‘Apocalyptic climate predictions’ mislead the public, say experts

I was going to rant about Lord “I know what you should hear” Ahmed but that’s just the religious suppressing freedom of speech, which is hardly news.

But then along comes a much more interesting rant, from Vicky Pope, about the good old Arctic sea ice. ‘Apocalyptic climate predictions’ mislead the public, say experts. Met Office scientists fear distorted climate change claims could undermine efforts to tackle carbon emissions. With which I agree. Recent headlines have proclaimed that Arctic summer sea ice has decreased so much in the past few years that it has reached a tipping point and will disappear very quickly. The truth is that there is little evidence to support this. Indeed, the record-breaking losses in the past couple of years could easily be due to natural fluctuations in the weather, with summer sea ice increasing again over the next few years.

Of course, if you strongly disagree with her, you can bet with me (terms and conditions apply).

Mind you, I don’t know what Peter “summer 2003” Stott is doing in there.

Sorry, can’t resist.

Arctic Sea Ice in a Warmer Climate is worth a read.

Gore vs Armstrong. Or not

I encountered [[J Scott Armstrong]] via his wiki entry, and the blogosphere, when he proposed a $20,000 bet with Gore (though since each side was supposed to put up $10,000 this seems like puffery from the start). JA pointed out the obvious reasons why the bet is trickery. On Armstrong’s part, this seems to have developed into a website theclimatebet.com/, and its fairly clear which side they are on. The rubbish keeps coming back onto wiki, although it dies quickly.

So far so boring. Gore’s basic response has been “go away I’m busy“, which is fair enough. I’m slightly curious that he hasn’t pointed out the obvious flaws, too. He must have a climatologist who can do that. The strategy is probably to avoid engagement: even bothering to attack Armstrong gives him more credit than he deserves. In which case, I shouldn’t have written this. Ah well.

[Update: Armstrong remains a twat. For example here -W]

Arctic Sea Ice Retreat: When Will the Arctic Ocean be Ice-Free During Summer?

Asks climatematters@columbia. But they ask it in a way that suggests they think the trend is going to be steep. So I offered them the standard bet. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, anyone interested in whether 2009 is likely to be a record can get some action over at ipredict (thanks Gareth). I’ve bought some; current price is about 0.23. I’m not really sure what a fair price would be; I have some buy orders in. Its quite educational.

Another trail of twaddle

Sea ice again.

I was reading Gareth who had been reading Monbiot. And so I did too. After I’d waded through the goo and the dribble about Bush, the first item of substance was A new summary of the science published since last year’s Intergovernmental Panel report suggests that – almost a century ahead of schedule – the critical climate processes might have begun. Just a year ago the Intergovernmental Panel warned that the Arctic’s “late-summer sea ice is projected to disappear almost completely towards the end of the 21st century … in some models.” But, as the new report by the Public Interest Research Centre (Pirc) shows, climate scientists are now predicting the end of late-summer sea ice within three to seven years. The trajectory of current melting plummets through the graphs like a meteorite falling to earth.

This being journalism, Monbiot is obliged not to cite his source (I’ve said that before, haven’t I? Ah well), but the answer appears to be here. But its not a report; its not a summary of the science since IPCC, its a blog posting. And it is not true that The trajectory of current melting plummets through the graphs like a meteorite falling to earth – as we all know, there was marginally more ice this year than last – and if Monbiot, PIRC, or anyone from the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, or indeed anyone else is stupid enough to believe that all the late-summer ice will be gone by 2013 (or within “within three to seven years”), I’ve got money that says otherwise: wanna bet?

Forgive me for being outraged by the Monbiot writing or the Grauniad printing junk; we don’t actually get it as a daily paper any more (I read very little of it, and only ever did the kakuro) but my wife gets it on saturday largely for the review section. Oh, and Daniel likes the comic.

So, Monbiot has misrepresented PIRC. Following the chain of twaddle, we find that PIRC has misrepresented its sources, too. The assertion that Scientists are now predicting an ice-free Arctic by the summer of 2013, a full 80 years ahead of IPCC predictions is sourced to that well-known scientific journal, IHT: Retreating Ice: A blue Arctic Ocean in summers by 2013?. To be fair, the IHT piece isn’t particularly bad, just badly abused by the PIRC. It contains some stuff shown to be wrong by subsequent events – Experts say that next summer is quite likely to see an even bigger ice retreat because this winter’s freeze is starting from such a huge ice deficit. – well it didn’t. The IHT didn’t know that at the time, of course, but Monbiot should know it by now. And whoever was the unnamed source of At least one researcher, of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, projects a blue Arctic Ocean in summers by 2013 is presumably now keeping their head down. The article even quotes some of the folks at the time who were quite well aware of what might happen: Natural variations could turn around and counteract the greenhouse-gas-forced change, perhaps stabilizing the ice for a bit.

[Update: Thanks to Baz, who points out that my jibes against Monbiot are unjust. If you read his original column, rather than the grauniad reprint, you do get something closer to a source: “Public Interest Research Centre, 25th November 2008. Climate Safety. http://www.pirc.info”. Its still a bit vague, but a lot better. Following that, I get to http://www.pirc.info/content/view/60/54/, then to http://climatesafety.org/, then to http://climatesafety.org/wp-content/uploads/climatesafety.pdf, which I presume is the URL Monbiot meant to cite.

The language is slightly saner (Given the unprecedented changes seen in recent years, many Arctic scientists are now predicting an ice-free summer Arctic by somewhere between 2011 and 2015.15,16,17) but then veers off into stupidity again (Wieslaw Maslowski of the Naval Postgraduate College in California predicts an Arctic Ocean free of sea ice by the
summer of 2013, but notes that on the basis of data from 2007 and 2005, this prediction could already be seen as too conservative. Louis Fortier, scientific director of the Canadian research network ArcticNet, believes that the ocean could be ice-free in summertime as soon as 2010,19
while NASA climate scientist Jay Zwally suggests 2012.20
) Why is a report published in Nov 2008 not taking into account the 2008 ice extent. Could it be… inconvenient? Having had a quick browse, none of 15-20 look like reliable sources, so I suspect most of those “could”‘s have had their caveats stripped away.

So I’m obliged to retract my complains about his journalism: he has represented the PIRC report quite fairly. The PIRC report still looks like nonsense, though, and I would have hoped Monbiot would have been aware enough to know that.

Oh, and (see comments) the unnamed is Maslowski, who isn’t keeping his head down, but has retreated to vagueness Our findings imply that sea ice might be melting faster than predicted by both climate models and estimated from satellite observations. This implies that the Arctic not only might, but is likely to be ice-free during the summer in the near future.


Sea ice: declaring victory and returning to the fray

It looks like I’m safe for this year. I’m being just a teensy bit premature, but its rather unlikely to change, people want to pay up πŸ™‚ and others have said it anyway (irritatingly that link will probably fade, so to quote “The Arctic sea ice cover appears to have reached its minimum extent for the year, the second-lowest extent recorded since the dawn of the satellite era”). I’m basing my victory on http://www.ijis.iarc.uaf.edu/en/home/seaice_extent.htm as of today.

Although I won, I didn’t win by as much as I expected, so in some sense my prediction was wrong. But I’ll take the cash anyway. Those who bet in carrots or beer are excused until we meet face to face. Those who want to use paypal, my email is wmconnolley (at) gmail.com.

I’ve decided to slightly shift my ground, and assert that 2007 (and to a lesser extent 2008) in sea ice are like the 1998 ENSO in temperature: large anomalies on top of an existing trend. So I predict that there will be more ice in 2009 than in 2007. Because I like their graphics, the bet is based on the IARC AMSR data, though I’m sure we can agree some other series if you really like.

Any takers?
Continue reading “Sea ice: declaring victory and returning to the fray”

Sea ice: I’m in Nature again

Eat your hearts out real scientists πŸ™‚ See here. I think its hung off a trip in the icebreaker that QS got; see his blog I get to say Bets have already been laid on whether this summer’s ice loss will be more than last year’s. William Connolley, a software engineer who used to model sea-ice changes at the British Antarctic Survey, has taken in roughly ҂¬300 (US$470) so far in the informal online pool he runs. (He bet ‘no’.) Connolley points out that, even if a new record is set, that has little meaning in the long term. “We all recognize the climatological trend is downwards,” he says, “but what will happen this year depends on weather and natural variation.” As for recent media speculation that the ice at the North Pole will be melted this summer, he notes: “There may or may not be open water in the area by September, but nobody is predicting there will be zero sea ice in the Arctic, or that sea-ice extent might halve compared with last year.” The possibility of an ice-free North Pole, he says, is a statistical fluke about a particular geographical point that says little about sea-ice conditions in the basin as a whole.

I made up the e300. I’m still not sure what the total actually is. It depends a bit on the carrot exchange rate.
Continue reading “Sea ice: I’m in Nature again”

Sea ice update

Since RC has posted on the sea ice, maybe its a good time for an update.

From http://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/ we have

<a href="i-f6d9e79ef73a7e3dd54fc0969e8d9a1e-N_timeseries-again.pngi-f6d9e79ef73a7e3dd54fc0969e8d9a1e-N_timeseries-again.png

So its clearly going to be a close run thing. At the moment the trend line favours the good guys (that is to say, me, if you’re in doubt πŸ™‚ but not by much.

mt called me a “polyanna” (presumably by analogy to “polynyas”) for betting on the high side. So let me clarify: my “prediction” was based purely on my reading of the statistics of the time series to-date: a record is rarely followed by another. If we have entered a new regime, then my reasonning is invalid. At the moment, I don’t know. The extent is barely above last years, but the ice is thinner, as as NB points out you can see the cracks. Bets are still (formally) open, especially to anyone so confident of low ice that they are prepared to offer 2-1 odds :-), or even odds on extent substnatially lower than last year.

RC points to the “rather casual” article in the Indescribably over-hyped, which has tense problems. For extra fun, the Indie also says If it happens, it raises the prospect of the Arctic nations being able to exploit the valuable oil and mineral deposits below these a bed which have until now been impossible to extract because of the thick sea ice above. Notice it doesn’t say “but the good news is…” presumably because for some reason this isn’t good news πŸ™‚ [It really does say “these a bed”, which I presume is “below the sea bed” with the wrong spacing: thats what happens when you rely on spellcheckers to proof read your articles].

Oh, while I’m here, my cunning cryptic wiki edit comment was “BtW T2” here. There is no prize for decoding it but I’ll be impressed.

Sea ice minimum kerfuffle

The summary of betting on sea ice refers. If you look in my comments, you’ll find any number of well intentioned people advising me that its time to close up the bets before I take a bath. But I haven’t. Anyone wanting to pile in is still welcome (if you can’t be bothered to look up the previous post the bet is simple: will this years Arctic sea ice extent minimum, as measured by the satellites, be less than last year? I say no).

i-1d2ce34f718bcf56cbda166133ef631c-N_timeseries.png The May 5th version of “Arctic sea ice news and analysis” provides some more fodder. I’ve ripped off a pic from them which I like. To me, it rather suggests no record this year. They somehow convince themselves that it does suggest a min. Hey ho, we’ll find out in a few months. Their section on “Estimating September extent based on past conditions” is cute. I like it; its a nice idea. Totally lacking, of course, is how would this idae have fared if applied last year, or the year before, or…

My personal opinion remains that we simply can’t forecast year-to-year variations with any degree of reliability. The long-term trend is clearly downwards, and there will be a new record sometime. But based purely on the behaviour of the sea-ice extent timeseries I still consider that new record this year is less than 50% likely. I also wonder if people aren’t in some danger of getting a teensy bit carried away publishing these “forecasts” which they don’t really believe. They are speculative prognosticaions, no more.

Andy Revkin (its him again!) covers this. In the comments, Bill Chapman is reported to say “I say the odds favor a new NH record minimum – put my money there.” I’ve replied (#40) but haven’t heard from him… I must give him an email. [update: I did. He declined -W]

[Update: via Gareth I discover this rather useful picture, which puts the present year more into context. It gives me hope for my bet. So, if you’re still interested… -W]

Betting on climate change, again?

As I said before, I don’t think much of the latest prediction of cooling. But apparently , the authors take it seriously, and believe it as a prediction (pers comm). So RC has decided to see if they are serious. My expectation is that they will find some spurious excuse for wimping out (I’ve offered to put up $100 on the bet not being taken, with me paying out if it is taken; any offers?).

Andy Revkin covers this. The only complaint I have is that JA is being airbrushed out of the picture. Such is life.

Coming soon: betting on sea ice.

[Update: I *can* spell climate -W]