Tag Archives: Antarctic Ice Cores

Note to the IPCC — Develop Realistic Goals

The IPCC has a global temperature goal for the World that makes no sense.   The leading “authority” on climate wants to keep the world temperature to less than 2 degrees C higher than it was at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.  The Earth has already warmed over a degree C since 1750. This makes the IPCC limit  something less a than 1 degree C from current temperatures.

Natural climate variation makes the goal unattainable in the long run.  At some time in the future, the world will change (probably begin cooling) in  a way the IPCC failed to anticipate.   Nobody can make such a precise temperature guarantee.  Our knowledge of the science is simply too primitive.  And yet the goal is repeated over and over again.  I see references to the goal almost daily.  A goal that is nothing more than a wild ass guess.

We live in an ice age cycle and have been in this cycle for some 2.5 million years.   Average Antarctic temperatures as calculated using ice cores during the last three ice age cycles (about 400,000 years) have varied by about 13 degrees C.  Average Antarctic temperatures have been 8 degrees colder than today, and the coldest place on earth averaged 5 degrees C warmer some 130,000 years ago.  Most of the time it’s colder.

We are living in the Holocene, a 10,000 year period of very stable temperatures.   When one looks at the Vostok Ice Core from Antarctica it is clear that the Holocene is a surprisingly stable time from a temperature perspective.  Nowhere else on the chart does the climate stay stable and warm for 10,000 years.

Now let’s take a peek at a Greenland Ice Core that only goes back about 10,000 years.  This core takes place entirely within the Holocene and covers most of the period.


This ice core indicates that we have spent most of the last thousand years in a relatively cool period of the Holocene.   The recent warming has brought us up to the average.  The average temperature for the last 10,000 years in this particular part of Greenland was about the same as it is right now.  The chart stoped some 95 years ago and back then the world was about .7 degrees colder than it is today.   Add that bit back in and were about average for the Holocene.

The world has warmed rapidly, but there are lots of periods along the chart that are more severe.  Yep…wild natural climate variation…in a calm period of the ice age cycle.  Hmmm…..

I’m not a big fan of ice cores because they provide climate for a single location and regional climate varies more wildly than the world as a whole.   But if Greenland has varied by more than 3 degrees C at a time when the entire planet was unusually stable and warm, maybe a 1 degree C goal is for the world includes just a bit of wishful thinking.

Remembering that the world has warmed steadily since the end of the Little Ice Age, let’s look again at recent temperature data provided by East Anglia University in the UK.

gtc graph

Wild annual variation everywhere.  My favorite section…from 1863 to 1878, the world warmed by a bit over half a degree  C in only 15 years.  Warming before 1950 is presumed by the IPCC to be mostly natural variation.  Furthermore, the world warmed by almost .7 degree C between 1912 and 1942, a 30 year period not unlike the period between 1976 and 1998.  Since 1998, the pattern has been unusually stable.  More stable than at any time in the last 175 years.  No single year has varied from the prior year by more than .2 degree C during the last 17 years

One would never guess we are living (since 1998) in a time of relatively stable temperatures.    Reports in the media cast climate change as an accelerating problem.   And they could be right.  Perhaps natural climate variation is masking a disaster in the making?

But the IPCC could be wrong too.  The IPCC has been making temperature predictions since 1992.  The world went along as predicted until 1998, and then it didn’t.  7 years of right, 18 years of wrong.  7 for 25, not bad if your playing baseball.  I expect more from my scientists. When I look at IPCC data, I see guessing.  Wild Ass Guessing.

Problems are here, there, everywhere in the climate game.  Guessing is a part of the scientific process.  And guessing is everywhere as scientists attempt to predict future climate.  Carbon dioxide is higher than it has been in a really long time, and man probably plays a significant part in that impact.  But it is not the only input required in any attempt to predict future climate based on the past.

We have difficulty accurately measuring the Earth’s temperature both right now and in the past.  Arguments persist about volcanic impacts.  Sudden changes in the Earth’s magnetic field might matter.  Some think solar winds are important. The World was dramatically changed when Antarctica and South America became separate continents some 23 million years ago.

We know solar output varies and some suspect sunspot activity might matter.   Ice ages are presumed to be impacted by the location of the continents and by variations in the Earth’s orbit.   Land near the poles makes the world colder than when most land is near the equator is it was 50 million years ago.  The shape of the the earth’s orbit varies, as does it’s tilt.  And the earth wobbles too.  All 3 orbital variations are presumed to impact climate.

I suspect the IPCC is simply playing politics.  They need the problem to be immediate and urgent in order to secure funding.   And they know that our society lacks the political will to do what they say needs to be done.  If something bad happens, they can say I told you so.  If nothing happens they can blame natural climate variation.   And as long as the problem persists in the minds of the population, they continue to get funding!

The IPCC cannot afford to tell you the truth. It might impact funding.

THIS TRUTH —   The  scientific community is confident that man is impacting climate.  That impact is extraordinarily difficult to quantify,  measure,  or predict   When scientists use computer models they are guessing.  The models are not as precise as they should be and change wildly as new information come to life.   There is much we still do not know. The entire process is strongly influenced by  politics and economics . We all share the planet together.  We have a shared responsibility to be good stewards of the environment.  Society should act in a cautious manner because it might be important.

Gloom and doom sells newspapers and provides funding, but does little to advance the science.  I wish those that advocate climate change science in it’s current form were just a bit more circumspect and a bit less confident they are right.   Until I see some healthy skepticism from within the advocate community, I will remain skeptical.

Antarctic Ice Updates Available

I don’t tend to tell people I meet about my skeptical attitude toward global climate science as practiced by the UN.   When the subject does come up,  I usually have a rather unpleasant conversation.

All too often I get told about all the horrible things happening in Antarctica.  Yep Antarctica.   I then tell them Antarctica hasn’t been melting.   I tell them that most warming experienced in the last 200 years has been experienced on land in the Northern Hemisphere.   I am presumed to be less bright than I was at the start of the conversation.

I think Al Gore is probably to blame.  His 2005 film features lots of Antarctic boogie men.   I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised so many people believe Al’s propaganda.  Antarctica isn’t talked about much.  Al’s misinformation fills the void.  I just wish more people would at least listen to an opposing position.

My approach is about to change.  Reliable data is here and readily available.  I can point to a recognized expert.  One that has been in the forefront of Arctic melting, the National Snow and Ice Data Center.  This University of Colorado site has lots of neat stuff about the Arctic.  I’ve been following their Arctic Ice data for years.

And now they have Antarctic stuff too.   Yep, the world has been warming, the Arctic is melting, but the Antarctic Ice sheet is growing.    There are pictures…

And charts too…

Go Antarctica.   Antarctic Sea Ice has grown by about 10% in the last 30 years.  Not exactly what Al predicted in his film.

I know that the UN’s IPCC actually predicted Antarctic Ice could grow in their global warming models as area snowfall increased.   But they didn’t tell you it had been going on for years before they started their studies in the 1990’s. Who knows how long, this type of data has only been available since 1979.

Antarctica has not warmed yet, and the world has warmed.  The world is about a degree C warmer that it was about 200 years ago.   I wonder what Al Gore was thinking when he used only Antarctic Ice Core data as his proof of impending doom.

Individual ice cores are a poor proxy for the climate of the entire world because they provide information about a single location in a very cold place.   I see guessing.  It must be difficult to draw conclusions about North America or Europe or Asia from Antarctic data.   The ice core Al used in the film showed wild increases in carbon dioxide and no real 20th century warming, (which Al failed to point out in his film) which is typical of Antarctic Ice Cores.  Here’s a typical one

Notice how temperature went down 130,00 years ago while carbon dioxide remained stable.  The current temperature stability (the last 10,000 years) appears to be happening while carbon dioxide is skyrocketing.

It’ll be nice to have a respected source (National Snow and Ice Data Center)  to point global warming fear mongers to. Antarctic Ice melting really isn’t the immediate problem too many ill informed citizens believe it to be.

Global climate change is a very difficult science problem.   Doubt is a reasonable response.  I’d be the first to admit I don’t know what the answer is.  Too many advocates of IPCC positions insist they know the answer.   Come on guys.  You are guessing.

Maybe this Antarctic data will help spread a bit of doubt.  And doubt is a good thing.

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.