Open Mind

Amundsen-Scott

November 6, 2008 · 68 Comments

The first team of humans to reach the south pole was led by Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen; the second team by Englishman Robert Falcon Scott. It was a study in contrasts. Amundsen was an extremely experienced polar explorer who had learned the ways of the Inuit during travels in the Arctic. He abandoned the use of heavy wool clothing in favor of caribou skins. He made excellent use of skis and relied heavily on sled dogs, some of which he planned ahead of time to kill along the journey for fresh meat. As a result, he reached the pole first, left a tent and a message, and returned safely to warmer climates. Scott made it to the pole, but 35 days later than Amundsen and only after leaving confusing instructions to his support teams which led to misplacement of supply stations. Devastated by their failure to reach the pole first, his 5-man expedition faltered on the return trip, and all members of his team died on the Antarctic continent. His courage could not be faulted, but his preparations were vastly inferior to Amundsen’s.


The station at the south pole is named Amundsen-Scott station in their honor. In a recent comment we were treated to this characterization of temperature trends at Amundsen-Scott, and other, Antarctic locations:


1. Almost all the stations considered were on the Antarctic Peninsula. It is well know that the peninsula is warming out sync with the rest of Antarctica.

2. The Scott-Amundsen station at the South Pole shows a long term decline in temperature.

3. The east Antarctic stations show an insignificant slight warming.

4. None of the weather station data show significantly abnormal long term increases in temperature.

Generally the weather station data show about a +0.1C change per decade.

The first claim, that the Antarctic peninsula is warming out of sync with the rest of the continent, is well supported by available data. In fact the Antarctic peninsula is warming considerably faster than the planet as a whole.

Here’s the data for Amundsen-Scott station:

amscott1

There’s a lot of variation in the raw data, which we can reduce if we plot not monthly but annual averages. I’ll also add two smoothed versions, using a Savitsky-Golay filter and a wavelet transform:

amscott2

There appears to have been a dip in the late 1990s, but since then temperature has recovered to previous levels. Linear regression indicates a rate of -0.006 +/- 0.014 deg.C/yr; that’s nowhere near significant. So the second claim, about a “long term decline in temperature,” has no basis in fact.

As for east Antarctic stations (not near the peninsula), I found three with a reasonable amount of data that goes up to the year 2008: Vostok, McMurdo, and Scott Base. All are about 12 deg. of latitude from the pole. I also found a west Antarctic station with decent data coverage, Halley, about 15 deg. from the pole, and three reasonably well-covered stations on the Antarctic peninsula: Faraday, Base San Martin, and Rothera Point. Here are the estimated trends (with error bars) for all these Antarctic stations:

stations

None of the stations shows statistically significant cooling. But two of the east Antarctic stations, McMurdo and Scott Base, show significant warming. Both are just barely into the significant region, so warming cannot be considered certain — but they are significant (at 95% confidenc) so warming is extremely likely. Certainly the third claim, that “The east Antarctic stations show an insignificant slight warming,” is contradicted by the data.

The three Antarctic peninsula stations not only show significant warming, but rapid warming. Base San Martin data gives a trend rate of 0.085 deg.C/yr, or 0.85 deg.C/decade, although the error range is quite a bit larger than for the other stations. Base San Martin, along with Faraday at 0.052 and Rothera Point at 0.044 deg.C/yr, all appear to be warming more than twice as fast as the globe as a whole.

It looks like we’ve been “treated” to a serious mischaracterization of temperature trends on the Antarctic continent.

Categories: Global Warming

68 responses so far ↓

  • Richard Steckis // November 6, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    That would be my blog post you are commenting on. You have basically supported my argument. That is, there is no real anthropogenic signature over the Antarctic continent as a whole.

    The fact that the West Antarctic peninsula is warming more quickly than the rest of the globe speaks volumes for local climate variation that is not caused by anthropogenic influences. The west Antarctic peninsula is a volcanically active region that is near the interaction zone of two tectonic plates. After all Terra del Fuego was not given that name for nothing and it is the South American extension of the Antarctic peninsula.

    By the way, Scott and McMurdo are classified as being in the West Antarctic (being west of the Trans Antarctic Mountain Range). Your analysis of the east Antarctic did not include Davis and Casey stations which are the one that I looked at.

    Summing up. I don’t think I mischaracterised at all. Your analysis is not strong on conviction. e.g.:
    “None of the stations shows statistically significant cooling. But two of the east Antarctic stations, McMurdo and Scott Base, show significant warming. Both are just barely into the significant region, so warming cannot be considered certain — but they are significant (at 95% confidenc) so warming is extremely likely.”

    Two of the stations but not most?

    Is that what you call covering your bets?

  • Richard Steckis // November 6, 2008 at 3:02 pm

    Oh. And have a look at Mawson Station. I think it has a very slight, probably insignificant cooling trend. At least with linear regression.

  • tortoise // November 6, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    Richard: Are you attributing the warming on the Antarctic peninsula to vulcanism and/or tectonic activity? If so, can you say some more about that?

  • kfr // November 6, 2008 at 4:50 pm

    Reading your response Richard it looks like you are ignorant of what you typed in your original post.

    Tamino has just shown point2 - wrong,
    point3 - wrong, and your defence of point 4? “two of the stations not most”, but then your original claim was none.

    So by proving you wrong on 3 substantive points you then claim it supported your argument. What world of twisted logic do you live in?

  • Phil Scadden // November 6, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    I’d have to agree with Richard that Scott and McMurdo are regarded as West Antartica (and being only walking distance apart, they are a poor choice IMO). However, the idea that west Antartic temperature change can be accounted for by enhanced earth heat flow is laughable. Do the maths. And look at what the AGW models actually predict for Antartica before deciding that Antartica is a violation.

  • S2 // November 6, 2008 at 9:20 pm

    Richard Steckis:

    The fact that the West Antarctic peninsula is warming more quickly than the rest of the globe speaks volumes for local climate variation that is not caused by anthropogenic influences.

    And the fact that the Amundsen-Scott station is not warming as fast as the rest of the globe is proof of what?

    You can’t have it both ways.

  • Dave A // November 6, 2008 at 10:59 pm

    Tamino,

    You have no idea about how fast “the globe is warming as a whole” because the the GMST is a load of bollocks.

  • Phil Scadden // November 6, 2008 at 11:09 pm

    So which AGW GCM output predicts that it WILL warm as fast as rest of globe? (For that matter. the globle isnt predicted to warm uniformly anyway - if it did, then that would contradict AGW theory.)

  • fragment // November 6, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    He’s right that Scott and McMurdo are West Antarctic, though.

  • Hank Roberts // November 7, 2008 at 4:06 am

    http://openlearn.open.ac.uk/mod/resource/view.php?id=172073

  • Richard Steckis // November 7, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    kfr,

    Tamino has not proven me wrong on either point 2 or 3. He said that his analysis showed that the temp had returned to normal after a decline in the 90s based on his wavelet analysis. I used linear regression (not as fancy I know) and, as Tamino also showed, there is a slight cooling with regression but not statistically significant.

    The fact is, there is no indication in any of the east Antarctic stations I looked at (Casey, Davis, Mawson, Mirnyj, and Dumont D’Urville) that there is a warming trend like that experienced in the Northern Hemisphere over the last 50yrs.

    And S2. The lack of warming at Scott-Amundsen is not proof for or against AGW. It is local climate behaving like local climate.

    Finally. I do not think that geophysical activity in the west Antarctic being responsible for climate change in that region is laughable. It is not the heat generated that can cause the change, it is the geophysical and volcanic activity that can change currents, ice sheet stability etc. It can absolutely have an effect.

  • Petro // November 7, 2008 at 3:26 pm

    Richard Steckis said:
    “The fact is, there is no indication in any of the east Antarctic stations I looked at (Casey, Davis, Mawson, Mirnyj, and Dumont D’Urville) that there is a warming trend like that experienced in the Northern Hemisphere over the last 50yrs.”

    However, this is not what you claimed in your original post:
    “3. The east Antarctic stations show an insignificant slight warming.

    4. None of the weather station data show significantly abnormal long term increases in temperature.”

    These were refuted by Tamino:
    “Two of the east Antarctic stations, McMurdo and Scott Base, show significant warming. ”

    Typical denialist tactic. Pity you, Richard.

  • vivendi // November 7, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    IMHO, “no warming trend” and “insignificant slight warming” mean both the same thing: “nothing to see”.

  • tortoise // November 7, 2008 at 9:35 pm

    Richard S.:
    You came close to starting to talk about what I would be interested in knowing from you when you said “it is not the heat generated that can cause the change, it is the geophysical and volcanic activity that can change currents, ice sheet stability etc. It can absolutely have an effect.”
    Can you explain what you think is going on? That is to say, can you go beyond the assertion “it can have an effect” and describe what process you believe to be causing the observed patterns of temperature changes? Personally, I’m not trying to suggest your point of view is laughable. I just don’t really understand what it is, yet. I tend to accept the IPCC way of explaining the observations, but I’m not dismissive of alternate explanations–at least not until I understand them well enough to know where I think they’re probably wrong.

  • David B. Benson // November 7, 2008 at 10:25 pm

    tortoise // November 7, 2008 at 9:35 pm — I’ll pipe in with my amateur understanding of Antarctica and the Antarctic Penninsula, but first I’d like a synopsis of what the IPCC AR4 says, as you understand it. Thanks.

  • dhogaza // November 8, 2008 at 4:49 am

    You came close to starting to talk about what I would be interested in knowing from you when you said “it is not the heat generated that can cause the change, it is the geophysical and volcanic activity that can change currents, ice sheet stability etc. It can absolutely have an effect.”

    Actually, such a claim needs to be backed up with quantitative analysis, such as is done with the vast amount of physical analysis that proves that CO2 warms the planet.

    So, Richard S, where are your numbers that show that professional scientists in the field are wrong in their assessment that it’s more or less negligible.

    Of course, if tectonic effects were to actually drive regional weather in the Antarctic, it wouldn’t actually say anything about CO2-forced global warming.

  • Richard Steckis // November 8, 2008 at 7:34 am

    Petro,

    When I said “3. The east Antarctic stations show an insignificant slight warming.” , that does not contradict what I said about a lack of a long term trend in temperature as that observed in the Northern Hemisphere.

    Again, the weather station data does not show a warming temperature that is abnormally high. So that does not alter point 4 of my original post.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but the wavelet transform does not have a significance test associated with it. You must use a valid statistical test with it for determination of significance levels. Tamino did not outline which test he used. My cursory look at the technique showed that a number of statistical tests can be used. Notably:

    Monte Carlo tests: http://asae.frymulti.com/abstract.asp?aid=24292&t=2

    Red Noise Modelling: http://www.cosis.net/abstracts/EGU04/02268/EGU04-A-02268.pdf

    Finally, the two east Antarctic Stations he cited are actually in the western Antarctic and so close together that you can only consider them to be one station for statistical purposes.

    [Response: All statements of statistical significance were based on red-noise tests applied to linear regression; the wavelet transform was applied only to smooth the data, to show probable time evolution. I'll conceded that McMurdo and Scott Base, despite their E. longitude, are classified as "West Antarctic" stations.

    Here's my real objection to your original comment: you characterized the warming in E. Antarctic stations as "small and insignificant" (which it is) but referred to the cooling at Amundsen-Scott station as "a long term decline in temperature." Well, the cooling at Amundsen-Scott is no more significant than the warming at E. Antarctic stations, so your statement is a mischaracterization.

    The real irrelevance of your entire position is that a lack of warming in Antarctica does not contradict global warming theory or even computer simulations; computer models predicted it. From RealClimate

    The pioneer climate modelers Kirk Bryan and Syukuro Manabe took up the question with a more detailed model that revealed an additional effect. In the Southern Ocean around Antarctica the mixing of water went deeper than in Northern waters, so more volumes of water were brought into play earlier. In their model, around Antarctica “there is no warming at the sea surface, and even a slight cooling over the 50-year duration of the experiment.” (4) In the twenty years since, computer models have improved by orders of magnitude, but they continue to show that Antarctica cannot be expected to warm up very significantly until long after the rest of the world’s climate is radically changed.

    Bottom line: A cold Antarctica and Southern Ocean do not contradict our models of global warming. For a long time the models have predicted just that.

    (4) Kirk Bryan et al. (1988). J. Physical Oceanography 18: 851-67. For the story overall see Syukuro Manabe and Ronald J. Stouffer (2007) Journal of the Meteorological Society of Japan 85B: 385-403.]

  • Richard Steckis // November 8, 2008 at 8:15 am

    Tortoise,

    Perhaps these help explain the possibilities that are ignored by the IPCCs singular vision on climate change.

    http://www.agu.org/revgeophys/sleep00/sleep00.html

    http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/01/20/europe/climate.php

    http://scienceweek.com/2005/sw050527-5.htm

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/05/040527235943.htm

    http://www.springer.com/birkhauser/geo+science/book/978-3-7643-8416-6

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070222160443.htm

    There is nothing laughable about linking tectonics, geophysics and vulcanism to climate change.

  • Sekerob // November 8, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    Linking tectonics to climate change to begin with… at what timescale? I reckoned on some other, sorry laughable, hype story that Africa came closer to me by 8.5 km, in the last 425,000 years. In even 2 centuries, that was 4 meters… and that should [partially] account for current climate change of any significance?

    So, it took few hundred million years to dig under all that carbon and we’re spouting it back into circulation within a few centuries… and that would not cause climate change?

    GHGs particular 12CO2 is doubtlessly, i mean doubtlessly attributable as source for the rise in the atmosphere. Mauna Loa just updated their trend figure from 386.36 ppmv in September [revised to 386.49 ppmv] to 387.80 ppmv to October. Getting there rapidly.

  • Ian Forrester // November 8, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    Richard Steckis said: “There is nothing laughable about linking tectonics, geophysics and vulcanism to climate change”.

    He is perfectly correct in that statement. However, what is laughable, is his assertion that these factors are affecting (measurable) climate change over the past 30 to 50 years.

    The majority of the reports he cites refer to tectonic and geophysical effects over millions of years. This is accepted my most climatologists.

    For him to then take those studies and inform us that they are having measurably changes over a short period of time is laughable.

    He also shows that he has not read the reports, only cut and pasted the links, since Recovery Glacier is in East Antarctica, not West Antarctica as he is suggesting these activities are occurring.

    Richard Steckis, are you really as ignorant of the sciences you speak about as you seem to be or are you deliberately adding to the confusion contributed by other AGW deniers?

  • dhogaza // November 8, 2008 at 4:56 pm

    I took a quick look at Richard S’s first reference. It is clearly talking about plate tectonics on the geological timescale, the timescale on which large scale changes in topographical features become apparent.

    As in “a lot longer than 150 years”.

    I won’t bother even skimming the rest.

  • Hank Roberts // November 8, 2008 at 6:31 pm

    Richard has his own climate blog:
    climatebalance.wordpress.com/

  • Arch Stanton // November 8, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    Richard makes an unsupported implied accusation (Antarctic peninsula warming due to volcanism) and when asked to provide some evidence for it, changes it to a dishonest straw man about the IPCC not believing that plate tectonics is a long term influence on climate.

    What a troll.

  • David B. Benson // November 8, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    Richard Steckis — Terra del Fuego was named that by Magellan after the numerous campfires of the indigenes.

    I know of no volcanoes, active or dormant south of the South Patagonian Icefield in South America. The Antartic Pennisula is not precisely ‘an extension’ of Terra del Fuego but the two areas were geologically related many, many millions of years ago.

    While I have read about tectonic activity near the Antarctic Pennisula, AFAIK there is no evidence of such for millions of years. I doubt your claim of recent volcanic activity on the Antarctic Pennisula until such time as you cite professional papers on the subject.

    As I understand the climatology, the recent warming on the Antarctic Penninsula is entirely due to AGW: the westerlies blow all the time around Antarctica, the “roaring forties” and “raging fifties” of yore. This circumpolar vortex has moved closer to the South Pole, and intensified, due to global warming. While this tends to further meteorologically isolate most of Antarctica, it exposes the Antarctic Pennisula to the (somewhat) warmer air further north.

    This intensified circumpolar vortex also causes more rapid upwelling of deep waters in the Southern Ocean. This water was last of the surface 250—500 years ago. This faster upwelling of ancient water is thought by some to have an effect, but I don’t understand enough oceanography (yet) to follow those papers.

  • dhogaza // November 8, 2008 at 8:18 pm

    Richard has made a big deal about his being a scientist and therefore qualified to shoot down the big guns of Climate Science.

    He has a BS, no advanced degree, if his blog is to be believed.

  • P. Lewis // November 8, 2008 at 8:33 pm

    Ahem! Mt Erebus, David.

    Doesn’t do much for Richard’s thesis though.

  • David B. Benson // November 8, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    “Mount Erebus in Antarctica is the southernmost active volcano on Earth. With a summit elevation of 3,795 metres (12,451 ft), it is located on Ross Island … Scientific study of the volcano is also facilitated by the proximity (thirty-five kilometres) of McMurdo Station (U.S.) and Scott Base (N.Z.), both sited on Ross Island.”

    from

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mount_Erebus

    Not the Antarctic Pennisula, P. Lewis.

  • Gareth // November 8, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    David BB,

    Roaring forties, furious fifties and screaming sixties are the most usual terms, I believe.

  • David B. Benson // November 8, 2008 at 10:46 pm

    To my surprise it appears there is a fairly active volcano on one of the Terra del Feugo southern islands:

    Unnamed at 56°15′S 72°10.2′W which last erupted in 1876. There are three or so on islands off the coast of the Antarctic Penninsula. Penguin Island, one of the South Shetland Islands, last erupted in about 1905. The other two have been inactive for very much longer.

    See

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_volcanoes_in_Antarctica

  • Thomas Huxley // November 8, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    David Benson - from your wiki list of volcanoes :

    Deception Island is an island in the South Shetland Islands off the Antarctic Peninsula … A recently active volcano, its eruptions in 1967 and 1969 caused serious damage to the scientific stations there

  • Thomas Huxley // November 8, 2008 at 11:43 pm

    Deception Island has its own website:

    The volcano was particularly active during the 18th and 19th centuries. 20th century eruptions occurred during two short periods, between 1906-1910 and 1967-1970. In 1992, enhanced seismic activity on Deception Island was accompanied by ground deformation and increased water temperatures. Today, the floor of Port Foster is rising rapidly in geological terms, and there are areas of long term geothermal activity. It is classified as a restless caldera with a significant volcanic risk.

  • David B. Benson // November 8, 2008 at 11:48 pm

    Gareth // November 8, 2008 at 10:27 pm — Alliterative phasing often wins. :-)

  • P. Lewis // November 8, 2008 at 11:54 pm

    Not the Antarctic Pennisula, P. Lewis.

    Yes! I know! But what’s that got to do with the price of beer?

    You said:

    I know of no volcanoes, active or dormant south of the South Patagonian Icefield in South America.

    Last I looked, Mt Erebus was south of the Antarctic circle, further south than Patagonia.

  • David B. Benson // November 9, 2008 at 12:08 am

    P. Lewis // November 8, 2008 at 11:54 pm — “in South America”: Since when is Ross Island in South America? :-)

  • Richard Steckis // November 9, 2008 at 4:46 am

    David Benson,

    http://vulcan.wr.usgs.gov/Volcanoes/Antarctica/Maps/map_antarctica_volcanoes.html

    http://vulcan.wr.usgs.gov/Glossary/PlateTectonics/Maps/map_south_america_plates.html

    Dhogaza,

    I have an BSc with Honours (this is above a BS, It is an advanced graduate degree). And so what if I don’t have a post graduate degree? So I am not a scientist without one? Give me a break. I have seen some dumb clucks with PhDs. I work with a few and I couldn’t raffle them if I tried.

  • Richard Steckis // November 9, 2008 at 5:14 am

    Another few:

    http://www.nature.com/news/2008/080118/full/news.2008.304.html

    http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,23088295-30417,00.htm

    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1511/is_/ai_14889779

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6VGC-48PV8X1-1&_user=10&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=a301802ec9653ab0fa0b769f0a77efc5

    http://209.85.175.104/search?q=cache:vqoi–erTjsJ:www.ig.utexas.edu/outreach/polar/pepperoni/pdfdocs/wagn.pdf+volcano+under+wais&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=7&gl=au&client=firefox-a

    Also, there is a difference between active and erupting volcanoes.

  • Richard Steckis // November 9, 2008 at 6:49 am

    Oh. And Dhogaza. Since when are the big guns immune to criticism (constructive. Unlike yours though). There is also a substantial body of big guns that are not AGW advocates and seem to be fair targets in your opinion.

  • P. Lewis // November 9, 2008 at 10:59 am

    Ah! Of course. Nothing to do with Richard’s volcanic activity in Antarctica. Silly me.

  • mauri pelto // November 9, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    This thread sounds like the presidential campaign, a red herrring “tectonics” is thrown out there, and the post ends up chasing it. The temperature record of the main region of Antarctica has shown notably less warming then the rest of the globe, and that is of interest. The climate around Antarctica is dominated by strong westerly winds that swirl around a giant vortex of cold air that forms over the continent for much of the year. This polar vortex stretches from the ground into the stratosphere.

    In the past 25 years, pollution has seasonally damaged the ozone layer over Antarctica. That in turn has cooled the stratosphere, as the ozone no long absorbs the UV, by as much as 10°C. The cooling does not extend to ground level, but it does strengthen the polar vortex and the westerly winds circling Antarctica as Thompson and Solomon pointed out in 2002. GISS has more recently noted Low ozone levels in the stratosphere and increasing greenhouse gases promote a positive phase of a shifting atmospheric climate pattern in the Southern Hemisphere, called the Southern Annular Mode (SAM). A positive SAM isolates colder air in the Antarctic interior. http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/Newsroom/view.php?old=2004100617707

  • Richard Steckis // November 9, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    Tamino,

    “The real irrelevance of your entire position is that a lack of warming in Antarctica does not contradict global warming theory or even computer simulations; computer models predicted it. From RealClimate”

    Running model simulations is evidence of nothing. The problem is that modelers and mathematical climate scientists attribute evidence to models. Evidence can only come from empirical study, not from models. But I guess I am an out of date scientist who learned that to find evidence one had to observe the physical world and derive statistical evidence from observations of physical phenomena.

    And for the record. I am not a critic of global warming. Nor am I a critic of global cooling. But I am sceptical of the emphasis placed on anthropogenic global warming and a single species of gas.

    [Response: You wanted to use lack of Antarctic warming as evidence against anthropogenic global warming, but it's now clear that lack of significant Antarctic warming for quite a long time is a *prediction* of anthropogenic global warming -- so you take a pot-shot at computer models. Pathetic.

    And there's far more than one species of gas which has a climate-altering effect and whose concentration has been amplified by human activity, including CO2, CH4, N2O, CFCs, SH6, sulfate aerosols, and probably several more I'm not aware of.]

  • dhogaza // November 9, 2008 at 2:39 pm

    And so what if I don’t have a post graduate degree? So I am not a scientist without one?

    When you argue from personal authority, your qualifications become relevant. A BsC(Honours) is not considered a graduate degree here, further adding to the impression that you think more highly of yourself than the evidence warrants.

    Your ignorance of science is surprising in a working scientist, not so surprising in someone with nothing more than a BsC (H or not).

  • Philippe Chantreau // November 9, 2008 at 5:56 pm

    Richard, in my opinion what would make you a scientist would be an advanced degree AND the conduct and publication of research in a related field. Can you point us to a list of your publications?

  • Ray Ladbury // November 9, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    Richard Steckis, Whether or not you are a scientist is irrelevant. What matters is whether you have expertise (read “peer-reviewed publications”) in the relevant subject matter. Do you?
    As to evidence having to be empirically based, just where the hell do you think the models come from. Are you seriously contending that they are not structured, calibrated and verified against empirical observations? Good Lord, man, what kind of science did you study?

  • Lee // November 10, 2008 at 12:21 am

    Steckis replies to Tamino:
    “The real irrelevance of your entire position is that a lack of warming in Antarctica does not contradict global warming theory or even computer simulations; computer models predicted it. From RealClimate”

    Running model simulations is evidence of nothing.

    Steckis - the models are the best quantitative expression we have of the AGW theory. Running the models gives us a quantitative look at what we expect the real world to do, as derived from the theory. Among those expectations is that the interior of Antarctica will be very, very slow to warm, and may even cool a bit in the short term. Observations of Antarctica are in accord with those expectations from AGW theory. The mechanis, that the models expect - intensification of the circumpolar vortex, and results of that intensification - are also in accord with observations of the southern high latitudes. Therefore, static or slightly cooling temperatures in the Antarctic interior are NOT evidence against AGW.

    You seemed to be trying to say that model output is being treated as the empirical data in Antarctica, when the truth is that the data from Antarctica is what is being treated as data, and is being compared to output from quantitative expressions of the theory. If you are a scientist, you know this.

  • Richard Steckis // November 10, 2008 at 7:50 am

    Lee,

    Running model simulations is not quantitative evidence of AGW. They are merely mathematical representations of theoretical scenarios.

    Again, correct me if I am wrong. But after a seminar by a researcher from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, she informed me that the GCMs were artificially constrained to prevent the model from entering a “run away” effect where the model would deviate outside the maximal variation of the climate system the longer the model was left to run. It would seem to me that if an artificial constraint has to be placed on a climate model to make it stay within realistic variation, that the underlying physics, and climate data used for the models does not well articulate the actual climate system. The models are then very bad predictors or forecasters of climate change despite their apparent ability to mimic past change.

    I am not saying that model data are being treated as empirical data in Antarctica. I am saying that model data are being treated as empirical data in the whole IPCC prediction of future climate change. The models say it, so it must be right.

    [Response: Who would that researcher be?]

  • Barton Paul Levenson // November 10, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Richard Steckis writes:

    I have an BSc with Honours (this is above a BS, It is an advanced graduate degree).

    A B.Sc. is not a graduate degree, it is an undergrad degree, with or without honors. I’ve got one myself, in physics. Pitt ‘83.

  • Gavin's Pussycat // November 10, 2008 at 2:56 pm

    > I am saying that model data
    > are being treated as empirical data in the whole IPCC prediction of future climate change. The models say it, so
    > it must be right.

    You shouldn’t make up things Richard, especially not things that can be easily checked to be wrong. Hint: the IPCC projections don’t even include natural variability — they don’t pretend to be predictions.

    The models are the best we have, but they are not future reality and nobody pretends they are — except you, falsely. BTW I too would prefer to have real data, but that’s a bit of an issue with things in the future ;-)

  • Lee // November 10, 2008 at 5:35 pm

    Steckis says:
    “Running model simulations is not quantitative evidence of AGW.”
    Correct - that is what I said. The models are the best quantitative expression of AW theory, telling us what AGW theory predicts will happen in the rel world given various forcing scenarios as input to the theory.

    Why on earth do you keep insisting that someone is using model output as ‘quantitative evidence of AGW?’

  • Lee // November 10, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    I assume Steckis is from the UK - his spelling of Honours and all that. In the English university system, a BSc with Honours may require an additional year of study , depending on the university and degree. This may be a 4th year of study, with an ‘ordinary’ degree requiring only 3 years.

    But it is still an (somewhat more prestigious) undergraduate degree, not an “advanced graduate degree.” Those same universities that require an additional year for Honours, still require more work for a Masters degree. In fact, they may require Honours for admission to a Masters or PhD program.

  • Thomas Huxley // November 10, 2008 at 7:36 pm

    Richard Steckis is Australian.

  • Bob North // November 10, 2008 at 8:39 pm

    Lee - just a minor quibble, but I hope that the models are the best quantitative expression of our understanding of the climate system (Not AGW theory). Thus, they should provide projections of what will likely happen under a multitude of forcing scenarios, both natural and anthropogenic. My understanding regarding the models support of attributing recent temperature rises to GHG is that, in hindcast mode, modellers can only reasonably match the historic climate changes if the forcings from anthropogenic GHGs are taken into account.

  • Marion Delgado // November 10, 2008 at 9:29 pm

    tamino:

    The denialist trolls are allegedly suspicious of any and all smoothing, averages, trend lines, error bars, etc. It’s well-known to them that anything but raw data, or perhaps a straight line drawn between two selected points of raw data, is a trick by the Green fanatic socialists that we call scientists.

    Eli’s back and forth over things like pressure broadening show that it’s not just time series. The trolls simply can’t do Fourier transforms, for instance. They need opposable thumbs.

  • Marion Delgado // November 10, 2008 at 9:34 pm

    Barton Paul:

    The coveted BSc is almost as prestigious as Dr. Science’s Masters Degree in Science. And the joke is on you - I believe ne-Doctor Steckis graduated from a 2-year college with an associates degree in marketing, making the BSc, indeed, an “advanced graduate degree.”

    All these degrees are very well, but do you have a gold Nobel pin, like Lord Monckton? Or better, a platinum Nobel Peace Prize for Medicine in Physics pin awarded by the Swedish Economics Society, as I have?

  • David B. Benson // November 10, 2008 at 10:33 pm

    Richard Steckis // November 10, 2008 at 7:50 am — Thanks for the links to the USGS maps. I’ll post more about that later.

    Yes, all general circulation (climate) models conserve enthalpy. This is used to avoid the buildup of numerical instabilities. This was done decades ago and today’s climate models have all been validated against multiple historical records; all of them perform quite well, thank you.

    You can learn about this by reading “The Discovery of Global Warming” by Spencer Weart:

    http://www.aip.org/history/climate/index.html

    Review of above:

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F04E7DF153DF936A35753C1A9659C8B63

  • David B. Benson // November 11, 2008 at 12:02 am

    For the Challenge, those latitudes were the Fearful Fifties:

    http://www.eraoftheclipperships.com/page28web5.html

    including passing well south of Tierra del Fuego about which a 1911 writing states “Although, in the explored portion of the Fuegian chain, the volcanoes which have been mentioned from time to time have not been met with, there seem to have existed to the south, on the islands, many neo-volcanic rocks, some of which appear to be contemporaneous with the basaltic sheet that covers a part of eastern Patagonia.”:

    http://www.wikinfo.org/index.php/Andes

    But alas, the Wikipedia claim for an unnamed volcano at 56°15′S 72°10.2′W is in serious error; the location is well out to sea in the Southern Ocean. One site seems to indicate that one of the smaller islands off Terra del Fuego is a dormant or extinct volcano; otherwise the ‘active’ volcanos south of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field are in the main Andean chain, this from the USGS web map.

    As for the Antarctic Pennisula proper, there are no volcanos. The two marked on the USGS web map are off-shore islands; both lie to the west of the mainland and neither has erupted for a long, long time.

  • Tom G // November 11, 2008 at 1:26 am

    Denialist trolls love raw data?
    Sure.
    As long as it’s like a greengrocer and they can pick out the “ripe” ones and leave the rest behind…

  • Phil Scadden // November 11, 2008 at 1:57 am

    Perhaps worth pointing out too in this discussion that rock is rather poor heat conductor. Even is active volcanic area like Taupo Volcanic Zone, heat flux is of order 0.7m/m2 c.f. 250 or more for insolation in antarctic summer. To melt ice, you need fluids to reach the surface, and the effects are highly localised to the fluid system.

    Anyway, for considering west antarctic ice loss, you have to ask what has changed in last 50-100 years? Hard to attribute that to tectonic change.

  • Richard Steckis // November 11, 2008 at 3:00 am

    To Barton Paul Levenson,

    “A B.Sc. is not a graduate degree, it is an undergrad degree, with or without honors. I’ve got one myself, in physics. Pitt ‘83.”

    I do not want to harp on about academic qualifications but: I am an Australian. In Australia an Honours degree is a fourth year that is taken after completion of an undergraduate degree usually completed by submission of a thesis. It is a qualifying degree for entry to PhD programs. It is therefore an advanced graduate degree. I in fact started my Ph.D. in biological sciences but temporarily abandoned it because it was too difficut to comlete on a part time basis. I will return to it at a later date.

    Enough said.

  • dhogaza // November 11, 2008 at 4:45 am

    I do not want to harp on about academic qualifications but: I am an Australian. In Australia an Honours degree is a fourth year that is taken after completion of an undergraduate degree usually completed by submission of a thesis. It is a qualifying degree for entry to PhD programs.

    Thanks for the clarification.

    It is a qualifying degree for entry to PhD programs. It is therefore an advanced graduate degree.

    No. Sorry. Here in the US it’s common for a good school BS (no “honours” or whatever) to be sufficient to leapfrog you into a PhD program.

    We’d never claim that this is “an advanced graduate degree.”

    Sorry.

  • Ray Ladbury // November 11, 2008 at 11:03 am

    Richard Steckis,
    Allow me to take this opportunity to encourage you in your plans to finish your PhD. Nobody knows more than I do that it’s a tough haul. However, in terms of understanding the world around you, I know of no more worthwhile endeavor, and I don’t know of anything more worthwhile than understanding the world around us.

  • Richard Steckis // November 11, 2008 at 4:17 pm

    Thank you for your encouragement Ray.

  • Hank Roberts // November 11, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    Richard Stekis writes:

    > after a seminar by a researcher from the
    > Australian Bureau of Meteorology,

    What seminar? Which researcher?

    > she informed me that the GCMs

    Which GCMs were being discussed?

    > were

    As of when?

    > artificially constrained to prevent the model
    > from entering a “run away” …

    Do you believe this has been published? If so, cite please? If not, why do you believe it?

  • Lee // November 11, 2008 at 5:08 pm

    I’ve gone and read BSc (Honours) requirements from several Australian Universities. A standard ‘pass’ degree in Australia requires 3 years. An Honours degree requires a 4th year, doing supervised research and writing a thesis, while being evaluated on one’s research and scholarly skills. It is required before one can apply to a Masters or PhD program.

    It is described as an undergraduate degree. BSc Honours is an advanced undergraduate degree.

    In the US, standard undergrad degrees are 4 years. There are several ways to earn honors here. Some universities award them simply for academic achievement, based on GPA. Others require them to be earned. My BS Biology with Honors required research experience in a faculty lab, but not a formal project or thesis. I supervised 2 honors undergrad students when I did my PhD - both of them found that they loved research so much that they went on to successful academic careers, and are both now tenured professors. I’m kind of proud of that.
    They were required to do a research project with a proposal and research plan, and write and defend a thesis, while also doing a normal course load of work
    They received a normal undergrad B.S. with honors. Equivalent to Steckis’ undergrad B.SC. with honours.

  • Richard Steckis // November 12, 2008 at 10:44 am

    Hank Roberts,

    Hank. Please read David Benson’s post answering my concerns re: Constraints placed on models. He confirms that there are placed on GCMs and he provided a reference explaining the process.

  • Richard Steckis // November 12, 2008 at 10:48 am

    Oh. And Hank. The model concerned is POAMA.

    http://www.bom.gov.au/climate/coupled_model/about-POAMA-outlooks.shtml

  • Gavin's Pussycat // November 13, 2008 at 7:02 am

    Richard Steckis,

    those constraints are for numerical stability, not fixing deficiencies in the physics. If we had models with a spatial resolution that enabled them to accurately represent convection/cloud microphysics — not going to happen for many, many Moore’s Law cycles –, we likely wouldn’t need to constrain enthalpy.

    I am not intimately familiar with GCMs, but I do remember from my astronomy days about numerical orbit integration of satellites. If you discretize the equations of motion and apply Runge-Kutta or whatever, you will see the satellite slowly spiral outward and finally disappear into space.

    It’s not that the physics is wrong: the computed orbit is a beautiful Kepler ellipse, just like theory tells it should be. But the ellipse doesn’t precisely close. The small closure error accumulates over time.

    If you make the time step smaller, the closing error gets smaller, but it never completely disappears. It is not a physical error, it’s a discretization, i.e., a numerics, effect. Now, constraining energy to be exactly preserved in every integration step, a physical constraint, makes the problem go away.

    About it being a “concern”, no. You complain (falsely) that there would be something wrong with the physics of the models, and then you complain when more physical realism is added to them in the form of constraints… you cannot have both. And as David points out, the proof of the pudding: the models perform nicely in various hindcasts, thank you very much.

  • Jay Alt // November 28, 2008 at 7:58 am

    You are kind of rough on Scott, and historians seem to have settled on that view of his prudence, along with a tortoise-hare comparison. But there is more to it, as explained in a book by IPPC 2007 ’s Susan Solomon.

    In ‘The Coldest March’, 2001 she discusses Scott’s expedition in the light of the weather conditions his team had to endure. In a normal Antarctic month, they would have made it back to base fine. But if was far from normal. There have been no similarly extreme cold spells since that time. Scott wasn’t reckless, but very unlucky.

  • dhogaza // November 28, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    Sometimes the unprepared are lucky, and nothing bad happens. Sometimes they’re unlucky, and bad things happen. Neither outcome counters the fact of unpreparedness.

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