Episode 3: show notes

On this weeks show: The great co-host experiment, Cuccinelli vs Mann, warming of the oceans, melting glaciers, shape-shifting islands, Lord Monckton is wrong, the idiot politician of the week, and grasping at 4th grade straws.

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A big welcome to Graham Wayne!


Due to an error on my part the errata for episode 2 were not recorded, they will appear in episode 4.

Cuccinelli vs Mann

Background post I wrote on the subject

Costs estimates:

State Sen. Donald McEachin estimates that the Cuccinelli lawsuit will cost Virginia taxpayers between $250,000 and $500,000 if it goes all the way to the Supreme Court. Spending half a million dollars of taxpayer funds to possibly recover some part of half a million dollars of misspent grant money doesn’t even begin to make sense.

UVa fights back (h/t Eli Rabett):

The CIDs do not state the nature of the conduct that could constitute a potential FATA violation., And for good reason. None of the five identified grants appears to implicate FATA. Four of the five grants were awarded by the federal government, not the Commonwealth. FATA extends only to allegations of false claims submitted for Commonwealth funds. The fifth grant was an internal University grant initially awarded in 2001. FATA did not become effective until 2003 and does not apply retroactively. Given these circumstances, there is no objective “reason to believe” that the University has information about a FATA violation.

Steve McIntyre thinks Cuccinelli has gone to far:

This is a repugnant piece of over-zealousness by the Virginia Attorney General, that I condemn…

To the extent that Virginia citizens are concerned about public money being misappropriated, Cuccinelli’s own expenditures on this adventure should be under equal scrutiny. There will be no value for dollar in this enterprise…

To the extent that there are issues with Mann or Jones or any of these guys, they are at most academic misconduct and should be dealt with under those regimes.

Troubling precedent according to the AAAS (h/t Chris Mooney):

Scientists should not be subjected to fraud investigations simply for providing scientific results that may be controversial or inconvenient, particularly on high profile topics of interest to society. The way to resolve controversies of this nature is through scientific review and additional research.

In the majority of cases, scientific disagreements are unrelated to any kind of fraud and are considered a legitimate and normal part of the process of scientific progress. The scientific community takes seriously their responsibility for policing scientific misconduct, and extensive procedures exist to ensure the credibility of the research enterprise. Unless founded on some openly discussed evidence of potential misconduct, investigations such as that targeting Professor Mann could have a long-lasting and chilling effect on a broad spectrum of research fields that are critical to a range of national interests from public health to national security to the environment. Unless more clearly justified, Attorney General Cuccinelli’s apparently political action should be withdrawn.

Ocean Warming

Robust warming of the global upper ocean

Study abstract:

A large (~1023 J) multi-decadal globally averaged warming signal in the upper 300 m of the world’s oceans was reported roughly a decade ago and is attributed to warming associated with anthropogenic greenhouse gases. The majority of the Earth’s total energy uptake during recent decades has occurred in the upper ocean, but the underlying uncertainties in ocean warming are unclear, limiting our ability to assess closure of sea-level budgets, the global radiation imbalance and climate models. For example, several teams have recently produced different multi-year estimates of the annually averaged global integral of upper-ocean heat content anomalies (hereafter OHCA curves) or, equivalently, the thermosteric sea-level rise. Patterns of interannual variability, in particular, differ among methods. Here we examine several sources of uncertainty that contribute to differences among OHCA curves from 1993 to 2008, focusing on the difficulties of correcting biases in expendable bathythermograph (XBT) data. XBT data constitute the majority of the in situ measurements of upper-ocean heat content from 1967 to 2002, and we find that the uncertainty due to choice of XBT bias correction dominates among-method variability in OHCA curves during our 1993–2008 study period. Accounting for multiple sources of uncertainty, a composite of several OHCA curves using different XBT bias corrections still yields a statistically significant linear warming trend for 1993–2008 of 0.64 W m-2(calculated for the Earth’s entire surface area), with a 90-per-cent confidence interval of 0.53–0.75 W m-2.

Real Climate’s overview:

The main problem has been that over time the network of XBT probes and CTD casts has been replaced by the Argo float network which has a much greater coverage and more homogeneous instrumentation. However, connecting up the old and new networks, and dealing with specific biases in the XBT probes is difficult. An XBT (eXpendable Bathy-Thermograph) is a probe that is thrown off the ship and whose temperature readings as a function of time are transferred to a profile in depth from knowledge of how fast the probe falls. Unfortunately, this function is a complicated one that depends on the temperature of the water, the depth, the manufacturer of the probe etc. Various groups – working with the same basic data – have shown that there were biases in the XBT associated with incorrect calibrations and have attempted to make better corrections.

The latest paper is a consensus effort from many of the people involved in the previous work and shows how robust the recent decades warming of the ocean has been. Indeed, the ‘best estimate’ for the changes in the top 700m seems to be a greater warming than seen in the NODC data and more than even the models were suggesting.

One thing that is interesting to note is that the interannual variability – particularly in the transition period between the two observing systems (1995-2005 say) is very dependent on exactly how you do the corrections, while the longer term trend is robust. This ties in directly with comments by Kevin Trenberth in this recent paper and in an accompanying commentary to the Lyman paper that while the energy budget changes over the long term are explainable, the changes over short time frames are still very difficult to quantify.

An observationally based energy balance for the Earth since 1950 Murphy et al. 2009

Melting Glaciers

Nature News:

Is it all down to man-made global warming? Not according to a recent study, which finds that about half of the glacier loss in the Swiss Alps is due to natural climate variability1 — a result likely to be true for glaciers around the world.

“This doesn’t question the actuality, and the seriousness, of man-made climate change in any way,” says Matthias Huss, a glaciologist at the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, who led the study. “But what we do see is that current glacier retreat might be equally due to natural climate variations as it is to anthropogenic greenhouse warming.”

“This is the first detailed attribution of known climate forces on glacier behaviour,” says Georg Kaser, a glaciologist at the University of Innsbruck in Austria, who was not involved in the study. “Given the importance of glaciers to local water supply, this is essential information.”

Researchers have long suspected that glaciers respond sensitively to natural climate swings such as those caused by the rhythmic rise and fall of North Atlantic sea surface temperatures by up to 1 °C roughly every 60 years. This Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (AMO), driven by changes in ocean circulation, is thought to affect phenomena including Atlantic hurricanes and rainfall in Europe.

100-year mass changes in the Swiss Alps linked to the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation

Study abstract:

Thirty new 100-year records of glacier surface mass balance, accumulation and melt in the Swiss Alps are presented. The time series are based on a comprehensive set of field data and distributed modeling and provide insights into the glacier-climate linkage. Considerable mass loss over the 20th century is evident for all glaciers, but rates differ strongly. Glacier mass loss shows multidecadal variations and was particularly rapid in the 1940s and since the 1980s. Mass balance is significantly anticorrelated to the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) index assumed to be linked to thermohaline ocean circulation. We show that North Atlantic variability had a recognizable impact on glacier changes in the Swiss Alps for at least 250 years.

Shape-shifting islands

New Scientist reports:

Author Webb (lead author pf the study) says the trend is explained by the islands’ composition. Unlike the sandbars of the eastern US coast, low-lying Pacific islands are made of coral debris. This is eroded from the reefs that typically circle the islands and pushed up onto the islands by winds, waves and currents. Because the corals are alive, they provide a continuous supply of material. “Atolls are composed of once-living material,” says Webb, “so you have a continual growth.” Causeways and other structures linking islands can boost growth by trapping sediment that would otherwise get lost to the ocean.

The dynamic response of reef islands to sea-level rise: Evidence from multi-decadal analysis of island change in the Central Pacific:

Study abstract:

Low-lying atoll islands are widely perceived to erode in response to measured and future sea-level rise. Using historical aerial photography and satellite images this study presents the first quantitative analysis of physical changes in 27 atoll islands in the central Pacific over a 19 to 61 yr period. This period of analysis corresponds with instrumental records that show a rate of sea-level rise of 2.0 mm yr− 1 in the Pacific. Results show that 86% of islands remained stable (43%) or increased in area (43%) over the timeframe of analysis. Largest decadal rates of increase in island area range between 0.1 to 5.6 ha. Only 14% of study islands exhibited a net reduction in island area. Despite small net changes in area, islands exhibited larger gross changes. This was expressed as changes in the planform configuration and position of islands on reef platforms. Modes of island change included: ocean shoreline displacement toward the lagoon; lagoon shoreline progradation; and, extension of the ends of elongate islands. Collectively these adjustments represent net lagoonward migration of islands in 65% of cases. Results contradict existing paradigms of island response and have significant implications for the consideration of island stability under ongoing sea-level rise in the central Pacific. First, islands are geomorphologically persistent features on atoll reef platforms and can increase in island area despite sea-level change. Second, islands are dynamic landforms that undergo a range of physical adjustments in responses to changing boundary conditions, of which sea level is just one factor. Third, erosion of island shorelines must be reconsidered in the context of physical adjustments of the entire island shoreline as erosion may be balanced by progradation on other sectors of shorelines. Results indicate that the style and magnitude of geomorphic change will vary between islands. Therefore, island nations must place a high priority on resolving the precise styles and rates of change that will occur over the next century and reconsider the implications for adaption.

Lord Monckton is Wrong

Original version

Monckton’s reply:

So unusual is this attempt actually to meet us in argument, and so venomously ad hominem are Abraham’s artful puerilities, delivered in a nasal and irritatingly matey tone (at least we are spared his face — he looks like an overcooked prawn), that climate-extremist bloggers everywhere have circulated them and praised them to the warming skies.

The Telegraph’s article on Monckton, which was disappeared almost immediately
by Tom Chivers:

What I want to say is: if I were a climate change sceptic, or denier, or heretic or whatever your epithet of choice is, I would be desperately trying to distance myself from Lord Monckton. Unfortunately for everyone concerned, he is one of the leading lights of the movement…

Lord Monckton is an odd (and, I admit, oddly charming) figure, a bit of a Toad of Toad Hall, entirely convinced of his own genius and completely unfazed when reality fails to agree with him. His utter conviction that he, a classics graduate, has got it right when all those pesky climate scientists have got it wrong is rather endearing…

He can be safely ignored in all serious scientific debate. But it reflects badly on those people who want seriously to argue against the science of climate change that this capering jester is among the public figureheads of their movement.

Universal Cure:

2008-present: RESURREXI Pharmaceutical: Director responsible for invention and development of a broad-spectrum cure for infectious diseases. Patents have now been filed. Patients have been cured of various infectious diseases, including Graves’ Disease, multiple sclerosis, influenza, and herpes simplex VI. Our first HIV patient had his viral titre reduced by 38% in five days, with no side-effects. Tests continue.

Idiot politician of the week

Rep. Don Young (R-AK):

This is not an environmental disaster, and I will say that again and again because it is a national phenomena. Oil has seeped into this ocean for centuries, will continue to do it. During World War II there was over 10 million barrels of oil spilt from ships, and no natural catastrophe.… We will lose some birds, we will lose some fixed sealife, but overall it will recover.

BP Oil Spill lags Natural Oil Spills by over 800 Years:

  • Oils spills and oil seepage have been natural in the past, therefore BP cannot have caused the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico
  • Natural oil seepage exists and is larger in magnitude than the current BP disaster. Hence the current Gulf of Mexico BP disaster cannot have been generated by humans and is insignificant
  • People have died naturally in the past, therefore murder can always be excluded today
  • Bush fires have been started by lightning in the past, therefore arson can be excluded in every modern case
  • Climate has changed naturally in the past, therefore…

Friends of Gin and Tonic smear Irregular Climate

Dan Moutal, a Vancouver greenie and supporter of the UN world socialist government, offers his climate-science morass as a podcast. This podcast, listened to during workouts, will generate aggression and anger in us ultraconservative deniers and thus improve our fitness even more. Thank you, Dan! Asks a friend of science: “What’s a podcast?”

Grasping at 4th grade straws

4th grader disproves climate change, deniers cheer!

That’s right deniers are jumping over themselves because global warming was questioned by a 4th grader. Throw out the decades of research done by thousands of brilliant scientists because a 4th grader says it is all wrong.

Take that Science!…

The bottom line is that a 4th grader’s science fair project is not a challenge to the established science of global warming. Climatology is a complex science, and a 4th grader simply doesn’t yet have the capacity to truly understand it. That deniers are promoting this shows how desperate they have become.

Michael Tobis has received word from the Reporter who first published the story:

I did speak with a representative from NSF who confirmed that they do not have a National Science Fair, no one there had ever seen the letter, and I also called space camp, who told me that they did not receive anything from NSF either.

Confirmed by the NSF:

The letter is not authentic, Linda had no knowledge of it, and it amounts to fraudulent use of our name and logo.

UPDATE: The Father has admitted to being behind the hoax:

Father says he is sorry for science fair hoax

Dr. J.R. Castillo admits the “recognition” his daughter received from the “2010 National Science Fair” was indeed a hoax.

“With that being said, we sincerely apologize to anyone and everyone who was affected by this. This has been a drain on our family and I just want to move on,” Castillo wrote in an e-mail. “What was intended to be a way to honor our daughter for a job well done on her project has really gotten out of hand and we’re ready to put this behind us.”

The Skeptic debunk of the week

Are Surface Temperatures reliable by John Cook

Numerous studies into the effect of urban heat island effect and microsite influences find they have negligible effect on long-term trends, particularly when averaged over large regions.

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