Wandering across the Arctic

With a side-swipe as Maslowski along the way. But first the wandering…

By the Catlin Arctic Survey. Why are they doing this? Mostly because it is fun, and you can earn your keep doing it. They are explorer-types, and unexplored bits of the world are thin on the ground now, so new challenges must be found. But it needs to be dressed up in science, and this alas is where I start to become cynical.

The science blurb begins with Current estimates for the disappearance of the Arctic Ocean’s sea ice cover vary from 100 years away down to just 4 years from now. It won’t come as any great surprise to readers of this blog that I regard this as utter twaddle. Anyone who seriously believes the Arctic will be ice-free in summer in 4 years time is invited to put their money where their mouth is. I don’t expect to be deluged with offers. Maslowski was unwise enough to say this in late 2007 – anyone know if he has repeated or updated himself? (actually I’ve just found what is probably the source pdf. M, sensibly enough, *doesn’t* say the Arctic will be ice free by 2013. He does say that the GCMs are too conservative. And he does say if-this-trend-continues (of the ice volume trend) the Arctic will be ice free in 2013. But if-this-trend-continues is always a stupid thing to say. In this case, for the obvious reason that were the trend to continue for another year, ice volume would be negative (as I wisely said a while ago). And quite apart from that, he is looking at *annual* data (insofar as I can tell what he is looking at) and not even the most wild-eyed wackos expect zero annual volume by 2100, let alone 2013. So I would say that M has said nothing intelligible, whilst deliberately saying provocative things to stir up attention. As always, if you can find better, please let me know).

So these people will drill a few sea ice cores and measure the ice thickness. There is already such data about, and while it does no great harm to add to the store of data, it isn’t going to revolutionise anyone’s view of the ice. I hope they know that other people have already done this, but Climate modellers will be able to use the findings coming out of the Survey data to help validate or modify the globally recognised projections… which has depended on the sea ice data available from satellites and submarines (hitherto unverified by a comprehensive ground-truth survey). which gives the impression, alas, that they are ignorant of all that has gone before (are they under the impression that they are doing a comprehensive survey? Hard to believe, but it is what the “hitherto” implies. And what is wrong with the submarine stuff?). I think it more likely, however, that they are just ignoring all the pre-existing ground truth. Though they have Seymour saying “There’s no question that the Catlin Arctic Survey’s manual measuring techniques have the capacity to provide the first large scale direct measurements of ice thickness in the High Arctic” and he really ought to know.

But what of their data? They have released the first month’s data and have cleverly eschewed the traditional but tedious method of reporting lat-lon-depth in favour of drawing hard-to-read numbers on a map. I’m guessing that the red lines and purple lines delineate boundaries of ice type rather than their route, which I’m assuming is marked by the approximately 10 data points. That seems a little thin for a month’s work, but perhaps they haven’t managed to phone them all in. The headline summary is The results collected in the first month of the Catlin Arctic Survey point to an unexpected lack of thicker Multiyear Ice. I don’tunderstand this. I thought (and indeed they show results from Ron Kwok confirming this) that the multi year ice is a narrow band near Canada this year. This isn’t unexpected. They didn’t start near Canada so they didn’t see that bit.

Errm, have I missed something obvious?
[Update: by bizarre co-incidence, the Watty folk noticed, just after I posted this, exactly the same thing: http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/04/19/catlin-arctic-ice-survey-first-report/. Weird or what?]

Ice, again

But just for once not sea ice, at least not to start with.

RMG provides a nice link to some of the Wordie “collapse” stuff. Although I find that a touch confusing, as the Wordie had essentially gone by 1992 – see [[Wordie Ice Shelf]] for example. Reuters is also noting it as news. Odd. Perhaps they are confusing it with that other well-known ice shelf that begins with a W, the Wilkins. That hasn’t collapsed (warning: link to BAS PR, and BAS has a terrible habit of re-writing its website and breaking all the old links. If it still works for you, be grateful). It has however lost a bit of pinning, making it moderately likely to fall to bits soonish (this subtle distinction appears to be lost on the desmoggers). Cue wild overexcitement from the Times. They win “null points” for The collapse of ice shelves does not raise sea level significantly, because the ice contracts as it melts (see RMG again for the complicated truth). The Times also gets no points for What is most alarming about the events in the Antarctic is their speed, which has taken scientists by surprise. These ice shelves are collapsing far more rapidly than most scientists had predicted only 15 years ago. As RMG points out, this was all predicted (see-also RC) – but in the usual way of things, without a timescale. When will the Wilkins collapse? We don’t know; BAS at least is careful not to make any predictions, even now. Notice also that despite the careless talk of caused-by-GW, BAS is careful to say There is little doubt that these changes are the result of atmospheric warming on the Antarctic Peninsula, which has been the most rapid in the Southern Hemisphere. Can you spot the difference? RC has a discussion thread on that, but it has 500+ entries. If anyone said anything interesting there, do let me know :-).

Bottom line must be that ice shelves are falling apart, but we knew that, and it is hardly surprising as it has been getting warmer there recently. More exciting would be a clear link to SLR, but that is currently absent.

Meanwhile, up North, the current anomaly is fairly small but people detect hints of enhanced variability this year. The cryosphere today pics aren’t that easy to track, so I like looking at IJIS. But it is clear from that, that the winter anomaly doesn’t correlate too closely with the summer minimum (someone with time on their hands should scatter plot something like March anomaly against September anomaly). If you’re feeling lucky, bets are still on.

Tweet this

Um. So I get a spam which begins: “Tweet this: Rapid-fire media may confuse your moral compass
Media culture should allow time for reflective moments, say USC neuroscientists…” Is there a media less suited to reflective moments than twitter?

Torygraph folk are a bunch of wackos

I quite like reading the Torygraph. Unlike the Grauniad it doesn’t tell me what I want to know. But every now and again it is time for a reality check, and the most recent demonstration of their utter incompetence at reporting GW is Rise of sea levels is ‘the greatest lie ever told’, which uncritically repeats the tripe from “dowsing” Morner (the “facts” in the article are so badly at variance with reality that they aren’t even worth refuting). And there is a good reason why he is the *former* head of the INQUA commission: http://www.edf.org/documents/3868_morner_exposed.pdf will provide some hints.

House of Suns

Well, I read it, so I may as well blog it. If that sounds unenthusiastic, then yes, I am. It is a book, in case you haven’t realised; inevitably it has a wiki page so I won’t summarise it here or even tell you the author. It gets less and less plausible as it goes along, though is fun enough in a space-opera sort of way. Alas, it shares a problem all too common in sci-fi: raising a sense of mystery, and producing interesting puzzles, is far easier than providing an interesting and satisfying solution to such a puzzle. Anathem fails in that way, though it is a better book.

In fact the only reason I’m writing this is to ask if *anyone* has written a decent sci-fi novel which sticks within the known laws of physics (no FTL, no anti gravity, etc) and manages to get civilisation across the galaxy.

Swan attack!

Let’s see if I can post this before Emma does 🙂

As noted elsewhere, during the nesting season some of the swans on the river, and one in particular, can become aggressive. The one at the end of the reach seems partciularly provoked by our white blades. So when we were coming back today we were pleased to see it a fair way off over the river, and while it glared at us we seemed safe, several lengths clear.

But no! As we rowed on, we were treated to the sight of the mighty swan nearly taking off in that way they have, with a flapping of wings and a paddling of feet along the surface, followed by it gliding in for a peck at James who was coxing. Jolly exciting for stern four; I was in the bows and so quite safe and could enjoy the spectacle. Alas I didn’t have a camera, but it is almost worth lying in wait at the end of the reach to film a repeat.

[Update: it gets better: from an email:

> The swan on Plough Reach has become very dangerous. This evening just 
> before 8:00 it flew around Ditton Corner to attack me in my single, causing 
> me to capsize. The swan could not see me when it took off and I was moving 
> away from Ditton, and it landed on my rigger and attacked me with its beak. 
> I was in the middle of the river, away from any banks or reeds so I could 
> not have been threatening any nest...

And makes the CEN: http://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/cn_news_home/DisplayArticle.asp?ID=406136]

Ecologists don’t understand physics

I hate blogs that force you to jump through hoops to post comments, especially when those hoops don’t work. So I could mail Gareth to complain about my inability to comment on “The inner mounting flame” but I’m too impatient, so instead I’ll just post my minor snark here:

It sez: “This is a global event now, and the inertia for more permafrost melt is increasing.” Not good news.

I agree. It isn’t good news. It means that ecologists (or, to be slightly fairer, one particular ecologist) doesn’t understand the difference between inertia and momentum.

Meanwhile, Gareth asks So why are we worried? Take a look at the latest graph of global methane concentrations, and note the strong upwards jag since 2007… And if you do look at the graph, you’ll see an increase of perhaps 20 ppb from 2006-8 ish. Which is about 0.6%/yr. Is that really a strong upwards jag? It looks strong compared to the near-flatness in the previous decade, true. But compared to SRES, it is low.