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Climate cuttings 22

Right, having restarting the blogging engine, here's a much-delayed edition of climate cuttings. Some of these are quite old now, having sat waiting for me to click the publish button for a month now. Still - there's some interesting stuff out there.

A paper published in The Holocene said that there was a surge in summer storms in Britain in the 1680s and 1690s - the depths of the Little Ice Age. This rather dents recent theories that summer storms are being caused by global warming.

The Hockey Stick reared its ugly head again! Michael Mann's dodgy reconstruction of past temperatures appears in the pages of an important US report on climate. Still more remarkably it's in the variant where the thermometer record is tacked on to the end of the reconstruction to make it look more scary, with not a word of explanation that this is what has been done. Junk science from the US government, it seems.

And a few weeks later Dr Mann tried it on again, publishing a new take on paleoclimate, which quickly reduced readers at Climate Audit to tears of laughter as problem after problem with the data came to light. The cock-ups didn't so much crawl out of the woodwork, as fart up into the firmament like so many damp squibs. The full story is ongoing over at Climate Audit. I'd try to point you to a relevant place but there are so many threads outlining all the things wrong with this study that it's a full time job keeping up with them all. 

The new paper was, of course, given the headline treatment by the BBC ("Any old bilge, so long as it's green bilge"). The hockey stick is alive and well apparently.

Meanwhile, concerns were raised about the mental stability of statistician Matt Briggs. Dr Briggs may have been driven close to madness by the repeated transgressions of basic statistical procedures by the hockey team. (This is a really good posting, by the way, especially for any members of the hockey team who might still have delusions of statistical competence - didn't Wegman say they should involve some statisticians in their work so they would stop getting it wrong?).Having got his hands on CSIRO's drought data (see Climate Cuttings 21), David Stockwell did a statistical re-analysis of the numbers behind the Australian scientific body's claim that their models showed that droughts were going to double in the next twenty to thirty years. When it came to the models' correlation with observed rainfall, Stockwell observes:

In almost all cases, the correlation coefficient between simulated and observed values was very low, and not significant. The models on average explained less than 1% of the observed variation in rainfall.

There have now been no sunspots on our local star for 400 days. This is getting solar enthusiasts rather excited because most previous solar cycle minima have had between two and three hundred sunspot free days.

A guest blogger at Anthony Watts reviewed the Met Office's summer forecast:

On April 11, 2007 they issued this press release stating “there is a high probability that summer temperature will exceed the 1971-2000 long-term average of 14.1 °C ….. there are no indications of an increased risk of a particularly dry or particularly wet summer.”  This was interpreted by The Guardian as “Britain set to enjoy another sizzling summer.

Britain was hit by flooding.

One of the oddities of the surface temperature record is the claim by climatologists that the effect of urban heat islands (warming from urbanisation) is negligible. A new study from some awkward so-and-so in Japan says that the effect is actually rather larger than the alleged twentieth century warming. Don't expect to read about this in the next IPCC report. (He was probably funded by big oil anyway).

August 2008 temperatures were well below 2007's. The BBC forgot to mention this. Again.

And finally, our favourite enviro-hero Lewis Gordon Pugh (remember him?) went on another CO2 splurge conciousness raising mission to the Arctic. This time he was going to kayak to the North Pole, which was going to be ice-free this summer, you may remember. He had to turn back because of heavy sea ice. And because his bottom was cold.

Photo credit: Summer storm by Steve Lacy, Tree rings by Shekay,

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Reader Comments (5)

Thank you for that summary - always both valuable and illuminating!
Sep 6, 2008 at 8:24 PM | Unregistered CommenterGCooper
Great post. I noticed that Gavin of RealClimate fame weighed in on Briggs' site with more bulls#!t, trying to justify Mann's transgressions. Unfortunately, the media doesn't care much for right and wrong. They only care about maintaining the panic.

As for Pugh, he will still claim victory in his quest even though it was a complete disaster. Unlike Everest, where you only get to claim a "summit" if you actually stand on top, it looks like kayaking within 1000kms is close enough.

Glad to see that you are back in harness.
Sep 6, 2008 at 9:44 PM | Unregistered Commenterjnicklin
I have complained to Ofcom about ITN News and their Arctic Odyssey. Sauce for the goose and all that.

I wish to complain about the current item in ITN news where they are featuring an "explorer" who is purportedly demonstrating the reality of global warming by canoing in clear water in the Arctic. Their claim is that no-one has ever been able to traverse clear water here to this extent. Their canoist claims that he wishes to prove to World leaders that the Arctic is melting rapidly because he is able to canoe for some distance.

Whilst there are many claims by some scientists that the Arctic will be ice free in x number of years, (it varies with the scientist) there are many others who fiercely challenge this view. Regardless of the scientific conflict there is hard documentary evidence that clear water is not unique and is a natural feature of the Arctic Ocean. I have e-mailed ITN news twice and have given them links to evidence which shows their claims are unjustified and are wifully misleading the public. I have had no reply from the news editors although my messages have been acknowledged by their reception service.

The evidence presented to them against their claims included the following: As well as as clear science it has many photos of open water at the North Pole over the last century. These images are US Navy images and totally valid.

The explorer Roald Amundsen negotiated the North West Passage in the early 1900's: Amundsen: THE NORTH WEST PASSAGE - BEING THE RECORD OF A VOYAGE OF EXPLORATION OF THE SHIP “GJOA” 1903 - 1907 BY ROALD AMUNDSEN

These comments are from that record: Of large Polar ice we saw absolutely nothing. Between the ice and the land, on either side, there were large and perfectly clear channels, through which we passed easily and unimpeded.

The entire accumulation of ice was not very extensive. We were soon out again in open water. Outside the promontories, some pieces of ice had accumulated; otherwise the sea was free from ice.The water to the south was open, the impenetrable wall of ice was not there.

The ice of the Arctic Ocean is never at rest. Even in the coldest winters it is liable to displacement and pressure by the currents of air and water. The expansion and contraction, due to changes in temperature, also assist in this disturbance. At times the pack itself opens in leads, by which it may be penetrated for several miles.”

"On August 26, 1905 Amundsen and his 6-man crew encountered a ship bearing down on them from the west. They were through the Northwest Passage!" (

A few decades earlier: THERMAL PATHS TO THE POLE, THE CURRENTS OF THE OCEAN, BY SILAS BENT, SAINT LOUIS: 1872. This is from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) archives

"Just as the work was completed upon these currents in the North Pacific, in 1855, the news was received in the United States that Dr. Hane had discovered an open sea near the Pole, and people began to ask how that could be possible, when it was well known that a belt or region of ice several hundred miles in width must lie to the south of that sea, and which was never dissolved."

ITN constantly claim that the ice is melting rapidly, in fact ice levels recovered significantly this year. Current measurements only go back to 1978 when satellite monitoring began. Prior to that in the 1930's there had been a similar situation in the Arctic as recorded here: Controlling the Planet's Climate, J. 0. Fletcher (Rand corporation) From the book “Omega – Murder of the Eco-system and the Suicide of Man , Paul K Anderson, 1971

"For example, suppose that the warming of the Arctic, which by 1940 had greatly reduced the thickness of the pack ice, had continued? As the ice receded farther in summer and the thinner ice became more fractured in winter, evaporation would have increased, thus increasing the density of the surface waters both by increasing the salt concentration and by cooling; this would tend to decrease the vertical stability of the upper layers of the ocean."

These extracts from a letter by the President of the Royal Society addressed to the British Admiralty, recommended they send a ship to the Arctic to investigate the dramatic changes in ice cover described thus: "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 letter was written in 1817.

The Danish Foreign Ministry has a History of Greenland which includes the following passage:
"Towards the end of the 10th century the climate became warmer, and the change affected all those living in the northern hemisphere. Much of the ice in the seas around the Canadian archipelago disappeared, and baleen whales moved into the area to search for food. Eskimo whalers from northern Alaska sailed east in their large, skin-covered boats and reached Greenland in the 12th century."

This is a journey of a minimum 3000 miles as shown on this map of the Arctic Ocean.

The theme is continued on the ITV web site and one discovers just how woefully poor their knowledge of the Arctic really is:

"Adventurer Lewis Gordon Pugh plans to become the first person to kayak to the North Pole. His journey will show how cracks in the ice have made it possible to travel through what used to be permafrost."

This statement is so bad it qualifies as a schoolboy howler. The term "permafrost" refers to frozen land and has no context for sea ice whatsoever. The cracks are leads which open naturally, as described by Amundsen. Deep within the ice pack, leads provide vital access to the ocean for seals and penguins, and breathing holes for whales.

The promulgation of this false information as factual news content from a major National broadcaster is totally irresponsible and not in the Public Interest. It is possible that members of the public convinced of their accuracy will lobby politicians for unnecessary draconian measures in the mistaken belief that we can control the amount of ice in the Arctic and that we should do so as a matter of urgency. This can only harm the economy and vulnerable sections of the population.

Having presented them with contrary evidence to their claims I believe they should have taken a step back and examined it. The fact that they have not done so shows they are not interested in veracity, only gimmicks to improve viewing figures.

I believe they should now stop further presentations of this falsity and redress the balance by stating the historical facts.

It made me feel better anyway....
Sep 7, 2008 at 9:10 PM | Unregistered CommenterDennisA
Well, they may be on to something there, with the canoe. It might just be possible that no-one has every used a canoe in the Arctic before. That would make it the first time in history that a person canoed successfully in open water in the Arctic. Its all in the semantics, like kayaking through the melting perma frost. No bloody wonder Pugh couldn't make any headway, he was on land!
Sep 8, 2008 at 5:53 AM | Unregistered Commenterjnicklin
I don't think that even using a canoe or similar craft in the Arctic would be a first; the Inuit have been zipping about in their kayaks up there since the year dot.

Over at Maurizio shows that Pugh would have made more progress back in 1979 - if you go to the Cryosphere sea ice comparison page, you will notice that the sea around Svalbard appears to have been clear of ice that September. (There seems to have been a lot more ice north of Alaska and Eastern Siberia back then, but between Greenland and Svalbard there's more in 2008.)

I think this has to be the enduring value of the Pugh expedition - he has raised awareness that it is harder to kayak to the North Pole now than it was in the '70s.
Sep 8, 2008 at 1:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlex Cull

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