Monday, June 28, 2010

How it works

Steve Goddard has brought forth another one of his whistling-through-the-graveyard articles on the Arctic sea ice. And in a classic WUWT move, he offers the following two quotes:

From The New York Times, 1969

From the 9th century to the 13th century almost no ice was reported there. This was the period- of Norse colonization of’ Iceland and Greenland. Then, conditions worsened and the Norse colonies declined. After the Little Ice Age of 1650 to 1840 the ice began to vanish near Iceland and had almost disappeared when the trend re versed, disastrously crippling Icelandic fisheries last year.

From The New York Times, 2000

The thick ice that has for ages covered the Arctic Ocean at the pole has turned to water, recent visitors there reported yesterday. At least for the time being, an ice-free patch of ocean about a mile wide has opened at the very top of the world, something that has presumably never before been seen by humans and is more evidence that global warming may be real and already affecting climate. The last time scientists can be certain the pole was awash in water was more than 50 million years ago.

Is it possible that the IPCC is trying to rewrite the history books?

So, do these two news articles published thirty years apart contradict each other? (Not that that would be such an amazing thing if it were true.) As it turns out, no. Follow the quote back to the source and you find:

Col. Joseph O. Fletcher, a retired Air Force polar specialist now with the Rand Corporation in California, has cited the absence of pack ice around Iceland as an index of such trends.

From the 9th century to the 13th century almost no ice was reported there. This was the period- of Norse colonization of’ Iceland and Greenland. Then, conditions worsened and the Norse colonies declined. After the Little Ice Age of 1650 to 1840 the ice began to vanish near Iceland and had almost disappeared when the trend re versed, disastrously crippling Icelandic fisheries last year.

Steven implies that "there" is the Arctic, when "there" is actually "pack ice around Iceland." If this confusion is deliberate, he lied. If accidental, he's lazy and sloppy. As is so often the case with deniers, it's hard to tell which.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

PIOMAS plummets

The Polar Science Center has updated the PIOMAS ice volume numbers, and, whoa:

Usual disclaimers about short-term trends. The number could shoot back up. That said, there are a few interesting things about the latest numbers. Clearly this is the fastest decline we've ever seen. The anomaly is not only at its absolute lowest point, but is also the furthest from the trend line (-3,400km3/decade) which increasingly looks as though it needs to be replaced with an exponential function.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The consequences of an ice-free Arctic, part two: Amplifying global warming

We return after an unplanned hiatus to the following question:

Has anyone actually explained exactly WHY and HOW an ice-free Arctic is such a disaster? And for whom would it be a disaster? And in what way it would be a disaster? --Kevin Cave

In part one, I wrote about the loss of biodiversity in the Arctic, and the consequences of that for humans. Another, potentially even more destructive consequence of the loss of the Arctic sea ice is the amplification of global warming via changes in albedo -- the amount of solar energy which is reflected back by the earth's surface. A surface that reflected everything -- like a perfect mirror -- would have an albedo of zero. A "blackbody" that absorbed all the radiation that hit it would have an albedo of one.

Sea ice reflects 70% of the solar energy that hits it. Open water reflects only 8%. Consequently, the replacement of sea ice by open water means more global warming. It's a positive feedback. But is it enough heat to worry about?

Things that push the climate system towards warming or cooling are called forcings, and are measured in units of watts per square meter (W * m^2). The table below shows recent estimates of climate forcings:

You can see that the CO2 forcing is about 1.5W*m^2. How does the loss of sea ice compare?

First, a few simplifications, since your author is not especially adept at math. Mr. Cave ask about an ice-free Arctic, so we are going to look at the total disappearance of the ice. In reality, there will be sea ice in the winter for the forseeable future. There is very little incoming solar radiation during the "six months of night" (read=none) and so we can more or less ignore any winter ice.

We are also going to ignore clouds, which can push the absorption of the surface up or down. While open water absorbs about 92% of the solar energy coming from directly overhead, radiation from a more oblique angle is reflected much more readily. The calculations of albedo vs latitude vs the position of the sun are complex, but in midsummer the sun is more or less directly overhead. So to estimate this effect, I'm going to have the forcing. Remember, we are not trying to answer the question of what exactly the impact of the loss of sea ice will be, but rather Mr. Cave's "Why should I care?" question. For that, rough estimates should work.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center has a nice description of the incoming solar radiation in the Arctic:

The intensity of solar radiation varies significantly over the course of a year ranging from no solar radiation during the polar winter to a maximum of 350 to 400 watts per square meter (W/m2) in the summer. Over the course of a day, the sun's angle above the horizon (solar altitude) influences the intensity of solar radiation: the noon sun is more intense than the rising or setting sun. The maximum altitude of the sun depends on time of year and latitude. Of course, during the polar winter the sun is below the horizon for 24 hours, and there is no solar radiation, while at midsummer the sun changes little in altitude over the course of a day.

Now we have enough numbers to conjure with:

Surface area of the Earth: 510,072,000 km2
Summer Arctic ice cover: 7,500,000 km2 (estimate)
Summer Arctic ice cover as a % of the Earth's surface: 1.5%
Summer solar radiation: 300W/m2 (estimated summer average compared to 350-400 max)

Now we need a conversion of the change in energy absorbed in the Arctic, in the summer, to the equivalent forcing over the whole Earth, all year round:

300W/m2 * .3 = 90W/m2 (sea ice)
300W/m2 * .92 = 276W/m2 (open water)
Change in absorption = (276 - 90) = 186W/m2

186W/m2 * 1.5% (.015) * 0.5 (summer -- half the year) * 0.5 (angle of incidence fudge factor) = 0.7W/m2 (vs 1.5W/m2 for all the CO2 added the the atmosphere by man since 1750).

Even with a frankly embarrassingly simplified back-of-the-envelope calculation, we can see that the loss of Arctic sea ice will accelerate global warming significantly. Along with the loss of biodiversity, these are two very significant reasons to be concerned by the loss of the Arctic ice cover. I'll look at a third reason, the local effects on methane deposits and land-bound Greenland ice, in part three.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Two interesting pieces on Israel

I've been blogging a little bit about Israel/Palestine since the attack on the Mavi Marmara. It's been one of my interests for a long time. It is certainly within our purview here; there are a great many idiots to track. Recently, a number of interesting pieces on the conflict have appeared, and I wanted to draw my readers (translation: people who wander in from better-traveled portions of the interwebs) attention to them.

After a long period in which Israel was able to shout down international criticism of its actions with cries of "Terrorism!" the winds are shifting, as Daniel Levy writes in Haaretz:

In the last two weeks alone, two of Italy's largest supermarket chains have stopped carrying Israeli products; Swedish dockworkers have refused to unload goods from Israeli ships; Britain's largest trade union, Unite, unanimously voted to boycott Israeli items; and Elvis Costello and the Pixies have both canceled shows in Israel. Meanwhile, the latest debate raging in the United States is over how much of a strategic burden Israel has become.

In this instance, Israel's leadership played its role with Lionel Messi-like perfection. It's true that Israel's official PR response was ill-conceived, while its "army" of citizen advocates indulged in the use of racist stereotypes on YouTube videos, doing more harm than good. But Israel's predicament goes far deeper than the embarrassment of having Avigdor Lieberman head this country's diplomatic corps: It has become structural and therefore far more worrying. The gap between Israel's self-perception and global perceptions of the country has taken on Grand Canyon-like proportions.

In short, the game is up.

John J. Mearsheimer, co-author of The Israel Lobby, believes that this gap between self-perception and global perception will only become wider as Israel sinks deeper into an apartheid system:

The political center of gravity in Israel has shifted sharply to the right over the past decade and there is no sizable pro-peace political party or movement that they could turn to for help. Probably the best single indicator of how far to the right Israel has moved in recent years is the shocking fact that Avigdor Lieberman is employed as its foreign minister. Even Martin Peretz of the New Republic, who is well known for his unyielding support for Israel, describes Lieberman as “a neo-fascist,” and equates him with the late Austrian fascist Jorg Haider. And there are other individuals in Netanyahu’s cabinet who share many of Lieberman’s views about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; they just happen to be less outspoken than the foreign minister.

Given Israel's turn to the right, Mearsheimer argues, only a concerted effort by the US could force a two-state solution. This is the conventional wisdom, but contrary to the conventional wisdom, Mearsheimer see the chances of that coming to pass as between zero and nil:

Let’s look at the historical record. Every American president since 1967 has opposed settlement building in the Occupied Territories. Yet no president has been able to put serious pressure on Israel to stop building settlements, much less dismantle them. Perhaps the best evidence of America’s impotence is what happened in the 1990s during the Oslo peace process. Between 1993 and 2000, Israel confiscated 40,000 acres of Palestinian land, constructed 250 miles of connector and bypass roads, doubled the number of settlers, and built 30 new settlements. President Clinton did hardly anything to halt this expansion. Indeed, the United States continued to give Israel billions of dollars in foreign aid each year and to protect it at every turn on the diplomatic front.

One might think that Obama is different from his predecessors, but there is little evidence to support that belief. Consider that during the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama responded to charges that he was “soft” on Israel by pandering to the lobby and repeatedly praising the special relationship. In the month before he took office, he was silent during the Gaza massacre – when Israel was being criticized around the world for its brutal assault on that densely populated enclave.

After taking office in January 2009, President Obama and his principal foreign policy advisors began demanding that Israel stop all settlement building in the Occupied Territories, to include East Jerusalem, so that serious peace negotiations with the Palestinians could begin. After calling for “two states for two peoples” in his Cairo speech in June 2009, President Obama declared, “it is time for these settlements to stop.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had made the same point one month earlier when she said, “We want to see a stop to settlement construction, additions, natural growth – any kind of settlement activity. That is what the President has called for.” George Mitchell, the president’s special envoy for the Middle East, conveyed this straightforward message to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his lieutenants on numerous occasions.

In response, Netanyahu made it equally clear that Israel intended to continue building settlements and that he and almost everyone in his ruling coalition opposed a two-state solution. He made but a single reference to “two states” in his own speech at Bar Ilan University in June 2009, and the conditions he attached to it made it clear that he was talking about giving the Palestinians a handful of disconnected, apartheid-style Bantustans, not a fully sovereign state.

Netanyahu, of course, won this fight. The Israeli prime minister not only refused to stop building the 2500 housing units that were under construction in the West Bank, but just to make it clear to Obama who was boss, in late June 2009, he authorized the building of 300 new homes in the West Bank. Netanyahu refused to even countenance any limits on settlement building in East Jerusalem, which is supposed to be the capital of a Palestinian state. By the end of September 2009, Obama publicly conceded that Netanyahu had beaten him in their fight over the settlements. The president falsely denied that freezing settlement construction had ever been a precondition for resuming the peace process, and instead he meekly asked Israel to please exercise restraint while it continued colonizing the West Bank. Fully aware of his triumph, Netanyahu said on September 23, “I am pleased that President Obama has accepted my approach that there should be no preconditions.”

It's hard to find a point on which to disagree with Mearsheimer. As to the turn in Israeli politics and society, he is certainly correct. Far from pushing their people rightward, mainstream politics in Israel softens and moderates the hard racist, expansionist edge of the Israeli public consciousness. Some people in America may be tenatively starting to question our reflexive support for Israel, but we are many, many years away from taking the concrete steps -- an end to the billions of dollars in foreign aid per year, an end to the free use of our Security Council veto, and finally economic sanctions -- that would be necessary to push Israel off the path that they are on. So it's hard to disagree about where we are likely to end up:

The most likely outcome in the absence of a two-state solution is that Greater Israel will become a full-fledged apartheid state. As anyone who has spent time in the Occupied Territories knows, it is already an incipient apartheid state with separate laws, separate roads, and separate housing for Israelis and Palestinians, who are essentially confined to impoverished enclaves that they can leave and enter only with great difficulty.

Israelis and their American supporters invariably bristle at the comparison to white rule in South Africa, but that is their future if they create a Greater Israel while denying full political rights to an Arab population that will soon outnumber the Jewish population in the entirety of the land. Indeed, two former Israeli prime ministers have made this very point. Ehud Olmert, who was Netanyahu’s predecessor, said in late November 2007 that if “the two-state solution collapses,” Israel will “face a South-African-style struggle.” He went so far as to argue that, “as soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished.” Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak, who is now Israel’s defense minister, said in early February of this year that, “As long as in this territory west of the Jordan River there is only one political entity called Israel it is going to be either non-Jewish, or non-democratic. If this bloc of millions of Palestinians cannot vote, that will be an apartheid state.”

Other Israelis, as well as Jimmy Carter and Bishop Desmond Tutu, have warned that if Israel does not pull out of the Occupied Territories it will become an apartheid state like white-ruled South Africa. But if I am right, the occupation is not going to end and there will not be a two-state solution. That means Israel will complete its transformation into a full-blown apartheid state over the next decade.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Scott Armstrong loses another month of his imaginary bet

Sadly, Armstrong appears to have abandoned the site chronicalling his fictional wager and his promotion of his pseudoscience of "scientific forecasting." That's OK, we here at Idiot Tracker are happy to continue to update interested readers in the status of the "bet."

Armstrong abandoned his project in March after losing six of last eight months and every month in 2010:

Let's bring him up to date, shall we?

For April:

Armstrong: 0.263C
Gore (fictional): 0.348C
Actual (UAH): 0.50C

"Winner": GORE

For May:

Armstrong: 0.263C
Gore (fictional): 0.351C
Actual (UAH): 0.54C

"Winner": GORE

Armstrong has lost eight of the last ten months and every month in 2010. Of a bet he created, cherry-picking the start date and exaggerating the predicted rate of temperature rise. So much for the "scientific forecaster"'s forecasting abilities.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The consequences of an ice-free Arctic, part one: Loss of biodiversity

Has anyone actually explained exactly WHY and HOW an ice-free Arctic is such a disaster? And for whom would it be a disaster? And in what way it would be a disaster? --Kevin Cave

Though we are accustomed to think of the Arctic as cold and lifeless, except perhaps for a few polar bears, the Arctic is home to a large and diverse group of plant and animal species. Few of them would survive an ice-free Arctic.

It's perfectly possible to stop right there, and acknowledge that it is morally reprehensible to wipe out unique and irreplaceable species, making our world poorer in strangeness and in wonder, and destroying creatures that, whether you believe them to be shaped by God or by evolution, are fantastically sophisticated and beautiful. But we will assume or questioner has little interest in the welfare of species other than humans. So let's look at the anthropocentric argument.

This would represent a heavy loss of biodiversity, which would decrease the resilience of our biosphere as a whole.

Put in the dimpliest possible terms, the millions of species on earth represent a reservoir of genetic strategies which work in different ways and in different places. The greater your biodiversity, the "deeper" your "bull pen" when things change. Climate change, disease, habitat loss, natural disasters, invasive species -- lots of things can "go wrong" with a particular ecosystem. The species in that ecosystem adapt, and the balance of species may change.

Most people who have had high school biology are familiar with one form of adaptation: natural selection. Less successful organisms fail to reproduce; more successful ones to so avidly, and the species as a whole becomes "fitter" -- which just means better suited to the conditions that exist.

However, this is only one of the many forms of adaptation which are necessary for life -- including human life -- to continue to exist in changing circumstances. Natural selection for complex organisms is pretty slow. If you aren't a bacteria, you don't spit out a new generation every five minutes. Fast adaptation is often needed.

Species are also restricted by their genetic program in terms of how far they can go. A small fish may involve into a bigger fish, but no matter what the evolutionary pressures, in a million years that fish still will not be a bird. Meaning, if an ecological niche for birds develops, those birds need to come from somewhere. That ecosystem will "borrow" birds from another range -- they won't make them from scratch out of sloths, or what have you.

So an important part of adaptation is having a much of species on hand to swap in and out of different roles. Just like genes in DNA, a species may play a minor role (a small range in the Arctic, say) under current conditions, but a shift may cause them to play a more important role over a different area. In the Arctic are fish with anti-freeze for blood, for example. Someday, that tactic or a variation on it may be crucial to the food webs that keep us alive. Eliminate the species, and you eliminate some of life's tricks for survival. That's a bad idea.

Still too abstract? Let's look at an example that's unfolding today:

Two new forms of a devastating wheat fungus, known as Ug99 stem rust, have shown up in South Africa, a study has found.

The two South African forms are able to overcome the effects of two resistance genes in wheat that normally prevent stem rust from taking hold. The genes cause plant cells around the infection site to die, stopping the fungus from further infecting the plant. They are two of the most important genes in wheat because they are selected for in crop-breeding programmes across the world.

In the last hundred years, humans have gone from getting most of our calories from several hundred species to getting 80% from just 20 species, including maize, rice, wheat, and sorghum. The benefit of this has been dramatically improved output, but the cost is that our food supply to much more subject to any disruptions of a particular crop, such as that affecting wheat, noted above. Another example:

About eight hundred million people in Africa, Asia and South America eat cassava. The plant is a major source of food energy and a major food security crop. It can survive in poor soil and without much water. Also, the root can stay in the ground for as long as three years, so it can be harvested as needed.

But in East Africa the plant is under attack. Cassava brown streak disease is a more destructive form of cassava mosaic. The mosaic has been active in East Africa for about one hundred years. It limits plant growth. But brown streak can destroy a crop. The virus was identified in Uganda in two thousand four and has spread fast in areas extending from Lake Victoria.

So far, brown streak has not jumped to Nigeria, the world's largest producer of cassava. But it threatens more than thirty million tons a year of production in East Africa. In some areas of Uganda, rates of brown streak reached more than eighty-five percent in two thousand five and two thousand eight.

Eight hundred million people. A single crop. Disease strikes -- what do you do? We have seen this movie before.

When a species falls to disease, or other environmental changes (such as rising temperatures!) other species try to occupy that niche. We, as humans, if a ecosystem's productivity is important to us, can hasten this process through deliberate introduction of new species or even via genetic engineering. But when we allow species to be wiped out (particular species, like many in the Arctic, with unique adaptations to extreme environments) we lose the raw material of adaptation. We lobotomize nature. That's a problem, because even if you worship skyscrapers and loathe polar bears, we all have to eat. All seven billion of us. Anything that makes our food supply less secure is a disaster in the making.

.0000125 cheers for Israeli compassion

Per Ynet:

"Israeli and Palestinian officials said Wednesday that Israel has allowed some formerly banned food items into the Gaza Strip after widespread international criticism of its three-year-old blockade.

Palestinian liaison official Raed Fattouh said Israel has lifted the ban on soda, juice, jam, spices, shaving cream, chips, cookies and sweets.

But what about those deadly jam rockets Hamas will fling into Israel? Soda, candy . . . can a Mentos/cola suicide bomber be far behind?

I'm only going to say this once, folks: Israel restricted the movements of people and goods in and out of Gaza from the day they entered it in 1967. That did NOT stop when troops and settlers beat a tactical retreat in 2005 . . . and it did not begin again when the rocket fire started.

This list of banned items show the blockade for what it is: illegal collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians. And that is not punishment for rocket fire, or for the capture of a uniformed solider on the battlefield (which is bizarrely referred to as "kidnapping" of a "hostage" within the Zionist reality-distortion field). Those things have made Israel even angrier, and caused it to tighten its vice-grip on Gaza. But why were they angry to begin with? Why blockade Gaza from the moment the settlers left?

The answer, I'm afraid, is that the Israelis were and are angry at being forced out of Gaza by a rag-tag militia. They like to cast their unilateral withdrawal from Gaza as a great gesture for peace which went unreciprocated, but in reality, the direct occupation of Gaza was expensive, deadly, and damaging to Israel's claims to be a democracy. They pulled out out of self-interest, and they resented the Palestinians deeply for making them do it. They refused to sit down with Hamas and come to an agreement formally ending their rule in Gaza. They retained control over the borders, the airspace, and the coastline. In effect, the occupation of Gaza continues, only without the settlers.

The consequences of the 2005 pseudo-withdrawal do indeed call into question the two-state solution, but not in the way the partisans of Israel would have it -- not because Hamas continues to fight Israel, or prepare for the eventuality of fighting Israel. For although this is painted as Palestinian aggression, Israel itself contradicts that claim when they turn around and assert the legality of a wartime blockade. A blockade is an act of war. Israel has been blockading Gaza since 2005. Therefore, in legal and in practical terms, Israel has made war on Gaza every day since 2005, even if you chose to accept their claim that they are no longer occupying it.

No, while I don't defend all of Hamas' actions, those actions are not what casts doubt on the two-state solution in the wake of 2005. Rather, the aggressive and spiteful behavior of Israel, the petty and cruel restrictions on trade and travel, the killing of hundreds of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, all add up to one inescapable conclusion: despite their protestations of wishing to separate from the Palestinians, Israel continues to exercise tyrannical control over the territory it has "withdrawn" from. Because it cannot defend itself militarily, Israel has crushed it economically, violates its borders whenever it wants, and is able to hold the population one small gradient above starvation for years at time.

Given this experience, how can a demilitarized state in the West Bank ever be an attractive prospect for the Palestinians? What's to prevent it from becoming Gaza 2.0? The resentment Israel feels at being forced out of Gaza is a candle of anger next to the bonfire of rage that will be unleashed by a West Bank pullout.

The current peace process assumes a Palestinian state will be demilitarized. Israel demands this. No other power can be trusted to secure Palestinian independence. So, basically, the proposed Palestinian state would be entirely dependent on the restraint, good judgement, and peaceable nature of Israel, in the face of a state arising next door to them on land a great majority of Jewish Israelis believe was promised them by God. The fate of Gaza after 2005 shows just how impractical such a scheme is.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The tell-tale ice

Arctic sea ice continues to to trend below the numbers for 2007, and indeed below all the years in the IJIS database. The seasonal anomaly is relatively stable at roughly a million square kilometers below the 1979-2009 average. And the volume of ice is plummeting, according to PIOMAS:

None of this, needless to say, impresses Steve Goddard, who is responding by doubling down on the crazy. Eschewing the wise denier strategy of simply ignoring the unfavorable data in favor of obsessing over cherry-picked short-term trends, Stevie to still worrying the Arctic sea ice, and looking progressively more batty as he does so.

It was only a few weeks ago that Ben Lawson predicted, sensibly it appeared at the time, that WUWT's increasingly embarrassing "sea ice updates" would be quitely phased out as the fact of the Arctic's rapid ice loss took its toll. His reasoning seemed sound, but it was predicted on Steve Goddard's having a working brain with a normal human capacity for shame. Instead of backing off, Stevie's gone from one sea ice post per week to this:

That's is the last two weeks alone. Five posts per week, slaving over a hot search engine, trying to rationalize his way out of his little trouble.

As one would expect for someone afflicted with this kind of essayists' diarrhea, Steve throws a lot of arguments out there to see what sticks, but for those without the patience to wade through the dreck, read on for the bullet points.

After heaping scorn on scientists for drawing attention to the loss of sea ice volume, Steve decides to change course 180 degrees and push aside sea ice extent to talk about volume. This is the exact behavior he accused climate scientists of here:

The AGW chameleon changes it’s colours constantly. It complains about area and extent when convenient, and about thickness when convenient.

Sea ice extent is doing the opposite of what Steve wants, so suddenly tracking the volume -- a measure both he and Watts himself have repeatedly scorned as changing the subject -- is the subject of post after post. Blatant hypocrisy aside, this is a bit of a problem, since the ice volume is also at record lows. Steve tries to edge his way around this problem by suddenly discovering that the PIOMAS measurements of ice volume, which are used everywhere, are supposedly "unverified" and untrustworthy. See here and here.

Steve has his own, really obscure data set, created by the Navy for short-term forecasting, which is not used, as far as I've been able to determine, by any climatologists anywhere, and is in process of being replaced by a different and hopefully better model. But hey, it shows volume increasing over the past few years. Cool! This is how the model is described by its creators:

Currently the NIC uses the Polar Ice Prediction System (PIPS) version 2.0 as the basis for its “operational” short-term (24–120 h) sea ice forecasts. These forecasts are evaluated daily and amended by skilled analysts using reconnaissance data (if available), the most recent weather charts and data, and historical knowledge of the conditions in the area to provide the highest quality forecasts possible out to 120 h. Special emphasis in these forecasts is placed on the location of the ice edge and the conditions in the marginal ice zone (MIZ), as these are the most critical operational areas for marine transportation and safety.

The system is used for short-term forecasting, is focused on the ice edge, and is not particularly accurate even there:

Using the more relaxed criterion of a threat index for defining correct forecasts, it was found that PIPS correctly made 24-h forecasts of decreasing sea ice concentration 10%–15% of the time (it also correctly forecast increasing sea ice concentration an additional 10%–15% of the time). However, PIPS correctly forecast melt-out conditions <5% of the time, suggesting that there may be deficiencies in the PIPS parameterization of marginal ice zone processes and/or uncertainties in the atmospheric–oceanic fields that force PIPS.

Not exactly confidence-inducing. Steve is using this data is a way it was never intended to be used, rather than the system designed and maintained to estimate ice volume -- that is, PIOMAS. An alert commenter at Skeptical Science, Michael Sweet, spots one potential problem:

I just looked at the Navy website. The red color shows ice AT LEAST 5 meters thick. Much of that ice was 10 or more meters thick (some was over 30 meters thick)in past years. You cannot integrate it as 5 meters thick. This results in underestimating the ice volume in past years. This alone is probably enough to explain the difference between you and PIOMAS.

This is really just scratching the surface of the snake oil Goddard is hawking in the word salad it pleases him to call his prose. But it's beautiful outside, and I'm not spending any more of my Saturday with Stevie. I'll leave you with this quote, from the comments on WUWT. In my next post, I'm going to answer the question posed:

Has anyone actually explained exactly WHY and HOW an ice-free Arctic is such a disaster? And for whom would it be a disaster? And in what way it would be a disaster? --Kevin Cave

Thursday, June 3, 2010

The climate blogging's been a little thin on the ground in the past couple weeks. This was a result of a combination of IRL events -- I received my doctorate on Tuesday! -- and slack-jawed amazement at the events of recent days and the bottomless chutzpa of the denier noise machine.

We begin in Greenland, where Willis Eschenbach starts by mangling the English language with that same trademark mixture of arrogance and stone ignorance that characterizes his "science" pronouncements:

This topic is a particular peeve of mine, so I hope I will be forgiven if I wax wroth.

This is silly, sloppy usage of pointlessly archaic language, stylistically wretched, but not erroneous. However, having started down the path of Ye Olde English douchebaggery, the words quickly get away from Willis:

That’s what angrifies my blood mightily

Seriously. That's what he said.

The "science" content of the post is equally disturbing. Willis is "angrified" by an article in the popular press which presenting the findings of the GRACE satellites, and calls loss of hundreds of cubic kilometers of ice each year "some of the most powerful evidence of global warming." Not so, according to Mr. Eschenbach:

And when we do so, we find that the annual loss is around 200 km^3 lost annually out of some 3,000,000 km^3 total. This means that Greenland is losing about 0.007% of its total mass every year … seven thousandths of one percent lost annually, be still, my beating heart …

And if that terrifying rate of loss continues unabated, of course, it will all be gone in a mere 15,000 years.

The loss of 200 km^3 of ice per year is not “some of the most powerful evidence of global warming”, that’s hyperbole. It is a trivial change in a huge block of ice.

To understand the glaring problems with that little slice of Polyannism, let's look at the actual peer-reviewed research. Money quote:

Using a simple elastic model, we estimate that western Greenland’s ice loss is accelerating at an average rate of 8.7±3.5 Gt yr−2, whereas the rate for southeastern Greenland—based on limited data—falls at 12.5±5.5 Gt yr−2.

The mass loss is accelerating. In fact, at the current rate of acceleration, the rate of loss -- the "trivial" 200 cubic kilometers washed out to sea -- will double in the nine years. But the rate of acceleration itself may change -- it may accelerate or decelerate. The one thing we can say with reasonable confidence is that the rate won't stay the same. Which is exactly what Willis assumes when he ignorantly/deceptively complains that "Hey, at this rate, it won't be gone for 15,000 years!"

In fact, if the acceleration of the melting -- the rate of rate change -- were to remain constant, two-thirds of the ice would be gone by the end of the century, with a 4m sea rise.

But there's another level of fallacious reasoning here, which is that Willis is claiming to refute not the notion that the Greenland warming is directly dangerous (it clearly is) but rather that it is "powerful evidence of global warming." Which it obviously is; Greenland has gone from no net loss of glacier ice to the loss of hundreds of cubic kilometers per year. That is powerful evidence of global warming, even if the volume is (for the moment, touch wood!) a very small percentage of the total ice mass per year.

That would be the difference between how scientists think, and how Willis thinks: in science, a change is not "trivial" because it fails to meet some arbitrary Michael Bay-esque standard of instant cataclysm. But details like that bore Willis. At least, they bore him when the changes provide further evidence of anthropogenic global warming, the white whale to his self-crippled Ahab.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Idiot move of the week: Israel tries to spin the slaughter of 10 human rights activists in international waters

Take a look at this photo, from the IDF press office, labeled as "Weapons found on Gaza-bound ship":

Original link:,7340,L-3083,00.html

It was very small; I've enlarged it. What do you see? Great big circular things. They aren't guns, or knives, or bombs or explosives. They look like circular saws. Probably intended to rebuild some of the thousands of buildings destroyed by Israel in their 2008 offensive. Building supplies, of course, are forbidden to Gazans by Israel, much as are school supplies, fruit, pasta and children's toys (1).

A former fellow-traveler once wrote that what most horrified her about the Stalinist show trials was not the falsehood of the accusations by the sloppiness of the lies. Names, people, timelines, and photos were easily shown to be fabricated or used deceptively. It was the work of an ideological system so confident in its ability to dictate "truth" regardless of the facts that they hardly bother to put forth an effort to deceive skeptics. We see that kind of arrogance in Israel's hasbara today.

1. A recent list of banned goods: