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re. Circling the Arctic
reposted at WUWT entitled "Arctic Temperatures - What Hockey Stick?"

Are recent records subject to warming distortions? | What general evidence is there for UHI? | What's this about Arctic weather stations?

Is Tamino being fair?

I'm now processing what people said. This is work in progress. I'd prefer to keep this material out of our forum, as I don't have the time to moderate and I want to keep strictly to the point. Email me direct, please, I will respond. I don't expect to change the minds of Tamino et al. But I want to note responses, for the record. Tamino did not email me to give me a chance to reply and defend myself, as would have been courtesy and in line with good scientific practice. I emailed his blog: Tamino, I’m honoured that you take notice of me. However, it would have been nice if you’d invited me to respond earlier. Because since you did not, I was naturally a bit peeved and did a whole page on our website – just for the record that you have misrepresented my position and I can respond. However, if you think I’m misrepresenting anything in my response to you, I’d be glad for your response. I try to get things right in the end – engineering quality often starts out flawed and becomes workable by checking out and correcting, in my experience. In the meantime, Tamino wrote a second response; he wrote a third piece in response to my original response here. So I'm commenting on his further responses inline, in red. I hope it clarifies issues.

Tamino opens his first post thus:

I almost didn’t think it was possible. Anthony Watts has yet another post attempting to support the totally false claim that the arctic isn’t warming. This claim definitely fits into the “bag of hammers” category.

This is not nasty-rude, but it's put-down and mistaken, several times over, and from my own warmist days, I know that sort of thing sticks. Like all good skeptics, I want the best evidence of both sides. In fact, that was my reason for publishing the page. I am aware there may be shortcomings that matter, specifically ASKED for audit-quality responses - and am still working on it all.

First, I am NOT claiming the Arctic has not been warming. No real skeptic claims that. And I bet Tamino knows this perfectly well. Arctic environs warm, and they cool, and they warm again. That is the evidence of thermometers for over 150 years. Arctic fluctuations are far higher than temperate-regions fluctuations or the global record as a whole. To emphasise words in my title "What sudden recent warming? What hockey stick? I don't see any." This is about official Science's claims that the Arctic has warmed over the twentieth century in a way never seen before, fitting the increase of CO2 with good correlation. The temperature record is supposed to look something like this Hockey Stick shape touted with Kaufman's recent paper. >>>

I think my words above, saying I am NOT claiming the Arctic has not been warming, are quite clear. But Tamino amuses me by saying as an opening line response to this page "I don't believe you". He goes on to show the large warming the NASA records show AFTER 2000, and to quote the universal warming trend since 1950 or 1900. As if I didn't know the records.

I didn't think he would make a remark that stupid. I gave here two vital reasons why recent warming records have been so high in all probability, but he has missed or ignored them, perhaps doesn't grasp their scientific import: 1998 freak El Nino, and UHI or other contamination of records eg airport at Berrow Alaska. I'm talking about the whole blade of the recent Hockey Stick that extends for the WHOLE of the last century, and I'm showing that thermometer records going back to 1840 do NOT show a sudden unique uptick that extends through the whole twentieth century. I think I'll unpack CET and De Bilt as well. Thermometer records back to 1700 and earlier. I'm already having fun "circling" Yamal where the prime Hockey Stick producer comes from. I've made my point about fluctuations, but Tamino insists on trends. Now if those graphs REALLY had a high correlation with CO2 increase, I'd be impressed. But they don't. The correlation, as I said above, is with OCEAN CURRENTS and THE SUN. Mechanics be damned! Scientists haven't found them yet, whereas they should be inquiring WHY the highest correlations are with SUN and SEA and NOT with CO2.

I'd be wasting my time to try to convert Tamino. He sees WUWT as a non-science blot on the landscape. So this is just for the record. Tamino will probably be one of the last to leave the AGW ship that more and more "inexpert" folk like me can see is sinking - one step after Joe Romm, two after Monbiot. And who knows, I might have been as stupid in another incarnation, and have just learned a bit more since. I'm always glad to see folk learn. I even learn from Tamino.

Now if Arctic temperature records supported Kaufman's Hockey Stick, it should be visible in the old thermometer records which are long enough to see the end of the straight shaft as well as the blade of the hockey stick, which supposedly only forms with the rising CO2 since the early twentieth century. Those old thermometer records were done by folk whose sons' and friends' lives might depend on accuracy of records. Not by scientists whose grants depended on their issuing scare scenarios that they claimed sole expertise to solve.

Second, as my article makes perfectly clear, I used the material of the LATE John Daly - he died in 2004. I used his collection of material for several reasons. It is iconic, user-friendly, Daly was thorough and careful in choosing stations with long records and uncorrupted by UHI, or in choosing stations precisely to show UHI. And the fact that the last five years are missing does not change the message all the graphs shout out, that the twentieth century as a whole does NOT show a sharp uptick in temperatures consistent with CO2 rise. What the Arctic often shows is huge variations that yielded higher temperatures in the 1930's than today, at least until a few years ago. If the CO2 thesis were correct, the temperatures should have shot up long before five years ago. One of the pillars of AGW is that the polar regions are supposed to be the most susceptible to warming.

Third - the little matter of the last six years. There are two problems here.

(a) I and others are increasingly getting the impression that NASA GISS have recently applied corrections for UHI that have seriously distorted good, old, continuous, carefully-kept records. And there are many other problems with the NASA GISS records. There is plenty of evidence for the UHI distortion being badly dealt-with, and causing more serious problems, eg see here and here. But the proof is not in, the science is in that active in-between state where folk have their suspicions and are noting and collecting stuff. Such dubious corrections have only been applied recently, almost certainly after Daly passed away - or he would have commented.

(b) - the ice melt in 2007 was abnormally high in comparison with the mean ice melt levels recorded since 1979. Ice records earlier don't exist to the same degree of accuracy - or other means need to be used, not just proxies but also pictures, stories, written history, the evidence of archeology. There is increasing evidence that (1) Arctic temperatures depend largely on the temperatures in the Arctic Ocean; (2) the Arctic Ocean temperatures change following changes in the PDO and AMO; (3) the recent warming fits a response to the 1998 Super El Nino; (4) there is a time-lag on this.

This last point is important. For it means that during the recent years when the planet as a whole has showed cooling, the Arctic has showed warming. As Piers Corbyn notes, the tropics respond to the Sun first; the polar regions are the last. As Engelbeen notes, Greenland post-2000 summer temperatures have dipped, even while annual averages stayed the same. This all puzzled me for a while. But it now makes sense. Greenland now sees a cooler sun in the summer, but still-warm waters in the winter. And of course, polar warming 's what the warmists want - still something to report to the ignorant masses - while dosing those who query the "experts" with loud opinions of how ignorant and stupid we are.

Fourth, the little matter of "no peer-reviewed science supports these skeptic claims". There is also increasing evidence that in Climate Science, and in an increasing number of other branches of Science like Medical Science, the peer-review system has become corrupted, and is managed by small cliques and/or money. Therefore the science needs to become transparent and comprehensible to all folk of reasonable intelligence and reasonable basic scientific training, and not just esoteric specialists who can floor the unsuspecting with high-sounding claims of expertise using jargon and the appearance of maths.

Now let's look at the Eureka record. Tamino shows Daly's graph and then says:

"Note that the y-axis extends a full 55 degrees C (that’s 99 deg.F). How can you expect to see a significant change, even a very large change, say 2.5 deg.C (which climatologically speaking is huge), when the y-axis extends 55 deg.C? Don’t forget to put 5 time series on the same graph so it’ll be more cluttered and even harder to see the details. While you’re at it, chop off the data at the year 2003, even though the available GISS data continue up to the present. Here’s a better graph of temperature in Eureka:... I’ve made the y-axis extent small enough that you can actually see what’s happening, and used all the available data."

I've taken Tamino's graph (red) and overlaid it on Daly's Eureka mean temperature (gray). They fit very well, we've clearly got the right records. Well, until recently. What happened in 2003 or so? Did NASA start "adjustments" then? Pity all the other Canadian arctic stations that might have checked Eureka have now been closed.

Tamino says

"How can you expect to see a significant change... say 2.5 deg.C (which climatologically speaking is huge), when the y-axis extends 55 deg.C?"

But this is actually evidence in favour of natural fluctuations and cycles. Arctic records fluctuate so hugely that trends are so small by comparison that skeptical science says we cannot trust them. One or two years' difference, and, as has been shown re. Steig's supposed temperature increases in Antarctica, these fluctuations can totally change the trend direction. On the Atlantic side, the fluctuations correlate infinitely better with the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation than they do with CO2. And the AMO, so far, correlates highly with the solar cycles. And with the recent Arctic spikes, we have to include the effect of the 1998 El Nino in the Pacific. And that is to say nothing of spurious UHI corrections which appear to falsely depress perfectly sound earlier temperature records and thereby produce a spurious "trend".

Tamino complained about my use of the word "spurious" here, and I realized that this hyperlink was needed, to explain my perception. I think he has no idea of the number of sites that are supposedly rural but still have acquired recent or fairly recent contaminations. Airports at Berrow, Alaska; Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen; others say there are many more, which all reinforces my thankfulness for Daly's care of choice. I would like to see the Arctic stations audited as Watts has been doing with the US stations. But that is a project requiring time and committment I don't have. So Daly will have to do pro tem.

Pity the current record-keepers won't make their work and methods fully transparent, or put their own house in order, or even admit to problems and internal disorder of the records - which Pielke Sr is fully aware of - which is why "amateurs" have come to challenge the "professionals" - or perhaps there is hope yet.

Let's just try to get a feeling for the scale of Arctic records.

Below left is four years of the Eureka seasonal range, y-axis lengthened so that, temperature-wise, it is now on the same scale as the Ilulissat record (bottom of page). Ilulissat is as close geographically as you can get, with a longterm record (because they needed it: Ilulissat has been inhabited by Greenlanders; Eureka is pretty uninhabitable). Below right are the complete summer and winter records for Eureka, put on the same scale of temperature as Ilulissat, and aligned to the years 1947-2002.


Below is the Eureka summer temperature beside the Ilulissat record - only the summer temperatures at Eureka even come within range of Ilulissat mean temperatures. Can you say, with your hand on your heart, that in Tamino's fluctuations we have proof of a significant temperature rise and NOT just natural variations? Whatever the maths can be made to say, should never trump what fishermen and farmers experience, nor what commonsense can tell us, nor the evidence of records made when lives depended on their accuracy. It's not for nothing that we hear "there are lies, damned lies, and statistics" and though statistics are essential, they can also be used to ensnare the unwary and the statistically unknowledgeable, which sadly includes most scientists. I'm trying to show folk how to start to read the data with discernment. As I've had to learn myself.




Page updated 14th September 2009



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