility…so I guess I’ll look and watch Shell drill…and hope they find something big.

The IPCC Plods on

Every few years the UN’s Intergovernmental  Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) produces an assessment report on global climate.  The last report, the fourth assessment was written in 2005 and released to the public in November of 2007.

I was wondering when the IPCC was going to bless us with an update.  I Googled the IPCC fifth assessment report and got lots of information.  The IPCC has a shiny new brochure displaying all the cool stuff we are going to get in the new 5th assessment, in October of 2014….still a full 2 years away.   The document is worth a look.

The ever expanding IPCC is adding lots of new stuff….but there is a silver lining to this UN cloud, they are slowing down.  The first assessment was written in 1990, then 1995 then 2oo1.   The next one is due in October of 2014.  As the IPCC adds new content, the project grows…and the time it takes to review all this stuff gets longer.

The IPCC began writing in 2010 and they are now beginning to circulate drafts for consideration.    In about 2 years and 4 months (if it stays on schedule) the next assessment will be ready for public consumption….and some of the data included in the report will be four years old.    How topical.

Surprise — Record Cold in Anchorage

I fully expect global warming doomsayers to show up at any moment.   It has been a warm summer in much of the USA.  I am here to offer comfort to those of you expecting doom in the immediate future.

It’s been  cold in Anchorage, Alaska.  Really cold.  Record setting cold.   According to the Anchorage Daily News, the first 13 days of July have been the coldest in history (or since 1915 when they began taking records).

Life guard Lori Jones is on duty at the empty swimming beach at Goose Lake on Friday, July 13, 2012.

 Alaska is a big place….and we are part of the USA, so we are going to mess up the statistics. Eventually our weather will change, it will get warmer here and colder somewhere else.  But the USA including Alaska is less warm than you might think….when it’s all averaged together.

Every time I think about the world’s temperature….I wonder how they do it.  Warm in the lower 48 states of the USA with temperature data everywhere, not so many sites in a colder Alaska.  Lots of sites in Europe, not so many in Africa.   Less than 20 temperature sites in the Arctic Ocean, only 8 south of 60 degrees south latitude.  It has got to be the ultimate wild ass guess.

Weather skeptics — An Alaska Tradition

I can think of two obvious reasons there are quite a few global warming disbelievers a way up North in Alaska.

  1. Alaska is a really cold place.   A warm day is something to look forward too.   Anchorage, my home town, rarely gets above 80 degrees F and any day above 70 degrees F is considered a nice summer day.   The snow that falls in November, melts in April.    We know cold.   Warm doesn’t seem like a bad idea.
  2. Anchorage, Alaska is an extraordinarily difficult place to predict weather.  There are mountains all around and water to the West.   Weather prediction is complicated by the fact that there are very few weather stations to the west of the city.    The weather man is wrong more often here than most places.

I just looked up our weather on two well known weather sites, the Weather Channel and AccuWeather and ….guess what…..they disagree.    Both think tomorrow will be rainy, but AccuWeather thinks the high will be 60, while the weather channel likes 65.  Saturday they agree on temperature, but AccuWeather says it will be mostly sunny weather while the Weather Channel shows rain.  Sunday is more of the same.

Frequently both are wrong.

My daughter went to college in upstate NY and was taken aback when city public schools ware closed when an ice storm was predicted or when snowfall was anticipated.  We in Alaska do not live with the presumption that the weather man will be right.

Climate prediction really is nothing more than worldwide long range weather forecasting.   It is easier for us to assume that it could be wrong….because we see it very nearly every day.

World Temperature Data — A Statistical Mess

I prefer  satellite data to land surface  data when discussing global temperatures.  Satellite data has calibration issues but it successfully avoids so many of the surface issues.   Climate scientists using surface data must accurately adjust data to overcome site location deficiencies, poor and incomplete data and a changing environment.  Unfortunately satellite data has only been around since 1979, making it a ridiculously small data set.

The IPCC admits in their 2007 report that the uneven nature of temperature sights are a problem today.  I can only imagine how difficult the problem must have been….say 150 years ago.

That said, there’s lots of temperature data out there….and when I look at all the different pieces of data, I find it difficult to draw the definitive conclusions so many climate experts draw.  When the IPCC says they are 90% certain man has caused most of the warming seen in the last 60 years, as they did in the last Synopses Report in 2007, I wonder what they see that I don’t see.

Let’s begin by looking at the Vostok Antarctic Ice Core Data Set.  The data ends in 1950 and begins 400,000 years earlier.  This chart shows both temperature and carbon dioxide.

Sometimes carbon dioxide and temperature go in the same direction, sometimes not.   Al Gore used only ice core data as his proof (in his documentary film An Inconvenient Truth) that global warming is the serious problem that he says that is.

I find that more than a bit ironic, because ice cores really don’t support his position well. I am particularly fond of the data from about 130,000 years ago.   In one 10,000 year period shortly after the peak temperature dropped 6 degrees C while carbon dioxide  managed to stay relatively steady at about 270 ppm.  Steady carbon dioxide, falling temperatures…and it went on for 10,000 years.

I’m also a fan of 345,000 years ago when carbon dioxide increased 15% in 10,000 years and temperature actually went down.  I suspect volcanic activity, but then that’s for another post.

Let’s move from Antarctica to Greenland and shorten the time span to 4,000 years.

Wow, there really was a Medieval Warming Period…in Greenland at least.   Of course Dr. Mann (of the Mann Hockey Stick Graph fame) has called the Medieval Warming Period and the Little Ice Age regional issues.  Well, let’s take a look at the oh so controversial Mann Hockey Stick Graph that was critiqued by me in a previous post

Check out the temperature scale in the previous two charts .   The Mann graph has almost no temperature change for the first 900 years of the chart, the Greenland core shows a change of about 3 degrees C in the same period.  Clearly the Greenland Ice Core disagrees with the Mann Hockey Stick Graph.

I’d be the first to admit that both Antarctica and Greenland are poor proxies for the world as they represent individual very cold locations…and the weather in Greenland will not accurately predict climate anywhere else in the world.   The data supports the argument that temperature is difficult to accurately measure….and it casts doubt on the validity of the Mann study.

Now well finish up with my two favorite very recent charts, the East Anglia University chart beginning in 1850 and a satellite data chart beginning in 1979 provided by the University of Alabama at Hunstville.

Look at all that variation in temperature.  Wow.  And carbon dioxide has been steadily rising.

When I look at all this data I wonder how anyone can make statements about global climate and carbon dioxide that are presumed to be uncontrovertible which appears to have become the new buzz word in the climate science game.

Ivar Giaever Climate Religion Video

I was doing a bit of research on ice cores when I tripped over a video 0f Ivar Giaever speaking before the 2012 Lindau Mediatheque, the 62nd meeting of Nobel Prize winning physicists.  Dr. Giaever made news at a 2008 meeting of this society when he was on a panel discussing global warming.

Dr. Giaever  gave a speech critical of global warming science.  The lecture is both entertaining and informative.    It’s worth a look.


Arctic Ice Data Set — Too Small to be Useful

I’ve been complaining about the small Arctic Ice data set in recent posts.   Satellites have only been around to measure this stuff since 1979 so a small data set is virtually unavoidable with the knowledge we have today.  I suppose I’m not complaining about the data set…but about the way it is used.

We as a society ( the IPCC and their friends) have been making all sorts of judgements about all sorts of things (Polar Bear habitat is my personal favorite) for years now…by relying on small data base sets and extrapolation.

I have never been a fan of extrapolation.   When a 32 year data base is extrapolated for hundreds of years….I get nervous.

Allow me to explain.  Let’s begin by looking at the University of East Anglia UK global temperature history going back to 1850.  Still a small data set, but a bit better than 32 years.   I prefer East Anglia data to NASA data as a previous post discusses.

The period of most rapid change in this graph is the period from about 1977 to 1998.   Since 1998 it has stabilized at a new higher temperature and has been cooling slightly in recent years.   Any data set that uses the period from 1979 to 2000 as a baseline is ignoring recent data.  That very small data set is going to generate odd predictions.

Unfortunately, that is exactly what the University of Colorado does every day at their web site on Arctic Sea Ice.  Here is a map showing changes in sea ice in 2010 and 2012….and also showing an average (median)  amount for the period 1979 to 2000.

I wonder what the ice sheet looked line in ….say 1942 or perhaps 1912.  1942 was at the end of a 30 year warming cycle and 1912 was at the end of a cooling cycle that appears to have begun in about 1879 according to East Anglia University data.  Can we really predict anything with certainty about ice melting patterns in a climate system with this much natural temperature variation….particularly by extrapolating small data sets?

Arctic Ice Data

Several months ago I began following the data presented at the National Snow and Ice Data Center.  The University of Colorado provides the web site.  I really like the site, it’s full of interesting information and is less preachy than many climate data sites.

In April, the Ice Sheet in the Arctic was above average, now it’s at record lows.  Two months of very good ice formation weather was followed by two months of really good melting weather.  What conclusions can be drawn from the data.

Not much.  The data set is too small.   If we can go from above average to record lows in just 3 months…and most of the data in the last 5 years  lies outside  + or – 2 standard deviations (that should hold about 95% of the data) …the data set probably is too small.

The data appears to be fluctuating more than statistical analysis says would be normal…either the data is very unusual, which means the world is changing rapidly or the base line data is skewed.   I vote for skewed data, but I don’t know and I worry about air pollution coming from China.  Increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and/or increased particulate air pollution from China might be really messing things up.

Most of the recent data is outside the normal data range.  I suspect the normal data range is flawed.  Time will tell…..lots of time.  Don’t expect an answer next week or next month or next year.  We could still be trying to figure this out 10 or 20 or 50 years from now.