Archive for the ‘arctic’ Category


Rahmstorf on peer-review vs. the rabble

January 2, 2011

Stefan Rahmstorf has made a (vague) response to my questions about updated sea level data and groundwater depletion.  His response, which can be seen as the second comment here is …

“Science progresses by peer-reviewed publications, not blogs. We are well advanced in preparing a paper that includes the latest sea level data and groundwater pumping estimates, as well as looking at a number of other factors. That will be up for discussion once it appears in the peer-reviewed literature. (Without giving away too much, I can probably already say that we come to different conclusions from what you claim.)”

The progress of science

”Science progresses by peer-reviewed publications, not blogs.” That’s an interesting position from Rahmstorf, since he is a principal contributor to the RealClimate blog. Perhaps RealClimate is to be seen not as a blog, but as a pulpit from which Rahmstorf can preach to the faithful as they sit at his feet and listen in awe. Science does not progress there, it just gets passed down from on high by the priests. Rahmstorf may even deign to take questions from the faithful, as long as they keep their eyes lowered and remember their station. But the real progress can only be made by authors and peer-reviewers when the room has been cleared of the unwashed.

The striking thing about Rahmstorf’s response is that he thinks he has the authority to dictate how “Science progresses.” Anything that deviates from the comfortable format where he wears the mantle of authority is not worthwhile. This is pretty much the attitude that I expected from him.

Peer-review comfort zone

We all understand the peer-review paradigm. A paper is written for publication, but first submitted it to a group of peers for review. The peers’ criticisms are dealt with in a way to make the paper a stronger piece of work.

This peer-review process evolved when communication was slower, contemplation times were longer, and the participants inhabited small esoteric worlds in which the rabble had little interest and rarely visited. It works well with dry questions of science and engineering.

Scientists are human beings and many, as they age, become comfortable in their way of doing things. They build their careers on the model of publishing papers, reviewing papers, and attending conferences. They have paid their dues and they expect their status to be respected.

In the world of climate science some “experts” have puffed themselves beyond the bounds of their arcane niches and on to the political stage.  The peer review process becomes fraught with intrigue when the science is saturated with politics, or when sycophantic peers become rubber stamps. 

Peers or sycophants?

What does “peer-reviewed” mean to Stefan Rahmstorf? An email he sent me three years ago is enlightening. The Journal Science, probably the most influential journal in the world, had published his widely circulated paper “A Semi-Empirical Approach to Projecting Future Sea-Level Rise” about six months before. He sent me the code used to make his projections of “future sea-level rise” and told me “you are the first outside person to test this code.” In other words, peer-review for Rahmstorf and Science includes sycophants from his group, but not an “outside person.”

Up for discussion

Stefan, I have been pointing out flaws in your work and conclusions for quite a while now.   You say these issues “will be up for discussion” when your encyclical “appears in the peer-reviewed literature.”  This is another place where your are wrong.  They are already very much “up for discussion” whether or not you have given permission.

The fear of sea level rise is being used to influence world-wide political and social movements.  You are at the forefront of the sea level rise scare.  This wrenches all of your work from the ivory tower and places it in the middle of  the town square.

Communication is fast now, the rabble has taken an interest, and many are not inclined to genuflect before the experts curriculum vitae.  It is only beginning to dawn on many of the anointed that the internet may pull the rug out from under their claims of impending climate disaster.  The peasants have breached the gate and are questioning the infallibility of their supposed betters.

I will continue to criticize your past work, and you can bet that I will be dissecting your future work.  And I will not recognize some special status that elevates you above your critics.  So if you want to be considered something other than an overwrought alarmist, you better start getting things right.


TIME for Kids misinforms your children

September 26, 2009

An Arctic Passage 2The modern version of the weekly reader, TIME for Kids, published by the same folks who bring you TIME magazine, heralded the news of the very first ships to sail the legendary “Northeast Passage” in an article titled “An Arctic Passage.”   This route links Europe to the Pacific Ocean, while avoiding the much longer route through the Suez canal and Indian Ocean.  But the reality is that this route was travelled on a regular basis by the Russians from the 1930s to the 1990s.  Read on to see how bogus this propaganda, that was spoon fed to your children, really was.


Northeast passage

Northeast passage

Our kids were told very plainly that “It is the first time commercial ships have traveled this route…Shippers have dreamed of a northern shortcut.  right now, ships going from Asia to Europe take a southern route through the Suez Canal, in Egypt.  A northern route would shorten the trip saving time, fuel and money”

This is new, the kids are told, because normally it is “impassable, even in summer, because of packed ice.  But melting ice caps are making it easier for ships to navigate the Arctic.” 

But the real purpose of this article is to keep the drumbeat of global warming fear pounding in the heads of our children.  “Scientists say global warming is responsible for the arctic thaw, which is causing many frozen channels to thaw” they are told.

The Truth about the Northeast Passage from Russia’s  Gubernskaya Academy

As exciting as the above story sounds, it is essentially untrue.  You can read much about the history and exploration of the Northeast Passage as compiled by the Russian Gubernskaya Academy and presented for the International Polar Year.  Here are some of the highlights…

In 1934 the ice-cutter “Litke” made the voyage from Vladivostok to Murmansk without failure by the Northern Sea Route. “Litke” captain was N.M. Nikolaev, research manager V.Yu. Vize. In 1935 four cargo motor ships passed through the Route during a single navigation season.

During the 1930s the Soviets started regular navigated the waters of  the Northeast Passage.  Gubernskaya Academy documents remind us that…

Before the Great Patriotic War [WWII] the Soviet Union gained big experience of carriers navigation in the Arctic. The ports of Dickson, Dudinka, Tiksi, Pevek and Provideniya were under construction. During the war apart from supply of the Arctic construction sites and research stations it was necessary to ensure supply of garrisons and warships and to receive goods delivered from the USA and Canada.


Soviet ships would ply the Northeast passage regularly for the next six decades.  Shipping via the Northeast Passage peaked in 1993, but declined after that – not because of ice, but rather cold economic and political winds for the dissolved Soviet Union.

Dissolution of the Soviet Union followed by social and economic crisis of the post-Soviet space in the early 1990’s had a negative influence upon the condition of the Northern Sea Route. The supply system was destroyed due to dissolution of centralized maintenance supply of the Russian North. Due to price liberalization and credit system reconstruction most enterprises in the framework of the Northern Sea Route operation were in a difficult financial state….By 2003 the volume of freight decreased 5 times (1,7 million tons) in comparison with the golden age of the Soviet era.

The two German ships that TIME for Kids referred to are really just the beginning of what the Russians hope will be a revival of trade between Europe, Siberia and Pacific region of Asia:

At present, practical steps are made in Russia to overcome the crisis and to continue development of the Northern Sea Route. This proves high strategic significance of this unique Arctic itinerary. In the first place this high importance is connected with forthcoming development of immense Arctic offshore oil and gas fields. Transit functions of the Northern Sea Route are also of high importance, mainly for development of regions located in the Extreme North and the Far East. Nowadays, many countries of the world are interested in cargo transportation by the Northern Sea Route. This is mainly due to the growing commodity turnover between Europe and the countries of Asian and Pacific regions. Possibly the XXIst century may become an era of intensive development of the Northern Sea Route as of an important arctic transportation passage of national and international importance.

The last ice-cold hard facts

So, these two German ships simply were not the first to make this trip.  In 2000 the Minister of Transportation of the Russian Federation, Sergey Frank, planning for a revival of the trade route, pointed out…

“In 1993 – 1997 the volume of sea cargo along the Northern Sea Route was already 150 – 200 thousand tons a year. Cargo traffic peaked in 1993, during the Arctic’s summer shipping season. During that period, 15 Russian ships with 210 thousand tons of transit goods passed along the Route. Also, 8 ships carrying metals, fertilizers and timber traveled from ports in Russia, Latvia, Sweden and Finland to China, Japan, and Thailand. 7 ships from China carried oilcake, bauxite, magnetite and other operating supplies to Holland, England, Ireland, Germany, and Spain.”

Oh, by the way, TIME for Kids somehow forgot to mention that the two German cargo ships that made the Northwest Passage trip this year were accompanied by a NUCLEAR POWERED ICE_BREAKER!!!  The UK’s Independent,  like TIME for Kids, somehow overlooked the previous 70 years of shipping along the route.  But in the midst of their panic-stricken, end of the world report on this global warming disaster story, they let slip…

The voyage of the two [German] vessels was certainly no picnic. Although not thoroughbred ice-breakers themselves, both ships were designed to cope with ice-strewn waters and were accompanied by at least one Russian nuclear ice-breaker during the whole of the trip. The two ships encountered snow, fog, ice floes, and treacherous icebergs which showed only about one meter of their huge underwater volume on the sea’s surface.

The most challenging stretch of the voyage came at its northernmost point, the Vilkizi Strait on the tip of Siberia. Half of the sea’s surface was covered with pack ice and the captains of both vessels had to call Russian ice pilots on board to shepherd them through. Vlarey Durov, captain of the Beluga Foresight spoke of the stress he experienced from having to keep a constant lookout for ice and the time spent waiting for the seas to clear. (emphasis added)


DMI Arctic temperature data does show increasing temperature trend

September 9, 2009

I would like to make a few comments about the DMI arctic temperature data.  I made the numeric version of this data available yesterday by digitizing the yearly graphs available from DMI.  I have had a chance to look at the data and draw some initial conclusions.

Anthony Watts, who I have the greatest respect for, presented an animation of the 52 yearly DMI Arctic temperature plots form 1958 to 2009.  He said “See if you can spot the temperature spikes or the “…cooling trend reversed in the mid-1990s.”  His animation appears below…

Anthony Watts animation of DMI temperature plots

Anthony Watts' animation of DMI temperature plots.

As Anthony Watts implied, I found it difficult to detect a trend over time by viewing the animation.  So I created a  simpler version that shows only five frames, each consisting of an overlay of 10 years, 1958 to 1967, 1968 to 1977, …, 1998 to 2007.  The problem is that when I view this simpler animation, I do see a trend, with temperatures rising in the freezing season on the the far left and right sides of the graph in the last frame (1998-2007).  My animation is below (double click is the image does not appear animated)…
Moriarty's animation of 10 year composites of DMI Arctic temperature graphs.

Moriarty's animation of 10 year composites of DMI Arctic temperature graphs.

The data that I made available yesterday gives the DMI Arctic temperature for each half day from 1958 to 2009. This set of data allows a plot of the Arctic temperature for a particular day of the year as a function of the 52 years covered. For example the following two graphs show the temperature on September 1st and October 16th. Notice how the temperature trend seems to increase after 1995 for the October 16th data but not for the September 1st data.
September 1st temperature as a function of year.

September 1st temperature as a function of year.

October 16th temperature as a function of year.

October 16th temperature as a function of year.

If we are interested in a change of trend after the mid-1990s, then the trend before up to 1995 and the trend after 1995 for every day of the year can be compared in the same way they are compared for October 16th in the above image. The following image shows the temperature trend for each day of the year for 1958 to 1995 and from 1995 to the present.
Arctic temperature trends for each day of the year.

Arctic temperature trends for each day of the year.

The total trend for each day for all data from 1958 to present is shown in the following graph.
Arctic temperature trend vs. day of the year for all data from 1958 to 2009.

Arctic temperature trend vs. day of the year for all data from 1958 to 2009.

So, the DMI data, presented in the crude fashion that I have used, lends support to the idea that the Arctic has been heating more rapidly since the mid-1990s than before.  Those of you who have read my blog in the past know where I stand on the probability of the Arctic ice melting in the near future, and I stand by my previous posts.  But I think this data must be presented as part of the scientific pursuit of truth. 
I would be very happy to hear the opinions of people smarter than me on the significance of this data.