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Unassailable Evidence

Written By: - Date published: 6:00 am, July 8th, 2009 - 101 comments
Categories: climate change - Tags:

Tim Naish

Tim Naish

Inaugural Lectures are very traditional University events; held these days to permit outstanding researchers to present an overview of their work to the wider academic community and public. Last night Prof. Tim Naish delivered a clear and decisive verdict about human induced climate change; the evidence is unassailable.

Held in the very formal surrounds of the Hunter Building Council Chambers, the room was full to what I would guess it’s capacity of 400-500 people. His presentation wove together threads of the science, his own career, acknowlegement to those who went before him, and the numerous mentors and colleagues whom all modern researchers depend on. Modern science is a very complex business, while the rare lone genius occasionally contributes ground-breaking insights, the vast bulk of progress these days is made by teams of people supporting each other, and all standing on the shoulders of those who went before them.

Starting with the Scottish mathemetician James Croll (1870) who was the first to deduce and calculate what are now more popularly known as the Milankovitch (1930’s) cycles, Naish gave a brief introduction to the naturally occuring Ice Ages and sea level changes that accompany them. The next major figure referenced was Sir Nicholas Shackleton (1937-2006)a pioneer in the use of mass spectrometrty to determine changes in climate as recorded in the oxygen isotope composition of calcareous microfossils. Using ocean sediment cores, his team convincingly demonstrated that oscillations in climate over the past few million years could be correlated with variations in the orbital and positional relationship between the Earth and the Sun. However even late in his life, Shackleton realised that the underpinning ideas of his work were only theoretical, that corroborating physical evidence was still required.

Tim Naish’s PhD work (1980’s) studying sedimentary sequences in the Wanganui basin provided that evidence. The Wangaui basin is a 5km deep depression in the earth’s crust that has been filled over millions of years with erosion material from the continuously uplifting Southern Alps, material that is driven north up the West Coast by part of the Great Oceanic conveyor currents to form layer upon layer of beach material in the basin. Within that record is embedded clear evidence of numerous dramatic sea level changes, often in the order of 50-100m, that exactly correlate with Shackleton’s records. Subsequent work has detailed a precise and robust sequence of almost 100 such oscillations going back millions of years.

After working for Bob Carter for a number of years, Naish joined GNS (Geologic and Nuclear Sciences CRI based in Seaview Lower Hutt and closely attached to Victoria University), initially as a petroleum geologist. Very quickly he became involved in various Antarctic drilling programs, the first at Cape Roberts. This last summer he was the Science Team leader for the ANDRILL project, an ambitious and successful core drill sited on the Ross Sea Ice shelf. Essentially the drill penetrated 80m of floating ice, 800m to the sea bed, and then another 1000m into the sedimetary layers beneath. (This alone was a remarkable technical tour-de-force and currently a world record.)

Most such core drills only recover about 40% of the potential record; but a specialist New Zealand company has pioneered innovative techniques allowing them to recover 98% of the material, greatly enhancing the quality of the data that can be derived from them. In the 2007-2008 season the team’s sedimentoligists identified 60 cycles when ice sheets or glaciers advanced and retreated across McMurdo Sound, dating back at least 5 million years.

Now for the takeaway message.

Over the last 3 million years the Earth’s climate has undergone at least 60 naturally driven Ice Age cycles, each accompanied by major changes in sea level. As the temperature changes, so does the CO2 level. Over very long time scales it is apparent that the Earth is gradually cooling, but the amplitude of the cycle changes is of the same order, ie the peak warm period are almost as warm as it was 3 million years ago, before gradually sinking back into the next Ice Age. Critically it is vital to understand that the warm peaks of this natural glacial cycle always coincide with a peak CO2 level of not more than 300ppm.

Normally these changes take place over many tens of thousands of years. Human’s however have taken CO2 from about 280ppm pre-Industrial to almost 400ppm in around 100 years. In geological/climatic terms this time scale is less than an eye-blink, it is a massive, virtually instantaneous, shock to the system. The last time the Earth’s climate had this much CO2 in it was about 3 million years ago, when the climate was 5-6 degC warmer, there was no ice at either pole, and sea level was about 100m higher than present. The major reason why this has not already happened is that the oceans represent a monstrous thermal mass, and the time lag for them to respond will be in the order of many hundreds of years, but respond they inevitably will. And it is the warming oceans that melt the Antarctic Ice shelves.

The ANDRILL sediments clearly show that during the warm periods the Antarctic oceans were full of algae blooms and the sea temperature was at least 5 degC. No ice existed in Antarctica during these warm inter-glacial periods. None at all.

There are two Antarctic ice shelves. The Eastern Ice shelf (EAIS) is by far the larger, grounded mostly above sea level and considered relatively stable for the foreseeable future. The West Antarctic Ice Shelf (WAIS) is totally different. Much of it is grounded at depths of 1-2km below sea level.Therefore it is peculiarly exposed to the effects of warming oceans in a potentially unstable and difficult to predict fashion.

The current IPCC’s mainstream predictions of 0.5m sea level rise by 2100, and exclude melting of the Greenland and WAIS because at the time of publishing they considered the science around them too uncertain. The ANDRILL work has greatly reduced one aspect of that uncertainty. Alone the linearly projected melting of the WAIS will add another 0.5m of sea level rise to the IPCC figure. A total of 1m rise by 2100 is now considered a mainstream prediction in the community.

Worse still Naish and his colleagues are now faced with clear evidence that the WAIS does not necessarily melt in a linear fashion, rather it is prone to highly unstable events that could lead to massive breakups, potentially adding up to 3.2m of average sea level rise in quite short periods of time. And due to the way the earth’s gravitational field works, that average rise would not be distributed evenly over the earth’s surface; in some places like North America the rise could be up to 4.0m…within our, or our children’s, lifetimes.

In the longer run, CO2 over 400ppm commits the climate to a complete loss of the WAIS, Greenland and EAIS, totalling a sea level rise of about 100m. The evidence is now unassailable; a firm commitment to Copenhagen later this year is our last chance to act. Failure will bring only our grandchildren’s condemnation.

(And yes I took the train into town.)

101 comments on “Unassailable Evidence ”

  1. lprent 1

    Great post. Makes me feel like I was there.

    So they have established that the WAIS breakups tend to be rapid. That is news. Should cause some severe changes in the ultra-conservative IPCC projections.

    We’re at 380ppm CO2 or there abouts now, ie 25% above what we have seen for millions of years, and the rate of increase is accelerating. We seem to have filled the CO2 buffers. My bet is that we will get a pretty sudden phase change at some point pretty soon.

    Hottopic had a post the other day about Nick Smith’s response to the science. Pathetic doesn’t even start to describe what I think of it.

  2. MynameisJack 2

    Nick Smith is a psycho pill popper.

  3. Marty G 3

    MNIJ. Enough of that. Contribute something substantial.

  4. outofbed 4

    What a fantastic post Red
    As the other elephant in the room is population growth
    it would appear that the Planet is about to sort that one out me thinks
    I wonder and worry what sort of world my future Great Grand children will live in.
    I will cycle to work today I think

  5. Shona 5

    Thanks for such a comprehensive explanation of WTF global warming is really doing to our fragile planet. Wish I’d been there ,once again I have cause to regret my choice to live provincially.Now to spread this info to local deniers.And petition the plonkers in the Beehive.

  6. Doug 6

    I find it interesting that two sedimentary geologists who worked so closely together can have such different conclusions on AGW.

    It is unfortunate that Bob Carter has hitched his star to denialist camp and in so doing is destroying is hard won scientific credibility, even to the point where he has turned his back on basic statistically analysis.

    See http://tamino.wordpress.com/2009/06/26/embarrassing-questions/

    It’s embarrassing

  7. RedLogix 7

    Tim mentioned Bob Carter with respect. He made it clear that while their professional opinions are very different, he is still happy to acknowledge the opportunities and experiences that Bob made possible for him.

  8. Ag 8

    I’m not sure what lectures like this are supposed to achieve.

    You can present all the evidence in the world, on the topics of 9/11, Barack Obama’s birthplace and climate change, and a large number of people will still believe in outlandish conspiracy theories. Any reasonable person was long ago persuaded that ACC is most likely occurring.

    The problem that faces governments now is how to eliminate the political influence of the deniers, and I don’t think that can be done by rational argument, not because there aren’t rational arguments in favour of ACC, but because deniers aren’t rational. That seems to me to be a much greater problem than proving that human caused climate change is occurring.

  9. I think the threat of US trade sanctions – which formed a part of their climate change response legislation – will do a lot to force NZ into action. Even the deniers seem to accept that it would be economically disastrous for NZ to do nothing, largely because of the impact on our Clean Green image.

    • Jasper 9.1

      Yes, our clean green image…

      Which is just that. An image portrayed to the world where in reality our waterways are dying, our native fish and eels are disappearing, our frogs are all but gone and rubbish abounds on our foreshore and seabed.

      Yes, our clean green image leaves a lot to be desired.

      As for Naish, good summation of the facts. What’s not explained is whether the pull of the moon will have bigger effects on the rise of the sea level in some areas, more than others. Tis not just the Earths tilt that affects where the rise may be more pronounced.

      I saw a movie some time ago that centered around Antarctica being the basis of the third world war given all that land that will be made available when the ice disappears. Overcrowded nations want a piece of that oh so nice Pie that’s already divided the antarctic territory – but much of the pie for some nations is largely only over ice, under which is ocean, not land. Not much use for resettling some citizens

  10. Pat 10

    I don’t think Climate Change Deniers are the problem. It seems to me that it is mis-directed to have an on-going effort to convince people that human-induced climate change is happening.

    Where the emphasis should be is on showing HOW changes like Emissions Trading Schemes will arrest the effects of climate change. I think there is a general skepticism that charging a farmer in NZ for his cow farting will save the habitat of the polar bear. I know this is a very simplistic example, but the point is most people accept what the problem is, but aren’t yet convinced by the proposed solutions.

    • jarbury 10.1

      It’s like the challenge of actually reducing our emissions by 2020 by anything at all, considering they’ve increased quite a lot in the past 19 years. We certainly aren’t going to achieve anything by continuing with the transport policies Steven Joyce has initiated over the last few months, or by building Gas Power Plants as Gerry Brownlee has made possible again.

    • lprent 10.2

      Personally I’m less concerned with saving other species habitats (important as that is) than I am in maintaining my habitat. The little bits of climate change in the last 10k years have been notable for causing vast migrations – that look like invasions. I’m especially thinking about the Mongols and the Vikings.

      Imagine those happening with nuclear weapons.

  11. Zaphod Beeblebrox 11

    The ‘tragedy of the commons’ scenario, where nobody has any motivation to do anything individually but we all do collectively points to the fact that action when it comes will come from a global initiative.

    The question will be then- what to do with those who free ride off the actions of the majority?

    Assuming a global consensus has to be reached to avoid our grandchildren living an impoverished existence, it is pretty obvious that economic sanctions (or even military ones in extreme circumstances) will be used. If the US, China, EC, and the rest of the G8 decide something has to be done who will be able to oppose them?

    Small countries like NZ will need consider this.

  12. To know the truth, the important activity is investigation; neither “denial” nor “belief” can be relied upon if the facts are unclear. The article is a good one, and the good professor appears to be doing good work, but on my reading it presents no evidence at all of causality.

    It only assumes, as many of the comments seem also to do, that CO2 causes and has caused the temperature increases, or part of them, or something it’s unstated, and so it’s unclear.

    To repeat: Prof Naish has presented no evidence of the causes of the present warming. In that regard, it is inconceivable that a gas (anthropogenic CO2) that constitutes only about 0.008% of the whole atmosphere is capable of governing the Earth’s climate.

    Thus it is incredible that so many shriek “the end is nigh” on such slender evidence.

    Richard Treadgold,
    Climate Conversation Group.

    • Maynard J 12.1

      Did you find it inconceivable that CFCs could affect the ozone layer?

      Do you find it inconceivable that such a tiny part of the atmosphere could have such a great impact?

      Your methodology is identical to those who deny the holocaust happened (where is the list of all six million Jews? The biggest I have seen is 30,000. It is inconcievable that so may died). I am NOT suggesting there is a moral equivalence between the two, but to use such discredited methodology is disgraceful.

      Not to mention you are damning an academic based upon an omission of evidence from a report of a presentation by a third party. Harldy doing yourself any favours on the credibility front.

      • CFCs affected the ozone layer, did they? I don’t know much about that. You are incorrect to say I find it inconceivable; I find it incredible.

        I didn’t mention the Holocaust.

        What methodology? I simply observe no evidence presented in the article for the present warming. It’s a true statement. I damn nobody.

        • Maynard J

          “CFCs affected the ozone layer, did they? I don’t know much about that. You are incorrect to say I find it inconceivable; I find it incredible.”

          Well thanks for clearing that up. Perhaps you should get in tune with the natural world and the ability of us folk to mess it up a bit more. It is an interesting example; in truth, I assume you are joking that you are not aware of it.

          No you did not mention the holocaust, I specifically said that you did not. I said you are using the same methodology of holocaust denial, which can be summed up as “one tiny part of a theory might not be true/is unproven = the entire theory is clearly false”.

          I was interested in your comment that antropogenic CO2 is 0.008% of the atmosphere and is too small to govern the climate. Seemed a simplistic statement so I thought I would find an example for you. Say I accept that quantity you specify, if not the outcome. Follow the below, if you will:

          Earth’s atmosphere is 5.1480×10(18)kg
          Sulfur ejecta from the 1815 Tambora eruption was 10×10(11)kg
          Seven orders of magnitude less.
          That is probably less than 0.0000001%, my computer’s calculator will not get it. Greater that eight decimal places anyway.

          Do you know what that tiny quantity of sunfur did? It caused the year without a summer. So your theory that we are not pumping out enough ‘stuff’ to affect the earth’s climate is clearly a simplistic assumption to say the least.

          Your website says you are all about facts – yet you fail in the simple analysis of a basic fact, you cannot understand its import. The phrase ‘credulous fool’ springs to mind.

          • Richard Treadgold

            Thank you, Maynard, for taking such trouble to reply.

            I assume you are joking that you are not aware of it.

            No, I said I didn’t know much about it. I’m also not convinced, though, that we caused much harm; for all our efforts, the ozone “hole” is still there, waxing and waning every year. Seems natural enough to me.

            Your “Holocaust” point is unclear, inconsistent and inappropriate.

            Good work on the volcano analogy, it’s interesting in its own way. But a colourless gas doesn’t react to sunlight in the same way as a dark, dusty, aerosol, does it? In that, your analogy breaks down right away, as the two substances are totally different from each other. You cannot refute what I said about CO2 on the basis of how sulphur particles behave. Oh, and carbon dioxide is 0.008% of the atmosphere by volume, not by mass (whatever difference that makes).

            “Credulous fool”? LOL. I suggest you pay more attention to what I write, not what you imagine about me. Use real intelligence: refute what I say.


            • Maynard J

              You said: “it is inconceivable that a gas (anthropogenic CO2) that constitutes only about 0.008% of the whole atmosphere is capable of governing the Earth’s climate.”

              I showed that a substance several orders of magnitude less DID govern the earth’s climate. I accept that the substances are different, though it is possible the difference in orders of magnitude of difference could make up for that difference. Surely based upon such a concept you would be more opento the idea that CO2 could have an effect?

              Regarding Ozone, a man-made substance has a massive effect on part of the Earth’s atmosphere. There are plenty of examples, it is foolihs to think that we are too insignificant to have an effect.

              Out of interest, have you got a reference for the figure of 0.008%? I wonder how accurately one could compile cumulative Anthropogenic CO2 emissions for the last couple of centuries.

    • Sam Vilain 12.2

      The article is a good one, and the good professor appears to be doing good work, but on my reading it presents no evidence at all of causality.

      You’re barking up the wrong tree; directly supporting the AGW hypothesis was not the focus of his talk. It was more about showing how the geological record gives a very good picture of what has happened in the past, what this tells us about the dynamics of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet melting today, how much sea level rise that might contribute in the future, and how quickly.

      Now go run back under your denialist rock. Shoo! Shoo!

      • directly supporting the AGW hypothesis was not the focus of his talk.

        Perhaps not; I cannot comment on that. But the focus of the article certainly was:

        a firm commitment to Copenhagen later this year is our last chance to act. Failure will bring only our grandchildren’s condemnation.

        The science presented by Prof Naish is undoubtedly sound, and in accord with your summary of it. But (again) he presented no evidence as to the cause of the present warming. If the ice is melting, that says nothing about why it melts. So Copenhagen is unlikely to affect it.


        • RedLogix

          I do not believe that I have at all misrepresented Prof Naish at all. He made it perfectly clear that excess human CO2 emissions were a major and potentially dangerous driver of climate change. While it is true that the focus of the lecture was around sea level change and it’s relationship to the Ice Ages, there was no question as to the underlying theme.

          If the ice is melting, that says nothing about why it melts.

          The Antarctic ice is melting because the oceans around it are warming. I would have hoped this assertion to be fairly non-controversial.

          • Richard Treadgold

            I do not believe that I have at all misrepresented Prof Naish at all.

            I don’t think I said that you did. Or are you also Sam Vilain? Even if you are, I still did not say that you misrepresented Naish.

            Prof Naish may well have made clear that “excess human CO2 emissions were a major and potentially dangerous driver of climate change”, but he did not, as quoted in the article, reveal any evidence for it.

            The Antarctic ice is melting because the oceans around it are warming. I would have hoped this assertion to be fairly non-controversial.

            Perhaps, at least as far as some of the coastal ice is concerned. It does not refer to the interior. But of course the implication is that the ocean has been warmed by anthropogenic CO2, and that is not in evidence.


            • RedLogix

              Perhaps, at least as far as some of the coastal ice is concerned. It does not refer to the interior.

              The WAIS is of course grounded well below sea level, therefore it is all potentially exposed to the warming oceans. Moreover once the buttressing effect of the coastal ice shelves is gone, many of the interior glaciers will flow more rapidly.

              Over and above all this is the evidence of the ANDRILL cores, demonstrating that during the peak of the inter-glacial warm periods the WAIS has fully collapsed, the Antarctic oceans were full of algae blooms indicating sea temperatures over 5 degC, and sea levels were in the order of 70m higher than now. This strongly implies that EAIS must have collapsed as well. All this when the CO2 content was only 300ppm.

              But of course the implication is that the ocean has been warmed by anthropogenic CO2, and that is not in evidence.

              Prof Naish was hardly attempting to prove the AGW proposition; that has already been done by others. It was assumed as a given, and judging by the warm reception he was given, accepted as true by most of those 400-500 attending last night. What he was actually presenting was evidence of the consequences of our collective failure to act.

        • Sam Vilain

          But (again) he presented no evidence as to the cause of the present warming. If the ice is melting, that says nothing about why it melts.

          Mr Treadgold, the causes of the current warming are well known. We know the cause and we know who dunnit. That is taken for granted by Professor Naish, because unlike yourself he agrees with the consensus position. No doubt he reads peer reviewed science journals rather than whatever it is you read.

          He doesn’t need to demonstrate the causal link for every part of the scientific consensus position when he talks just for the benefit of denialists like yourself. He is just presenting his research and fitting it into the established consensus. To do otherwise would have detracted from his admirable inaugural lecture. It would be to speak outside of his field of expertise – something he was extremely careful not to do.

          Speaking outside of their field of expertise is the sort of thing you expect from climate cranks, not reputable scientists. I would hold that it is the very definition of reputable for a scientist, to only speak with authority about that which they have researched, and to investigate serious challenges to their findings, retracting or revising them if invalidated. If you don’t, you can expect to join the list of “cranks”.

    • lprent 12.3

      The short answer is that you need to do what I did and learn some science. In my case a BSc in earth sciences.

      Even do some 6th form physics. They will introduce the concepts of scattering, the effects of the third law of thermodynamics. I’m pretty sure that they deal with teh effect of positive feedback on steady state systems.

      Your statement makes absolutely no sense to anyone who does know some science. The problem is that even arguing with you makes no sense.

      I’ll propose an experiment for you (in the interests of experimental science). Get into a decompression unit and pump in an atmosphere without CO2. I predict that you’ll find that your body ‘forgets’ to breath through lack of CO2 to trigger the breathing response. I’d suggest that you don’t ignore it – you will die in your sleep (probably improving the species).

      Then ask yourself how such a ‘trace’ gas can have such a strong effect on you…

      • Yes, thanks for the advice, Iprent. I have done a little science. And well done, you; any degree takes effort.

        Which statement, exactly, makes no sense? I repeat that it is inconceivable that a gas (anthropogenic CO2) that constitutes only about 0.008% by volume of the whole atmosphere is capable of governing the Earth’s climate.

        If the climate is governed by positive feedback we’d not have made it this far and I suspect you know that.

        The experiment you propose moves the simile from thermal dynamics to chemistry, which is misleading. I agree that in chemistry minuscule quantities can be telling. But not in heat movement. There’s just not the mass required in 0.00008 of the atmosphere to DRIVE (my emphasis) the climate. At least, you’ll have to prove it to me.

        But I thank you for proposing it, for the experiment would confirm how vital carbon dioxide is to life itself, and yet we are in the process of calling it “dirty” and “banning” it. Stupid.


        • Pascal's bookie

          “I repeat that it is inconceivable that a gas (anthropogenic CO2) that constitutes only about 0.008% by volume of the whole atmosphere is capable of governing the Earth’s climate.”

          Thanks for repeating this Richard. It shows that you take care with words, and consider them. A trait to be respected, generally speaking. Although of course sometimes people that take great care with words do so not for reasons of clarity, but obfuscation.

          I’m not sure what you mean by ‘governing’, but I’ll assume that you are not setting up some sort of strawman and mean something like:

          “… it is inconceivable that a gas (anthropogenic CO2) that constitutes only about 0.008% by volume of the whole atmosphere is capable of having the effects on the Earth’s climate that the AGW hypothesis would suggest.”

          Something like that at any rate. ‘That CO2 driven AGW is inconceivable because CO2 is such a small part of the atmosphere.’

          There are a number of problems here. CO2 is not the only problematic gas, so I’ll assume you are using shorthand. More importantly of course it is absolutely conceivable. It is the position taken by the overwhelming majority of climate scientists, and supported by the overwhelming majority of published research on the subject.

        • Sam Vilain

          There’s just not the mass required in 0.00008 of the atmosphere to DRIVE (my emphasis) the climate. At least, you’ll have to prove it to me.

          Heh, love this. Did you know you are disputing the most empirically testable part of the theory? Why, it was in 1859 that John Tyndall first proved via experiments that COâ‚‚ was an important gas in the atmosphere for absorbing infrared radiation.

          May I stand on the shoulders of giants, and refer you to the 1932 paper The Infrared Absorption Spectrum of Carbon Dioxide. Martin, P.E., and E.F. Baker. Physical Review 41: 291-303. This paper was specifically reviewed by Smith, R.N., et al. (1968). Detection and Measurement of Infra-Red Radiation. Oxford: Clarendon.

          There is an excellent discussion of this topic in The Carbon Dioxide Greenhouse Effect, should you care to actually read scientific literature.

  13. gingercrush 13

    So is The Standard or at least some of its authors adopting something similar to the Greens in that they want a 40% cut in emissions outside agriculture and a 20% cut in agriculture emissions. And what is Labour’s position on emission targets?

  14. Pat 14

    The great irony is that the National government is best placed to settle what is probably the two most controversial pieces of legislation – the Seabed and Foreshore Act and an Emissions Trading Scheme. The far Right can bitch and moan about a centrist Key, but they are hardly going to vote him out. And the Left are hardly going to veto any reasonable legislation that addresses these two issues.

    Unless Goff takes Trotter’s advice and reaches out to Labour’s natural coalition partner, NZ First. Personally I think Goff would rather chew off his own arm rather than extend it to Winston.

    • Maynard J 14.1

      Of course he is best placed – hard to get these things done from teh opposition and it is easy to stump up with a weakened ETS when you do not really think it will be of any use.

      And Winston? What are you (well not you, Trotter I suppose, I do not know what he said at this point) getting at there, that Labour is naturally xenophobic, nationalist etc? Not sure I see the connection he would have made – what is it? The best thing Goff can do is oppose where National does something that is in contradiction to the actions Labour would take in identical circumstances. Weakened ETS – call for a stronger one. Hardly need Winnie for that.

      • Pat 14.1.1

        Trotter ruminates on Bowalley Road. Google it.

        • Maynard J

          I was being lazy and hoping for a precis 😉

          • Lew


            Here you go, then: “Winston Peters represents the new coffee-coloured NZ, and Labour should join forces with him to defeat the baby-roasting Nats and the spit-turning Hori Tories.”


  15. GC Martin 15

    Nice item RL. Well explained. Thanks..

    Like Doug above my brow beetled some at mention the carter stable, but as he says Naish went one way, Bob the other—yet, seemingly, so stubborn with it!

  16. Professor Naish’s talk provides the following facts:
    Over the last 3 million years there have been 60 naturally occuring ice age cycles.
    During the interglacial periods CO2 atmospheric levels do not rise above 300 ppm.
    As temperature changes so does CO2.

    No Causal relationship is established between increasing temperature and CO2 and this must be established before any deductions on the effect of increasing CO2 concentrations above 300 ppm can be made.

    It is indeed unfortunate that “Doug” should label Professor Bob Carter a denialist, having studied under Prof Carter I can state that he is a scientist first and foremost and if scientific evidence points to man-induced global warming he would be the first to support actions to mitigate its effects, the fact that he does not support such actions should give us all pause to consider the facts.

    • Gareth 16.1

      No causal relationship between CO2 and global temperature?

      So, you are not aware of the radiative behaviour of CO2? That this has been measured with great precision, modelled accurately, and theoretically explained down to the quantum level. Perhaps you are also unaware of the fact that we started to understand CO2’s role in warming the planet as early as Fourier and Tyndall in the early to mid 1800s?

      If we didn’t know all this, heat-seeking missiles wouldn’t work.

      They do.

      Bob Carter may once have been a good scientist – and may still be, when he sticks to his speciality – but when it comes to the science of climate his efforts are little more than lies and propaganda.

  17. Greg 17

    Temperature leads or follows?

    I thought that previous ice-core data showed that the climatic temperature increases preceded the increase in CO2?

    What did Naish’s core data show? or did he not have good enough resolution to determine this? The article seems to completely omit this crucial point of causality.

    • RedLogix 17.1


      The lead or follow argument has been discussed in many places. Plenty of detailed explanations can be found. But put simply, global temperature and atmospheric CO2 are mutually coupled together. In other words, causality between these two variables does not run one way, but both ways.

      This means that in a naturally driven Milankovitch orbital cycle, the temperature is changing because the amount of summer radiation arriving (particulaly in the Northern Hemisphere where the major ice sheets grow) varies. If the temperature changes then the CO2 content follows exactly, with a small time lag of some hundreds of years. The effect is well known.

      But this does not mean that causality only runs from temperature to CO2 content. Equally if the CO2 content was forced to change (which does not occur naturally in the absence of human activity) then the temperature will be forced to follow… with exactly the kind of small time lag that we are observing.

      The physics exactly supports this mutually reinforcing ‘positive feedback’ mechanism. And as an engineer who works with feedback loops all the time, this kind mutually coupled model is pretty much bread and butter stuff.

      • lprent 17.1.1

        The problem with positive feedback loops (as a programmer I work with them all of the time as well), is that they are pretty damn dangerous. Unlike a negative feedback loop which self-corrects, a positive feedback loop tends to spin out of control pretty damn fast once it gets past some limits.

        If you look back in geological time (another hat) you can see lots of evidence of this. In particular having continental areas drift into the polar regions causes ice ages like the one we have been in for the last 40 odd million years. The buildup of ice causes world temperature to drop. It also starts severe glacials based on solar insolation and probably volcanic outgassing. We get warm periods due to the same.

        All of those natural things are irrelevant in this case, because we are making a warm period warmer. A *LOT* warmer. This will cause climate change. In some areas it will get cooler due to sea and air current changes. Most areas will get warmer. Some will get more water and some get less.

        The point is that there will be severe climate change.

        Severe climate change does nasty things to farming. Crops fail and people starve. Not to mention land going under water. Wars get started.

        Our civilisation was built on climate stability. I don’t think that it could survive a 5C change upwards (or downwards) in temperature. I don’t think that it can stand 2C

  18. RedLogix:

    Prof Naish was hardly attempting to prove the AGW proposition; that has already been done by others. It was assumed as a given.

    So, finally, you agree when I say that no evidence for the current warming was given. Good.

    [lprent: You just walked into troll territory with that statement. That was not what he said at all. Claiming ‘victory’ is a style of ‘debate’ that we do not tolerate on this site. It starts pointless flamewars. Read the policy. Banned for two weeks. ]


    • Well, that was unexpected. Harsh, too. I just read the policy. No warning, then?

      [lprent: Not for that particular tactic. It is usually a precursor to flamewar outbreaks. ]


      This is the first time I’ve been here and I’m not impressed with your welcome.

      [lprent: The rules here are pretty loose and leaves a lot of room for debate. The penalties tend to the draconian to assist people in self-moderation. You either get used to them or leave. Check your e-mail. ]

  19. Bob D 19

    I have to agree with Richard Treadgold and Peter Gunn. Look carefully at what is being presented. The statement is made “As the temperature changes, so does the CO2 level.” This is true – it has been known for many years that temperature drives CO2, not the other way around. So something drives up the temperature, and CO2 follows.

    Now there is suddenly a logic jump. We are told “In the longer run, CO2 over 400ppm commits the climate to a complete loss of the WAIS, Greenland and EAIS, totalling a sea level rise of about 100m.” How did that just happen? ‘Temp causes CO2’ has morphed into ‘CO2 causes temp’! Not only that, we are even given a quantitative value of 400ppm.

    How was this done? A simple technique of logic swapping, using this correct but logically irrelevant statement: “The last time the Earth’s climate had this much CO2 in it was about 3 million years ago, when the climate was 5-6 degC warmer”. Very neat, but actually nothing has been proven. The earth was hot. CO2 was high. We know CO2 follows T. So what? It doesn’t follow that if CO2 rises, temperature rises. Al Gore produced the same rabbit out of a hat in his movie. Watch it again, you’ll see where he does exactly the same thing. You simply cannot deduce that CO2 drives temperature using the geological record.

    In reality the only basis for CO2-induced warming comes from Arrhenius’ initial and purely theoretical calculations, and most people (including the IPCC) quote the 1896 paper where he calculated (crudely) that a doubling of CO2 will cause about a 5-6 deg C increase.

    However, by 1906 he had access to the black-body laws, and he re-worked his theory as follows (from the German): “I calculate in a similar way, that a decrease in the concentration of carbonic acid [CO2] by half or a doubling would be equivalent to changes of temperature of -1.5 C or +1.6 C respectively.” (Svante Arrhenius, 1906, Die vermutliche Ursache der Klimaschwankungen, Meddelanden frÃ¥n K. Vetenskapsakademiens Nobelinstitut, Vol 1 No 2, pages 110)
    Note that even this is once again a purely theoretical hypothesis and has never been proven in the case of the Earth’s atmosphere.

    In other words, the oft-quoted 5 or 6 degree rise for doubling of CO2 is not supported even by the father of the theory. Only by inventing unproven and unquantified “positive feedbacks” due to water vapour can any hope of runaway warming be maintained.

    Also, where is the fabled tropical tropospheric hot spot? It wasn’t mentioned in the article, but AR4 clearly shows its expected presence in chapter 9 (fig 9.1). However it remains strangely elusive in the real world. Without the hotspot, the theory is in trouble. Even Ben Santer admits this.

    And someone needs to explain how the oceans are storing thermal energy while both their temperature and the atmosphere’s temperature continue to decline.

    Every year we see temperatures falling as CO2 rises. The current temperature fall in NZ is 0.2C per decade, since 2001. That’s a FALL of the same magnitude as the RISE is supposed to be (according to the IPCC AR4). For most of this year we have been below the long-term average. And that’s in essentially ENSO-neutral conditions.

    The question has to be asked: Why would people strive so hard to create this apocalyptic scenario, and never accept that there is any doubt? What is driving this need for a catastrophic future? The physics don’t support it, and neither do the observations of the planet’s past or current climate responses.

    ‘Unassailable evidence’? I’m not so sure.

    • Sam Vilain 19.1

      My, what a lot of tired old talking points.

      This is true it has been known for many years that temperature drives CO2, not the other way around. So something drives up the temperature, and CO2 follows.

      They are co-dependent variables in equilibrium. Influence one, and the other changes.

      In reality the only basis for CO2-induced warming comes from Arrhenius’ initial and purely theoretical calculations

      This is simply not true; refer to the earlier link I posted for more references to the vast research in this area. It took until people looked at precise absorption spectra in low pressure that this was understood. Circa 1930s-1950.

      Also, where is the fabled tropical tropospheric hot spot? It wasn’t mentioned in the article, but AR4 clearly shows its expected presence in chapter 9 (fig 9.1).

      You’re so far off topic it hurts. Ok, so you’ve pointed to some prediction of the global climate models. Great. So, er, I suppose you’ve got some data to back up your challenge? You’re lucky enough to get fisked, but I’m not going to do your digging for you.

      Every year we see temperatures falling as CO2 rises. The current temperature fall in NZ is 0.2C per decade, since 2001.

      There hasn’t been a decade since 2001 yet.

      Why would people strive so hard to create this apocalyptic scenario, and never accept that there is any doubt?

      It took the world over a century to accept it, by now there really is no doubt.

  20. RedLogix 20

    Evidence must exist; evidence cannot arrive from the future.

    Projections of the future are always based on knowledge of past behaviour. In the past whenever the planet’s CO2 content is sustained over 300ppm for any significant period of time, the polar ice all melts, the sea level rises 70-100m higher than today, and the global temperature is 5-6 degC higher than now. Negative cloud feedback seems to have not prevented this from happening.

    There is your evidence of past behaviour, and from that future predictions can be made. But projections are never proof, and those who demand proof of future AGW warming before acting, are indulging in a dishonest prevarication. You demand the impossible to obfuscate your real desire for ‘business as usual’ inaction.

    So, finally, you agree when I say that no evidence for the current warming was given.

    None was needed. Prof Naish’s specialty is the history of sea level changes as correlated to past climate change. All science is built upon the work of others; and in a 1:20hr lecture it is not required to demonstrate every piece of science from first principles.

    Yet I can understand your bafflement. If I were to attend a lecture on say, a new type of semiconductor, but I obdurately refused to understand or accept the basics of quantum mechanics… then I am sure the lecture would be a waste of time for all concerned.

    There is a crank constituency who can be found to vociferously denounce almost any fundamental premise of modern science. Mostly they are ignored because no-one cares. Unfortunately in the case of AGW they get an audience because many people with no science background, and deeply addicted to their motor cars, want to believe the happy nonsense you are peddling.

    • I’d like to reply, but I am told I am prevented.


    • Moderator: For your change of heart, I thank you.

      RedLogix (now that I can reply):

      As Bob D points out below, there are severe problems in taking the article you reference as proof of the cause of warming.

      I don’t demand proof before action and you are wrong to assert without evidence that I do, but I do demand reason. So far, the amount of warming reasonably expected from increases in atmospheric CO2 is too small to be concerning.

      In addition, we know far too little about the climate even to explain the small 20th century fluctuations, which throws doubt on the culpability of CO2. Those, like the IPCC, who assign the warming periods to CO2 (and overlook the cooling periods) do so just because they cannot think of any other credible possibility.

      But a guess, however high a likelihood one places on it, is still not evidence.

      You’re right in pointing out that in a brief lecture one must leave some science as given, otherwise one would never move forward. However my first remark that the article contained no evidence for human-caused warming was correct, so I was puzzled that you and others seemed to contest it.

      You have, though, read too much into it, going off on a tangent about refusing to accept the basics and offering the ad hominem barbs of cranks denouncing scientific principles and peddling happy nonsense.

      In going for the man not the argument, are you not flirting with the site’s moderators?

      The point being that, when the evidence is inadequate, simply being presented with it multiple times does not improve it. You should accept that fact and try not to attack those who fail to grasp your excellent truth at first sight.


  21. Maynard J:

    I showed that a substance several orders of magnitude less DID govern the earth’s climate. I accept that the substances are different, though it is possible the difference in orders of magnitude of difference could make up for that difference. Surely based upon such a concept you would be more opento the idea that CO2 could have an effect?

    Yes, but for only a short time and by a different process. They are not equivalent or comparable. Everybody from the IPCC up acknowledges that CO2 by itself will cause only about 0.6°C (I think) more warming by 2100. The rest is claimed from water vapour.

    CO2 has an effect on temperature; I disagree it is responsible for all the present warming. I am open to anything that is demonstrably true. Just demonstrate it.

    I don’t know about the accuracy of the anthropogenic contributions so I cannot argue with them. I am aware there is strong disagreement over the lifetime of CO2 in the atmosphere, ranging between about two years to several centuries. Anthropogenic CO2 is about 20% of total atmospheric CO2, which is only 387ppmv. Bloody tiny.

    Data on atmospheric constituents from Earth Fact Sheet, by NASA. Taken from http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/factsheet/earthfact.html on 30 June 2009.

    Data on CO2 quantities and anthropogenic contribution from Gary W. Harding, taken from http://www.strom.clemson.edu/becker/prtm320/commons/carbon3.html on 30 June 2009.

    I think that’s what you need; I calculated the figure from that. One warning – you have to convert at some stage between mass of carbon and mass of carbon dioxide and I think the factor is in Wikipedia. Let me know if you need more info.


    [lprent: Let through as it arrived while I was moderating.]

    • Draco T Bastard 21.1


      Pagani says, “It is a stunning example of carbon dioxide-induced global warming and stands in contrast to critics who argue that the Earth’s temperature is insensitive to increases in carbon dioxide.”

      There you go, demonstrated.

      • Bob D 21.1.1

        Not a very convincing demonstration. The study (written in 2006) simply shows that 55 million years ago the temperature was high, and CO2 was high at the same time. Duh. They then make the staggering assumption that the CO2 caused the temperature rise! No proof is provided, and in fact the assumption makes no sense at all.

        To quote from the article:
        “However, scientists have not been able to understand just how much carbon was responsible for the temperature increase and where it came from.”
        That’s the problem, you see, when you get things backwards. If the CO2 caused the temperature increase, where did the CO2 come from? On the other hand, if the temperature caused the CO2 increase (it did) then it’s obvious where the CO2 came from – the oceans.

        • Draco T Bastard

          Unfortunately, it’s not the full study where, I would assume, they point out that all other means of natural warming have been eliminated (Solar and earths orbit). They wouldn’t be able to say the things they did in that article unless they had. It’s like Holmes says – “Once you’ve eliminated the impossible, then what remains, no matter how improbable, is the answer.”

          Your assertion that the temperature rose first is in error.

  22. Maynard J 22

    Two general thoughts on thise intent on disproving the relationship between CO2 and increased temperatures:

    It appears the proof you want is one that will most likely be provided when it is too late to do anything about it. What level of proof would be required for you to see the obvious need to take action?

    You argue that rising temperatures could have caused the release of CO2, not the other way around. What, then, do you propose as the factor for these temperature increases? In the absence of another geological, or other physical constant, CO2 remains the only valid cause, given it is present in increased concentration at every instance of global warming.

    If you argue that it does not cause the initial increase in temperature, but is a feature that sustains it, then in this case why does the factor that causes CO2 to maintain an increase in temperatures not apply?

    There are two ways of looking at it – why do you persist in arguing for the least likely?

    • Bob D 22.1

      “CO2 remains the only valid cause, given it is present in increased concentration at every instance of global warming.”
      We don’t have definitive data from 55 million years ago, so we just don’t know what the cause was. We can deduce this or conjecture that, but to state that we don’t know, therefore it MUST be CO2 is not scientific. And CO2 is present in increased concentration during warming periods because it’s a natural consequence of warming. The oceans give off more CO2 when they’re warmer.

      “If you argue that it does not cause the initial increase in temperature, but is a feature that sustains it, then in this case why does the factor that causes CO2 to maintain an increase in temperatures not apply?”
      I didn’t argue that at all. I said that something unknown caused the temperature to rise, and that caused the CO2 rise. I said nothing about CO2 then sustaining the rise. It may have had a minor effect, but clearly the main forcing that caused the rise in the first place happened regardless of CO2. When the unknown forcing was removed after 170,000 years, the temperature dropped again, and the higher CO2 concentration was unable to prevent it. Clearly the CO2 concentration has little effect on the climate as a whole.

      “There are two ways of looking at it why do you persist in arguing for the least likely?”
      It’s not the least likely, it’s the most likely. We know there is a correlation between T and CO2 in the geological records. We know temperature rise occurs before CO2 rise. We know warmer oceans produce more CO2. Ergo, it’s reasonable to suppose that temperature rise causes CO2 rise. What we CAN’T argue from this is that CO2 rise causes T to rise, simply because of the order in which they occur.

      So as I said, arguing from the geological records alone, you can’t make a strong case for AGW. All that’s left is models based on Arrhenius.

  23. RedLogix 23


    I spent much of my thirties running and calibrating infrared absorption instruments. Very precisely. We were primarily calibrating for water content, but the presence of other molecules was always apparent and had to be accounted for, even in quite minute amounts. So whenever I read someone who dismisses the existence of CO2 infrared absorption, something that I have frequently seen with my own eyes, I do tend to be rather surprised.

    The primary greenhouse gas in the atmosphere is water vapour (~60%), the secondary gas is CO2 (~10-25%), with methane and others contributing a portion. In the absence of all these gases the temperature of the Earth would be about -30degC cooler. Therefore we know that the greenhouse effect is, and always has been, a vital component of the climate.

    For some reason while infrared absorption by water molecules is considered by deniers a perfectly natural and legitimate thing that keeps the planet much warmer than it would be otherwise; yet when the same photons are absorbed by CO2 gas…. we get told “They then make the staggering assumption that the CO2 caused the temperature rise!”

    If you are going to tell me that CO2 infrared absorption has no effect, then you will also have to equally dismiss the same infrared absorption of the H2O molecule. You simply cannot have one, without the other.

    • John Nicol 23.1


      I believe you are misreading the comment regarding the influence of carbon dioxide on the global temperature. No one seriously questions the simularity between water vapour and carbon dioxide in warming the planet to the liveable level we enjoy, apart from the fact that withoput CO2 the planet would still obviously be warm enough to live brcause of the ffect of water vapour,but we would be without an essential sutainer of life, vizz CO2. What we claim is that increasing CO2 will not now cause a significant increase in temperature because the level of CO2 is already above a threshold of “saturation” in its warming effect.

      John Nicol

    • Bob D 23.2

      “So whenever I read someone who dismisses the existence of CO2 infrared absorption, something that I have frequently seen with my own eyes, I do tend to be rather surprised.”
      I’m not sure why you feel I dismiss the existence of CO2 infrared absorption; I certainly do not. We know that CO2 absorbs and then re-emits IR, as does H20 and other bipolar molecules in our atmosphere. Some of this IR escapes to space, while some is re-absorbed by other GHG molecules etc.

      However, it’s still quite a leap from there to catastrophic global warming.

      The issue has always been the quantification of the effect as it applies to our atmosphere. To date the IPCC has preferred a high sensitivity, and its models therefore show a high degree of warming due to increased CO2. A large portion of the warming is also due to water vapour ‘positive feedback’. Note that this is unquantified to date and is simply an assumption. This, together with the absolute value of the sensitivity to CO2, constitutes the weakest points of the IPCC position.

      The best way to judge the performance of the IPCC models is to check them against observations. There are two direct ways to do this. The first is the hot spot I mentioned before. AR4 is clear on this point – the tropical troposphere is expected to warm relative to the surface due to greenhouse gas effects, and should have shown a large hot-spot over the tropics by now (a magnitude of just less than 1C is shown in fig. 9.1). Trouble is there is no hot spot. In fact the region of interest has cooled slightly.

      The second measurable is surface or lower tropospheric temperature. This should rise according to a simple log law as CO2 increases. The IPCC AR4 suggests a rise of about 0.2C/decade. Note that AR4 was published in 2007, based on models run before 2001. However, since 2001 we have seen a decrease in the lower tropospheric temperature. UAH, which measures this directly by satellite, reports a -0.2C/decade trend since 2001. All the while CO2 has continued to rise.

      This immediately implies something is wrong with the models. They are based on a high sensitivity to CO2, and assume positive water vapour feedbacks. I submit that this could be their failing.

      My point in all this is that, contrary to some commentators’ opinions above, there is in fact plenty of room for scepticism on this issue of AGW. The evidence is far from ‘unassailable’.

      • lprent 23.2.1

        Or better yet, test the model against observations on the ground. The whole point about the greenhouse effect isn’t what it does in the troposphere. It is what it does on the ground and in the oceans.

        These show considerable warming in the arctic regions, especially as massive thinning of sea ice, increasing heat being adsorbed in the oceans, etc etc. (see http://www.realclimate.org) Conformant to the IPCC models except a hell of a lot faster.

        Sure the models are incorrect – every model always is. There is simply too much data to handle for anything except in aggregate – including for a single electron. Quantum theory is a probabilistic, not detirministic system. We left all of those old certainties about models behind at the start of last century. We leave that kind of certainties for those with religious faith.

        What you are doing is nit-picking. You are asserting that few little bits of the model are experimentally wrong – without bothering to link to the papers. I’m asserting there is a lot more of the models that are incorrect. However the overall models are holding up pretty well – just too conservative.

        Given the scale of the potential problem, there seems bugger all point in getting aa perfect model about the time we are 100 metres under water.

        • Bob D

          You say: “The whole point about the greenhouse effect isn’t what it does in the troposphere. It is what it does on the ground and in the oceans.”
          The IPCC AR4 spends the majority of its time on discussions regarding CO2 and its affect on the troposphere. The CO2 concentration is itself of course in the atmosphere. So is the water vapour that is supposed to amplify the warming. I’m surprised you discount it so readily.

          But since you wish suddenly to discuss only the ground and oceans, let’s look at what’s been happening there since the latest IPCC reports (AR4 and TAR).

          Regarding the ground, I’m not sure we have data for this. You see, ‘surface’ measurements aren’t actually in the ground, but instead they’re 1.5m above it, in (you guessed it) the lower troposphere.

          For the oceans, however, we do have some temperature data, although sketchy until 2003, when the Argo buoys were deployed. They immediately showed ocean cooling, and have done so ever since.

          Regarding ocean heat content, this has also been declining. See “Recent cooling of the upper ocean”, by
          John M. Lyman(Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, NOAA, Seattle, Washington, USA); Josh K. Willis (Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, California, USA); Gregory C. Johnson (Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory, NOAA, Seattle, Washington, USA)
          A quote from JPL:
          “The recent changes in ocean temperature run deep. A small amount of cooling was detected at the ocean’s surface, consistent with global measurements of sea-surface temperature. The maximum amount of cooling was at a depth of 400 meters (about 1,300 feet), but substantial cooling was still observed at 2,500 feet, and the cooling appears to extend deeper.
          Lyman said the cause of the recent cooling is not yet clear. Research suggests it may be due to a net loss of heat from the Earth. “Further work will be necessary to solve this cooling mystery,” he said.”

          You say: “These show considerable warming in the arctic regions, especially as massive thinning of sea ice, increasing heat being adsorbed in the oceans, etc etc.”

          Regarding the Arctic, this region has long been known to exhibit cyclic variability. The NW passage was navigable on several occasions in the early 20th century. We really don’t have enough knowledge of the history of climate change in this region to make sweeping assumptions about the current situation. There was a low point in the summer melt in 2007, but last year it recovered considerably. Of course, melting Arctic ice doesn’t contribute to sea level rise anyway, since it’s floating.

          I’m not sure what you mean by massive thinning of the ice. A recent survey by the Alfred Wegener Institute for Polarand Marine Research showed different results. “The result is surprising. The sea-ice in the surveyed areas is apparently thicker than scientists had suspected. Normally, ice is newly formed after two years, over two meters thick. “Here were ice thickness up to four meters,” said a spokesman of Bremerhaven’s Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research.”

          You say: “Conformant to the IPCC models except a hell of a lot faster.”
          I have no idea what you mean:-
          The sea level rise has slowed dramatically, see “A new assessment of the error budget of global mean sea level rate estimated by satellite altimetry over 19932008”; M. Ablain, A. Cazenave, G. Valladeau, and S. Guinehut; Ocean Sci., 5, 193201, 2009.
          A quote from the Conclusions: “These new calculations highlight a reduction in the rate of sea level rise since 2005, by ~2 mm/yr. This represents a 60% reduction compared to the 3.3 mm/yr sea level rise (glacial isostatic adjustment correction applied) measured between 1993 and 2005.”

          The global temperature is falling at -0.2C/decade, the same rate it was supposed to be rising at according to the IPCC (UAH satellite data).

          The ocean heat content is falling at −0.35 (±0.2) × 10^22 Joules per year, see:
          “Cooling of the Global Ocean Since 2003”; Loehle, Craig; Energy & Environment, Volume 20, Numbers 1-2, January 2009 , pp. 101-104(4)

          In the Antarctic, the ice is growing at above-average levels, and has been for a while now. See NSIDC for the latest. So no hope for sea level rise from here either.

          And finally, you say: “…about the time we are 100 metres under water.”
          I presume you’re joking. Even the IPCC has a modest 58cm worst case sea level rise by 2100. To reach that 58cm, by the way, we’ll have to achieve an annual sea level rise of 6.2mm/yr, starting immediately, and maintain it for 91 years. Difficult to do when ocean heat is declining along with declining temperatures, especially as NZ’s current rise is 1.5mm/yr, according to NIWA.

          • Gareth

            The misdirection is great in this one, Luke…

            The NW passage was navigable on several occasions in the early 20th century.

            For definitions of navigable that include the three years it took Amundsen to make the first passage east to west in 1907. Other 20th passages were by icebreaker. For the last few years, people have been sailing through in yachts…

            I\’m not sure what you mean by massive thinning of the ice.
            It’s what the people studying the ice tell us, and I quote:

            scientists found that overall Arctic sea ice thinned about 7 inches a year, for a total of 2.2 feet over four winters. The total area covered by the thicker, older “multi-year” ice that has survived one or more summers shrank by 42 percent.


            And ocean warming continues (see Levitus et al, 2009).

            The informal consensus on projections of sea level rise over the next century now runs around 1m. For a good overview of the science, instead of an argument from incredulity, see this weeks New Scientist.

            • Bob D

              “Other 20th passages were by icebreaker. For the last few years, people have been sailing through in yachts ”
              True, some did get help from ice-breakers. Some didn’t:
              St Roch, 1940 and 1944
              Also, from Wikipedia:
              “In June 1977, sailor Willy de Roos left Belgium to attempt the Northwest Passage in his 13.8 m (45 ft) steel yacht Williwaw. He reached the Bering Strait in September and after a stopover in Victoria, British Columbia, went on to round Cape Horn and sail back to Belgium, thus being the first sailor to circumnavigate the Americas entirely by ship.

              “In 1984, the commercial passenger vessel MS Explorer (which sank in the Antarctic Ocean in 2007) became the first cruise ship to navigate the Northwest Passage.

              “In July 1986, Jeff MacInnis and Wade Rowland set out on an 18 foot catamaran called Perception on a 100 day sail, West to East, across the Northwest Passage. This pair is the first to sail the passage, although they had the benefit of doing over a couple summers.

              “In July 1986, David Scott Cowper set out from England in a 12.8 m (42 ft) lifeboat, the Mabel El Holland, and survived 3 Arctic winters in the Northwest Passage before reaching the Bering Strait in August 1989. He then continued around the world via the Cape of Good Hope to arrive back on 24 September 1990, becoming the first vessel to circumnavigate the world via the Northwest Passage.”

              Remember, the Arctic region exhibits great cyclic variation. Don’t get caught out by looking at one or two year events and assuming the worst. On top of that, remember that during the Little Ice Age global temperatures were below average. From about 1850 onwards temperatures have been climbing slowly. It’s therefore not surprising that on average the Arctic is warmer than it was when records began in the middle of the 19th century. We would expect the NW passage to be navigable more often. The link with CO2 and man is however, tenuous at best, and certainly unproven.

              Here’s another interesting quote:
              “”It will without doubt have come to your Lordship’s knowledge that a considerable change of climate, inexplicable at present to us, must have taken place in the Circumpolar Regions, by which the severity of the cold that has for centuries past enclosed the seas in the high northern latitudes in an impenetrable barrier of ice has been during the last two years, greatly abated .

              ‘Mr. Scoresby, a very intelligent young man who commands a whaling vessel from Whitby observed last year that 2000 square leagues of ice with which the Greenland Seas between the latitudes of 74° and 80°N have been hitherto covered, has in the last two years entirely disappeared. The same person who has never been before able to penetrate to the westward of the Meridian of Greenwich in these latitudes was this year able to proceed to 10°, 30′W where he saw the coast of East Greenland and entertained no doubt of being able to reach the land had not his duty to his employers made it necessary for him to abandon the undertaking.

              “This, with information of a similar nature derived from other sources; the unusual abundance of ice islands that have during the last two summers been brought by currents from Davies Streights (sic) into the Atlantic.

              “The ice which has this year surrounded the northern coast of Ireland ( see footnotes1) in unusual quantity and remained there unthawed till the middle of August, with the floods which have during the whole summer inundated all those parts of Germany where rivers have their sources in snowy mountains.

              ” .. this affords ample proof that new sources of warmth have been opened and give us leave to hope that the Arctic Seas may at this time be more accessible than they have been for centuries past, and that discoveries may now be made in them not only interesting to the advancement of science but also to the future intercourse of mankind and the commerce of distant nations.’

              President of the Royal Society, London, to the Admiralty, 20th November, 1817, Minutes of Council, Volume 8. pp.149-153, Royal Society, London. 20th November, 1817

              Remember, in 1817 they were just coming out of the Little Ice Age.

          • lprent

            I’m surprised you discount it so readily.
            …since you wish suddenly to discuss only the ground and oceans…

            Wrong – please keep track of whom you’re talking to. I’m interested in observational effects at the ground level past and present. Never been that interested in physics which is why I did earth sciences for my first degree.

            The sea level rise has slowed dramatically

            Please use your brains… You’re talking about a punctuated system running on a long time scale. Of course you get short periods where the rate of increase slows. It doesn’t stop the process running. It just allows time for fools to do the ostrich thing.

            Sea level has many effects acting on it. In this case the two effects of major interest are thermal expansion and ice melt, the latter being potentially the larger. We get melt rises primarily when we get large ice masses melting off land. To date most of the ice masses melting have been floating. They make little difference to sea level.

            I presume you’re joking.

            Nope. The world has been there before when it has been iceless. At present I can’t see anything that would stop the CO2/CH4 causing a increase in energy retention and shifting us to something like a Cretacous climate. All I can see is questions about how long it will take.

            IMO The IPCC data is wholly out of date and blatantly optimistic in the light of subsequent research on Greenland and WAIS melt history.

            Which brings us back to Naish’s lecture showing that the WAIS disappears under the slightest climatic provocation. There is a hell of a lot of water stored on land there. Looking at the WAIS and Greenland data at present it looks to me like both of those are likely to go within decades. I can’t see anything that would stop that happening.

            Then we have you. As I said earlier. By the time that you think that the models are good enough to predict from, we’d be a 100 metres under water. Perhaps you’d better define what would convince you to shift to thinking that climate change is real and happening? Then we can look at that and decide you if are just a nutter?

            • Bob D

              Thank you for your gracious reply:
              “The sea level rise has slowed dramatically
              Please use your brains You’re talking about a punctuated system running on a long time scale. Of course you get short periods where the rate of increase slows. It doesn’t stop the process running. It just allows time for fools to do the ostrich thing.”
              However, that’s just my point. Look at this graph
              Sea level rise over the 20th century
              (Holgate, S.J. 2007. On the decadal rates of sea level change during the twentieth century. Geophysical Research Letters 34: 10.1029/2006GL028492)
              As the oceans have stopped warming and are now cooling, so the sea level rise has slowed. This is expected. What is not expected is a 100m rise in sea level. It took me a while to stop laughing at your seriousness on the whole 100m thing.

              Regarding land-based ice and ice shelves, read Zwally et al. (2005), who found that although “the Greenland ice sheet is thinning at the margins,” it is “growing inland with a small overall mass gain,”

              Another good read is Johannessen et al. (2005), who found that “below 1500 meters, the elevation-change rate is -2.0 ± 0.9 cm/year, in qualitative agreement with reported thinning in the ice-sheet margins,” but that “an increase of 6.4 ± 0.2 cm/year is found in the vast interior areas above 1500 meters.”

              Or maybe Howat (Science 2007): “Greenland was about as warm or warmer in the 1930’s and 40’s, and many of the glaciers were smaller than they are now. This was a period of rapid glacier shrinkage world-wide, followed by at least partial re-expansion during a colder period from the 1950’s to the 1980’s. Temperatures indeed were warmer in the 1930s and 1940s in Greenland. They cooled back to the levels of the 1880s by the 1980s and 1990s before resuming a rise in the middle 1990s. The recent warming is not yet at the same level as that of the 1930s and 1940s.”

              Of course we also know that during the MWP Greenland was warmer and less ice-covered than now. The Antarctic ice has been growing for ages. No worries there.

              The fact is that precipitation over the mass is the main driver of glacial growth. If a glacier grows, it eventually breaks up at the edges, often over water in the case where an ice shelf forms. This is entirely normal and nothing to worry about. What may be a worry is whether the central (land-based) areas of Greenland and Antarctica are continuing to grow in thickness, and whether any losses are “unprecedented”. I think it’s clear from the papers above that the cyclic growth or decline is nothing unusual.

              • lprent

                Bob D

                I notice that you avoided my question about what would change your mind. Makes all of the rest of your comments a bit pointless to argue about. You look like you’re just one of the oil company trolls. Quite simply you’re looking at the recent past to say predictions of the future of climate change are impossible. That makes you a probable dickhead in my estimation.

                You have to look back over time to what has happened in the geological record, and ask what would be required to make that happen today. Then look for precursors. Geologically, the problem is that climate is inherently unstable overall. It moves quite abruptly when its base input/retention conditions are changed.

                Most of the effects that you’re looking describing as proof that nothing is happening show exactly the opposite. For instance increases in precipitation on icesheet interiors cause increases in volume while reducing density. It doesn’t help your argument. What you should be looking at is the melt-water runoff rates. That gets expressed in glacier retreat from the icesheets when the interior gets warm enough. Retreating glaciers while getting increasing interior icesheet volumes is a bad sign – not a good sign. It tends to indicates that we’re likely to get a fast melt.

                I’d guess that you wouldn’t deny that there have been 50+M increases in sealevel within the relatively recent past (for a geologist). The holocene hotspot comes to mind. All that requires is a change in climate sufficing to melt significant ice. What people like me are saying is that we’re seeing ll the signs of a runaway movement in climate, eventually stabilising at some other semi-stable level.

                Because of the nature of the change and the political inertia, I suspect that we will get a full ice-melt over the next few centuries – ie 100+ metres rise in sealevel. A large chunk of it will be cause by people like you that keep saying “we don’t need to do anything because the models are inaccurate”.

                My point is that the models will always be inaccurate. So what? The science says we will get a significant climate change from what is happening. We cannot predict with 100% accuracy what happens with the weather next week, but we know what is likely to happen over the next year.

                So as I said before – explain why you are not a rigid minded dickhead who is locked into a single mindset and cherry picking the evidence to support your position?

                • RedLogix

                  For instance increases in precipitation on icesheet interiors cause increases in volume while reducing density.

                  My glaciology is confined to several lecture, but the best was on the side of Mt Brewster, near Haast Pass, overlooking the Brewster glacier…. nothing like the real thing to bring it all to life.

                  From memory you are quite correct, glaciers exhibit quite complex and sometimes counterintuitive behaviours. In the case of the high Greenland and Antarctic glaciers, increased precipitation is actually quite a bad sign, not only because the new snow low in density, but more importantly it is a symptom of warming temperatures in those regions.

                  Contrary to what most people imagine, when conditions are extremely cold there is relatively little snow. Heavy snowfall depends on warm moist air being lifted over underlying cold air quite quickly, but normally such moist air never makes it that far south into the interior of Antarctica, or the high plateau’s of Greenland.

                  The EAIS may be 3 million years old, so even if it accumulated a nett thickness of only 1mm of ice per year, that would still allow it to grow 3km deep. But above BobD quotes:

                  “an increase of 6.4 ± 0.2 cm/year is found in the vast interior areas above 1500 meters.’

                  In just a mere 1 million years that would a nett gain of 64km, clearly such a thickness gain cannot be sustained over long periods of time. It’s my guess that such rates only occur during relatively short warm portions of the total cycle.

                  As you said, Bob is quoting ‘evidence’ that undermines the very arugment he is trying to make.

                  • Bob D

                    It’s my guess that such rates only occur during relatively short warm portions of the total cycle.

                    Possibly you’re right, that the rates are higher in warmer periods. Nevertheless, they are what they are. They show currently increased ice mass in Greenland, in direct contradiction to claims of reducing ice mass causing increasing sea level rise.

                    Now for some background reading:
                    Are the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets in Danger of

                    The article is well-written and easily understood by laymen. For those too lazy to download it, here is a useful quote (pg 3):

                    A Glacier Budget
                    In general glaciers grow, flow, and melt continuously, with a budget of gains and losses. Snow falls on high ground. It becomes more and more compact with time, air is extruded, and it turns into solid ice. A few bubbles of air might be trapped, and may be used by scientists later to examine the air composition at the time of deposition. More precipitation of snow forms another layer on the top, which goes through the same process, so the ice grows thicker by the addition of new layers at the surface. The existence of such layers, youngest at the top, enables the glacial ice to be studied through time, as in the Vostok cores of Antarctica, a basic source of data on temperature and carbon dioxide over about 400,000 years.
                    When the ice is thick enough it starts to flow under the force of gravity. A mountain glacier flows mainly downhill, but can flow uphill in places. In an ice sheet the flow is from the depositional high center towards the edges of the ice sheet. When the ice reaches a lower altitude or lower latitude, where temperature is higher, it starts to melt and evaporate.
                    (Evaporation and melting together are called ablation, but for simplicity I shall use “melting’ from now on).
                    If growth and melting balance, the glacier appears to be ‘stationary’. If precipitation exceeds melting the glacier grows. If melting exceeds precipitation the glacier recedes.

                    Good, hopefully we’re now better informed on glacial flows. Remember – these things are cyclic over long periods. Some periods have increased growth, while others have decreased growth.

                    Now, RedLogix, you state that warming causes higher precipitation, which we know causes glacial and ice sheet/shelf growth, Therefore warming is correlated with ice growth. So why are you all so worried about shrinking ice? I should also suggest that the higher precipitation had to come from somewhere – namely the oceans. If precipitation=melt, no change.

                    I’ll repeat the quote I put in before, since everyone is studiously ignoring it:

                    Or maybe Howat (Science 2007): “Greenland was about as warm or warmer in the 1930’s and 40’s, and many of the glaciers were smaller than they are now. This was a period of rapid glacier shrinkage world-wide, followed by at least partial re-expansion during a colder period from the 1950’s to the 1980’s. Temperatures indeed were warmer in the 1930s and 1940s in Greenland. They cooled back to the levels of the 1880s by the 1980s and 1990s before resuming a rise in the middle 1990s. The recent warming is not yet at the same level as that of the 1930s and 1940s.’

                    “Returned to the same levels as the 1880s in the 1990s.” Wow. I see little correlation with CO2 emitted by humans.

                    • RedLogix

                      I should also suggest that the higher precipitation had to come from somewhere namely the oceans. If precipitation=melt, no change.

                      Because we also know that at times in the past (with CO2 levels not dissimilar to the present) that eventually the warming oceans become the dominant factor, that glacier melting accelerates and sea levels rise. We absolutely know that if all the polar ice sheets melt that sea level can be around 70-100m higher than now. We know this from past behaviour.

                      While it is very unlikely that the EAIS will completely melt , nor the Greenland glaciers fully collapse within the next few centuries, the WAIS is for reasons outlined above, is far more prone to a relatively rapid breakup, contributing up to 3.2m of sea level rise by itself.

                      Given that even 1m of rise in the medium term is going to cause huge difficulties and impose massive costs, there really is little to be lost by taking a ‘gamble’ on the science and the models and paying up front to reduce CO2 now.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      Remember these things are cyclic over long periods.

                      Yes, clever, the climate is unstable – we know this already. This doesn’t negate human forcing merely emphasizes that the climate will change when conditions (such as increased greenhouse gases) change.

                      Some periods have increased growth, while others have decreased growth.

                      And some periods, like now, have glacial retreat.

                      “Returned to the same levels as the 1880s in the 1990s.’ Wow. I see little correlation with CO2 emitted by humans.

                      Wow, you managed to make that conclusion on one sentence from one set of data about one small part of the world?

                      From here:

                      Current estimates of ice mass loss from the Greenland Ice Sheet are between 150-300 gigatons per year. To put this in perspective, this rate of loss is at least twice or even three times as much as it was at the beginning of the 1990s, which means mass loss on the Greenland Ice Sheet has really been increasing in the past 15 years or so. A big part of this loss is coming from the outlet glaciers, which are thinning and calving into the ocean at a faster rate.


                      The world’s warming, the glaciers are retreating and the seas are rising. Solar activity has been proven not to have enough effect to make the changes that we’re already seeing (IIRC, the sun is actually cooling ATM) and atmospheric CO2 levels are nearly double what they were and CO2 is a known greenhouse gas. Doesn’t leave a lot of room for guessing.

                      As has already been said – you’re picking and choosing the data that justifies your prejudged position. I doubt if any evidence will change your mind as you’ve already made it up.

                    • Bob D []

                      Draco T Bastard
                      July 11, 2009 at 6:25 pm
                      I wrote a lengthy, boring and rambling reply to this, but forgot to save a copy and of course Murphy’s Law kicked in and the post failed, so it disappeared into the ether. Sorry but I don’t have the energy right now to re-write it all.

                  • Maynard J

                    I’ve seen Mt Brewster – climbed Armstrong next to it. Awesome 🙂

                • Bob D

                  I notice that you avoided my question about what would change your mind. Makes all of the rest of your comments a bit pointless to argue about.

                  Jump to conclusions much?
                  I wasn’t avoiding the question, it is irrelevant to what I have put forward as arguments against your assertion that you have presented ‘unassailable evidence’. Why you would feel that all the peer-reviewed references I have provided can be defeated because I don’t answer one off-topic question is beyond me.

                  However, if that’s how it works here, I suppose I can answer you.

                  In order to change my mind, I would require a reasonable measure of validation of predictions. This is how science works. You start with an hypothesis (man-made CO2 causes catastrophic warming) and you formulate a theory (quantify with maths if possible). This has been done by the IPCC supported by various peer-reviewed papers.

                  [At this point I should say that the support in places is not as strong as it appears. Several scientists have quit the IPCC in disgust at the manner in which the summary conclusions have been modified with respect to the original papers. This is all on the public record. But this is not a central concern, as we still have some steps to go.]

                  The next step is to use the theory previously formulated to make predictions. This is where the IPCC models come in. They have made few specific predictions that can be quantified, but two major ones I have already presented:

                  1) The tropical troposphere must warm faster than the surface, and form a ‘hotspot’. This is caused by water vapour feedback extending the troposphere beyond the CEL. Fig 9.1 is central to deducing what attribution is given to observed warming. It shows a very clear and obvious hot spot over the tropics if greenhouse gases are the reason for the warming.

                  2) The models predict a positive global temperature trend of about 0.2 C per decade. Most models also show an increasing trend further down the line.

                  As I stated above, neither of these predictions are happening. The opposite has happened – the troposphere has cooled slightly,and the global temperature since 2001 (TAR) has declined at -0.2 C per decade. This immediately implies falsification of the theory, and also the hypothesis. So in answer to your question, produce the evidence that these are happening, and that will make me think again.

                  You look like you’re just one of the oil company trolls.

                  Gotta run, the oil rig doesn’t run itself you know. 😉 Also, look up ‘troll’. You might also want, while you’re there, to examine the investments companies like Shell have in renewable energies ($1bn) and carbon trading schemes.

                  Quite simply you’re looking at the recent past to say predictions of the future of climate change are impossible.

                  Not at all, I’m looking at the theory predictions and trying to work out if they’re valid. They aren’t.

                  That makes you a probable dickhead in my estimation.

                  You’re welcome to your opinions.

                  • RedLogix


                    I’m too pressed for time to go into much detail, but your first bit of misdirection has been dealt to here, and another primer article here.

                    In essence the ‘tropical hotspot’ is not the so called ‘fingerprint’, rather it is stratospheric cooling that is. And apparently that is what has been occuring.

                    Your second gem is known as ‘cherry picking’ the data, and is a totally dishonest tactic which disqualifies you from any serious discussion. The 8 years of data from 2001 is far too short a period of time to say anything meaningful about an underlying long-term trend.

                    • Bob D

                      In essence the ‘tropical hotspot’ is not the so called ‘fingerprint’, rather it is stratospheric cooling that is. And apparently that is what has been occuring.

                      I’m afraid not. You see, the whole “it’s the stratospheric cooling that matters” thing has only appeared after it became clear there is no hotspot. That’s not science, that’s politics. Have a look again at Fig 9.1 and tell me that a huge, almost 1C anomaly above the tropics shouldn’t be glaringly apparent.

                      The other problem you have with that approach is you are now contradicting Ben Santer, the man responsible for those models in the IPCC AR4 Fig 9.1.

                      He says the following:

                      ‘ Our paper compares modeled and observed atmospheric temperature changes in the tropical troposphere. We were interested in this region because of an apparent inconsistency between computer model results and observations.
                      Since the late 1960s, scientists have performed experiments in which computer models of the climate system are run with human-caused increases in atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs). These experiments consistently showed that increases in atmospheric concentrations of GHGs should lead to pronounced warming, both at the Earth’s surface and in the troposphere. The models also predicted that in the tropics, the warming of the troposphere should be larger than the warming of the surface. However, most available estimates of tropospheric temperature changes obtained from satellites and weather balloons (radiosondes) implied that the tropical troposphere had actually cooled slightly over the last 20 to 30 years (in sharp contrast to the computer model predictions, which show tropospheric warming).”
                      -Fact Sheet for “Consistency of Modelled and Observed Temperature Trends in the Tropical Troposphere’, by B.D. Santer et al. International Journal of Climatology Oct 2008

                      Your second gem is known as ‘cherry picking’ the data, and is a totally dishonest tactic which disqualifies you from any serious discussion. The 8 years of data from 2001 is far too short a period of time to say anything meaningful about an underlying long-term trend.

                      Hardly. Read carefully. I’m interested in how well the IPCC models have performed since the model runs up to 2001, and I was replying to lprent’s question of what it would take to change my mind. There’s no point in looking back further, the models had the advantage of hindsight before that. Remember that for AR4 they also had the advantage of hindsight over TAR, yet they still predicted a +0.2C/decade warming, in spite of the cooling that had occurred since TAR.

                    • RedLogix []

                      Well having read the whole paper you quote from, I don’t read the same conclusions you are drawing from it. Again you cherry pick your information.

                      There’s no point in looking back further, the models had the advantage of hindsight before that.

                      Well no. You are misrepresenting how models work. The ‘advantage’ of hindsight is how they are calibrated. I mean I do this sort of thing for a living; modern process control models collect vast amounts of historic data and utilise it to create a tool that predicts the future of behaviour of the process.

                      Crucially what the model predicts is not how the dependent output variables are going to behave (reality is too chaotic for that), rather they yield useful information about the relationships between the input and output variables, allowing the engineer to sensibly react to changes in the process.

                    • Bob D []

                      The paper itself attempts to show that there is in fact a warming signal in the existing data sets, and isn’t particularly successful, considering they reach no definitive answer, and yet are looking for quite an obvious signal. I was merely drawing attention to how seriously he takes the hotspot issue, in contrast to those who now try to state it was a non-issue.

                    • Bob D []

                      I agree. I’ve done a lot of modelling myself (finite element, non-linear heat transfer, creep and creep-fatigue). I was fortunate enough to work under Prof. Nabarro. He was not the sort to allow modellers to get away with unsubstantiated claims.

                      The problem is that the climate doesn’t seem to lend itself well to this kind of modelling. I’m not sure where the problems lie, but I’ve noticed the IPCC doesn’t seem to share this view, and instead makes the following quite strong claims (AR4):

                      “There is considerable confidence that climate models provide credible quantitative estimates of future climate change, particularly at continental scales and above. This confidence comes from the foundation of the models in accepted physical principles and from their ability to reproduce observed features of current climate and past climate changes. Confidence in model estimates is higher for some climate variables (e.g., temperature) than for others (e.g., precipitation). Over several decades of development, models have consistently provided a robust and unambiguous picture of significant climate warming in response to increasing greenhouse gases.’

                      ‘Considerable confidence’, credible quantitative estimates’, etc.

                    • Draco T Bastard []

                      I’m interested in how well the IPCC models have performed since the model runs up to 2001,

                      And yet you’re still going on about one prediction that the IPCC model made? Out of how many? 10s, 100s, 1000s?

                      Can’t seem to find that global cooling you keep telling us been happening over the last few years either.

                    • Bob D []

                      Can’t seem to find that global cooling you keep telling us been happening over the last few years either.

                      It’s here.
                      The graph you linked to ends in 2007, for some reason. If you want a good detailed discussion about global temps and how well TAR and AR4 are doing, I suggest you try Lucia’s Blackboard. She’s neutral (like woodfortrees.org), and generally does good work. She describes herself as a ‘lukewarmer’, in that she believes in AGW, but not necessarily everything the IPCC puts out. I disagree with some of the things she writes, but then I can’t fault her logic on most things, and so far I have seen few who can.
                      One niggle I have is she often uses GISS or HadCRUT datasets, which are surface-based and useful only for historical purposes when looking at temps and trends prior to the satellite age. I dealt with this a bit in my long rambling post that the dog ate.

                      Here’s another graph comparing them. Note how the HadCRUT3v data consistently over-reads. Nearly everyone uses UAH for recent graphs, simply because it’s satellite based, reading constantly over the whole globe (except for two small bits over each pole). RSS is similar, also satellite based.

                    • Draco T Bastard []

                      Still can’t see a cooling trend there – I see one cold year and a year does make a trend.


                      You can get slightly different pictures if you pick the start year differently, and so this isn’t something profound. Picking any single year as a starting point is somewhat subjective and causes the visual aspect to vary looking at the trends is more robust. However, this figure does show that in models, as in data, some years will be above trend, and some will be below trend. Anyone who expresses shock at this is either naive or well, you know.

                      And as for dismissing and entire data set just because it was measured on the ground…WTF?

                      I’ll let you get back to Never Never Land now as it’s obvious by the way you discount data (you know, all that data that existed before 2001) that goes against your preconceived notions that you will never accept the truth.

                    • Bob D []

                      Here’s a better-looking graph for the whole satellite era.

                    • RedLogix []

                      Note how the HadCRUT3v data consistently over-reads.

                      So what. Visually the correlation between the surface temperature record and the satellite record is very high, so while there is a small offset between the two, both records show the same underlying trend.

                      I’ll repeat this link in case you didn’t read it last time.

                      Open Mind


                      If you are sincere in your argument, get back to us when and ONLY when you have understood the data and conclusions in Tamino’s post.

            • Sam Vilain

              Bob D, you might “laugh” at 100m sea level rises, but at least 70m is possible in a +5⁰C world if the geological record is anything to go by. Just read the New Scientist article linked above by Gareth.

              I think it’s clear from the papers above that the cyclic growth or decline is nothing unusual.

              No, you misinterpreted them. The currently observed decline of the WAIS has not been seen in the last 3 million years or so. That was a part of the thrust of Prof. Naish’s talk. He shows strong evidence that when it warms, the sheet disappears quickly. This was supported by the cores that they raised from the sea-bed as well as modeling. How ironic that your repeated nonsense was directly contradicted by the original lecture.

  24. John Nicol 24

    While the author speaks of unassailable evidence, there is absolutely NO evidence in his findings that CO2 was to BLAME for the warming, simply that it coincided with, and,, as most other evidence shows, RESULTED from the warming. It is interesting to note that, in spite of the high resolution of his results, he does not mention the phase relationship (lag in time) between the CO2 concentration and the temperature which is absolutely critical to an interpretation of the results. He is obviously committed to a belief in global warming and interprets his results accordingly. This is his prerogative and I respect that, but it is inappropriate for others to claim the high ground on the basis of what has been stated in the article. Perhaps there are other important factors which have not been presented here and which do confirm Naish’s stance, but I would like to see them before taking his interpretation at face value. After all, one swallow does not make a summer.
    John Nicol.

    • lprent 24.1

      Perhaps you should try and find a paper that proves that CO2 does not absorb infra-red. That is the core of the argument. To date you have made assertions that it is inconsequential. Prove it with a link to something substantive. Please no unreferred ‘papers’. I have seen enough assertion without evidence papers from the CCD’s already.

      At this point I’d say that it is up to the deniers to prove their case rather than the other way around. They sure haven’t bothered to do it to the scientifically aware for the last 30 years that I’ve been following this debate for. It is only amongst the scientifically illiterate that they are still getting any traction (and a few old prof’s believing what they prefer to believe rather than evidence).

  25. GC Martin 25

    A friend whose been following this blog thread advises me that commenters Bob D and John Nicol are espousing – in both manner, matter and timing – the like of Emiliani.

    For which he suggests they (in particular) go see what turned up in 1966 to make aright.

    Whether scientists or not, they’ll surely need to clothe themselves in at least a little relevant and pertinent information to sustain their seemingly singular view/s.

    interesting A/S word — FRONTS – is it not.

  26. Bob D 26

    We seem to have run out of ‘Reply’ buttons, perhaps we’ve gone to too many levels. 🙂
    Sam Vilain – “Bob D, you might “laugh’ at 100m sea level rises, but at least 70m is possible in a +5⁰C world if the geological record is anything to go by.”
    True, entirely possible. On geological timescales too. Certainly not in the next hundred years.

    “No, you misinterpreted them. ”
    Not at all. All the papers relate to Greenland. I was simply discussing ice growth and decline in general, and Greenland in particular, in response to lprent above.

    The WA peninsula has received a huge amount of attention in recent years, simply because it’s the only part of Antarctica exhibiting any kind of warming. The loss of ice is mainly due to regionally warmer ocean temperatures. Over the rest of Antarctica, the ice is growing, but we hear nothing of that. Sure, the lecture addresses a tiny part of the continent, but can one really draw conclusions from that about global warming? Especially when we know that it is exhibiting anomalous regional behaviour, unrelated to the global trends of cooling atmosphere and cooling oceans, and unrelated to the vast majority of the continent to which it’s attached?

    • Sam Vilain 26.1

      The loss of ice is mainly due to regionally warmer ocean temperatures.

      And why do you think that might be, Einstein?

      You think you can nonchalantly wave off the combined work of a huge team of scientists who have been there, extracted physical evidence, and made sense of it all. Lead by a scientist who has already correlated ice ages with Milankovitch Cycles with the geological record of the Wanganui basin, finally proving without a doubt the century-old question of what causes Ice Ages. If you had taken the time to study the findings you might have known there was already an answer to your supposed challenge. This “regionally warmer ocean temperature” is actually part of the global conveyor trade currents.

      This “Tiny Part of the Continent” you are talking about could contribute 3.3 metres of sea level rise, possibly in under 100 years. It’s something like 20% of the area of Antarctica – how can that possibly be called “tiny”? It hasn’t melted for over 3 million years and it is now melting. The chain of events between anthropomorphic COâ‚‚ release and this melt is basically inscrutable; if mankind had not released all that COâ‚‚, you would not expect the WAIS to be melting.

      Over the rest of Antarctica, the ice is growing, but we hear nothing of that.

      Well predicted by the climate models as a result of increased precipitation. However with sufficient warming even this cannot be taken for granted.

      I’m bored of tearing down your worthless parroting of climate skeptic talkpoints. You demonstrably have no substance behind any of your claims.

  27. Greg 27

    But what if the models were all wrong?

    How would we actually know they were wrong?

    How long would it be before we realised how wrong they were?

    Have we absolutely eliminated the possibility that the models are completely wrong? How could we “bet the farm” of the world’s economy on carbon trading, unless it was “risk free”? (Like a US treasury bond was the risk free asset the whiz-kids at the banks bet the world’s economy on with their Black-Scholes derivatives mathematics).

    And anyway, if I don’t want to be a part of such a bet, what is your moral imperative to force me to put such a bet on the models?

    • Sam Vilain 27.1

      Greg, science is all about establishing models – such as E=mc², F=½mv², etc. These are models, or formulae, which you test against observations and test. It is not sufficient to simply cry foul at the use of models; you must say which part of the model you believe to be in error, and back that up with observations.

      As such, it makes sense to make decisions based on the results of the model which has survived peer reviews. In reality, deciding not to trust them is the “bet”. And the associated gambler’s ruin won’t just ruin one person’s life…

      • Greg 27.1.1

        So are you saying that we cannot know if the models are wrong?

        That’s what I’m hearing.

        The models are purely an extension of the myriad of theories that make up AGW, just using a massive big computer to run the numbers, correct? Fundamentally, they are a hypothesis.

        And you are saying they are not falsifiable.

        Karl Popper had something to say about unfalsifiable hypotheses, namely that it is properly called pseudo-science.

        Until we can prove that the models are NOT wrong, they will remain pseudo-science. A good bet maybe, educated guess, no doubt, but still pseudo-science in the classical definition.

        It is not enough to prove that they are right 1001 times over, they must be proved to be NOT wrong.

        • lprent

          It is not enough to prove that they are right 1001 times over, they must be proved to be NOT wrong.

          Nope you’re wrong. If you did that there would be NO science. Because there are no models anywhere through science that are not wrong. They are all hypothetical and unproven. However they can act as working hypotheses with a high degree of confidence. We’ve built our civilisation on them.

          It is the usual science. Make a hypothesis. Crunch some numbers. Establish some predictions for things that are not currently known. People go and test those. Find variances. Adjust model/hypothesis.


          In science there are NO hypotheses of models that are not tested all of the time. There is no fully accepted wisdom. What you are demanding is the realm of the religious and utter faith.

          What there is are hypotheses and models in science that have stood the test of thousands of attacks on their predictions. They tend to be used as working models that provide the basis for attack. Looking for evidence that they are wrong, usually finding evidence that they are right.

          The problem that we have with the CCD’s here is that they don’t appear to understand that models are always wrong in some details. They might be incorrect on a particular small prediction without invalidating the model. Most of the time the CCD’s ‘proof’ of error is as hilarious as Bob D’s one above on icepack volumes – it helps validate the model.

          What you fail to realize is that the working theories that make up alternate models have largely been disproved. Their predictions were so far at variance with the experimental and observational facts, that they have been largely discarded as working frameworks. What is left at present is the greenhouse gas leading to climate change. Unfortunately that is the one that is standing the test of science.

  28. Greg 28

    How many “Anthropogenic Global Warming” models predicted cooling?


    It’s no longer a question of are they wrong, but how wrong are they?

    I’ve yet to find one with a validated turbulence model on long time scales, in fact it’s well-known in the numerical computing community that many GCM cannot even perform basic mass conservation successfully. … but hey it’s only the first-world global economy we want to destroy based on this paid-for-by-government fantasy science.

  29. GC Martin 29

    Regarding Bob D’s citation of Howat, 2007, and his cajoling in regard the above quoted assertions. Remarkable. I daresay most annoying for Howat who but a year later (September 2008) pressed the following. on the same topic of his own research and related matters..
    [ With thanks to Steve Bloom at comment 332

    COLUMBUS, Ohio The recent dramatic melting and breakup of a few huge Greenland glaciers have fueled public concerns over the impact of global climate change, but that isn’t the island’s biggest problem.

    A new study shows that the dozens of much smaller outflow glaciers dotting Greenland’s coast together account for three times more loss from the island’s ice sheet than the amount coming from their huge relatives.

    In a study just published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, scientists at Ohio State University reported that nearly 75 percent of the loss of Greenland ice can be traced back to small coastal glaciers.

    Ian Howat, an assistant professor of earth sciences and researcher with Ohio State’s Byrd Polar Research Center, said their discovery came through combining the best from two remote sensing techniques. It provides perhaps the best estimate so far of the loss to Greenland’s ice cap, he says.

    [GC Martin here: Facts: from Howat’s website: “Many retreats began with an increase in thinning rates near the front in the summer of 2003, a year of record high coastal-air and sea-surface temperatures.” ]

    Aside from Antarctica, Greenland has more ice than anywhere else on earth. The ice cap covers four-fifths of the island’s surface, is 1,491 miles (2,400 kilometers) long and 683 miles (1,100 kilometers) wide, and can reach 1.8 miles (3 kilometers) deep at its thickest point.

    As global temperatures rise, coastal glaciers flow more quickly to the sea, with massive chunks breaking off at the margins and forming icebergs. And while some of the largest Greenland glaciers such as the Jakobshavn and Petermann glaciers on the northern coast are being closely monitored, most others are not.

    Howat and his colleagues concentrated on the southeastern region of Greenland, an area covering about one-fifth of the island’s 656,373 square miles (1.7 million square kilometers). They found that while two of the largest glaciers in that area Kangerdlugssuaq and Helheim contribute more to the total ice loss than any other single glaciers, the 30 or so smaller glaciers there contributed 72 percent of the total ice lost.

    “We were able to see for the first time that there is widespread thinning at the margin of the Greenland ice sheet throughout this region.

    “We’re talking about the region that is within 62 miles (100 kilometers) from the ice edge. That whole area is thinning rapidly,’ he said.

    [GCM here: Howat says that all of the glaciers are changing within just a few years and that the accelerated loss just spreads up deeper into the ice sheet.]

    To reach their conclusions, the researchers turned to two ground-observing satellites. One of them, ICESAT (Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite), does a good job of gauging the ice over vast expanses which were mostly flat.

    On the other hand, ASTER (Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer) does a better job at seeing changes at the steeper, less-flat margins of the ice sheet, Howat said.

    “We simply merged those data sets to give us for the first time a picture of ice elevation change the rate at which the ice is either going up or down at a very high (656-foot or 200-meter) resolution.

    “They are a perfect match for each other,’ Howat said.

    “What we found is the entire strip of ice over the southeast margin, all of these glaciers, accelerated and they are just pulling the entire ice sheet with it,’ he said.

    Howat said that their results show that such new findings don’t necessarily require new types of satellites. “These aren’t very advanced techniques or satellites. Our work shows that by combining satellite data in the right way, we can get a much better picture of what’s going on,’ Howat said.

    My sole addition to this information is to say that the commenters contraire evident on this thread have been indulging themselves in what is regarded elsewhere as manufactured debate. For more on this I’d recommend Leah Ceccarelli at Washington University.

    My postscript might be that Bob D in particular is faced not with a Howat so much as a Howzat! And the finger is straight plumb.

  30. I’ve noticed how commenters can be blocked by other commenters inputting at the same time as myself..

    In respect of Howat’s later publications of his work in Greenland – answering bob d’s cajoling reference to Howat’s output in science 2007 – I made an extensive comment last evening which did not appear here.

    Was it blocked or dispensed/disposed I don;t know for sure, but do see that the commenter mentioned almost continually commented over the period of my activity.

    Hence a wait – yes, the information for standard readers was important enough to take this trouble – before testing with this post..

    If it gets through then maybe in the ‘lull’ of early morning a retry will make it..

  31. GC Martin 31

    interesting a/s challenge word.. r/t .? maybe not as bad as thort.. huh.. mebbe worse.. whatever i’m out a while..

  32. RedLogix 32


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