Barack Obama: Glaciologist

September 6, 2015

The avid outdoors-man and eminent scientist, Barack Obama, has been trekking through Alaska lately.  He is lamenting the demise of the great glaciers of the North.  He is surely grieving over the harm that man is inflicting on the planet by spewing his toxic CO2.  The Washington Post reports

Standing near the foot of the Exit Glacier, which has receded 1.25 miles since 1815 and 187 feet last year alone, Obama said “this is as good of a signpost of what we’re dealing with it comes to climate change as just about anything.”

The man certainly has a way with words – a true poet.

I guess we are supposed to be alarmed because 187 feet per year is a lot faster than 1.25 miles per 200 years.  After all, 1.25 miles in 200 years averages out to only 33 feet per year.  The message we are supposed to get is that the Exit Glacier is receding about 6 times faster now than its average over the last 200 years.  This, of course, is due to the CO2 that vile humans use to poison the atmosphere and it means endless and escalating disaster unless we socialize the economy of the world.

But what does the National Park service say about the retreat rate of Exit Glacier? The following table of retreat distances and rates comes from the National Park Service’s “The Retreat of Exit Glacier.” Annotation in red was added by me.

Exit glacier retreat annotatedSo, this data confirms Obama’s assertion that the Exit Glacier has retreated 1.25 miles in the last 200 years.  But it also makes it quite clear that it was retreating as fast, or faster, 100 years ago.

If CO2 is the culprit today, what was the culprit 100 years ago?  The following graph shows the amount of anthropogenic CO2 in the atmosphere as a function of time going back to 1750.  The data comes from Oak Ridge National Laboratory.  I made the plot and added the annotation. It’s kind of hard to explain why the retreat rate was so much greater in the past when there was less than 10% of the anthropogenic atmospheric CO2 than there is today.  Perhaps Professor Obama will elucidate.

anthro atmos carbonMy wife and I were up in Alaska a few years ago, and we also visited some some of those receding glaciers.  At Glacier Bay National Park, which is several hundred miles southeast of Exit Glacier, I happened to pick up a park pamphlet that had the following series of illustrations showing the glacier extents in the park going back to 1680.

glacier bay extents v3The first thing that jumps out at you is the rapid ice advance between 1680 and 1750 and the subsequent retreat between 1750 and 1880.  The pamphlet said

“The Little Ice Age came and went quickly by geologic measures.  By 1750 the glacier reached its maximum, jutting into Icy Strait.  But when Capt. George Vancouver sailed here 45 years later, the glacier had melted back five miles into Glacier Bay – which it had gouged out.”

As an aside, a co-worker once told me that the Little Ice Age was not a global phenomenon, but rather, local to Europe.  He cited the Union of Concerned Scientists as the source of this insight.  But there it is, in Alaska!

It is hard to argue with the Union of Concerned Scientists because they’re, well, scientists.  Not just anybody can be a Concerned Scientist.  You have to send a check first.  My wife used to send a check years ago, but it was from our joint account so I figure I was only half a Concerned Scientist then.  Now I guess I am just a wholly unconcerned scientist.

IMG_1546 v2Anyway, Obama was getting excited about 1.25 miles of glacier recession since 1815, and a whopping 187 feet in the last year.  That pamphlet that I mentioned also had a large map of the Glacier Bay area marking the location of the various glaciers back to 1760. It’s easy to string the locations together and calculate the recession rate of these glaciers.  The image at the left  shows the map as I marked it out for Grand Pacific Glacier. (Click to enlarge.)

I have plotted the distance as a function of time for three glacier routes using this crude method.   As you can see below, these glaciers have receded at a much faster rate than Exit Glacier.  But Exit Glacier and the Glacier Bay National Park glaciers have one thing common:  they all retreated at their maximum rate back when anthropogenic atmospheric CO2 levels were very low compared to today.

Glacier retreatLet’s take a closer look at the Grand Pacific Glacier.  John J. Clague and S. G. Evans (J. of Glaciology)  used various data sources to plot the retreat of the Grand Pacific Glacier.  I have converted their data to miles and overlaid it with my coarser data from the map. The Clague data and the map data agree nicely, but the Clague data fills in some of the gaps.  The most interesting point is that like Exit Glacier, the retreat rate for the Grand Pacific Glacier was greatest around the last part of the 19th century. In fact, the Clague data may indicate that the Grand Pacific Glacier was slightly progressing, not retreating, during most of the 20th century.

Grand Pacific Glacier retreatIt is pretty clear that the Grand Pacific Glacier was retreating fastest around 1860.  Where is that on the anthropogenic atmospheric CO2 timeline?  The graph below shows that the anthropogenic atmospheric CO2 level was only about 2% of today’s level when the Grand Pacific Glacier was retreating at its fastest by far!

CO2 and Grand PacificHow is that possible???????  I thought it was high CO2 levels that caused the glaciers to recede.


Definition: Barber Event

May 9, 2015

A monumental climatic event is unfolding before our eyes this year.  The ramifications will affect entire human race, nay, the entire community of Gaia dwelling souls.

 David Barber, 21st Century Arctic Explorer, has been warning us for years, but too many of us have been blinded by our greed for oil and money.  The Arctic will go completely ice free this summer.  This will no doubt force polar bears into extinction and set off a globe spreading chain reaction of extinction and desolation.

This extraordinary occasion deserves its own geological name.  I propose we call it the “Barber Event.”

Here is what will happen to Arctic sea ice…

SSMI ice extent 150506 v3

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10 to 1 odds for Prof. David Barber

Don’t Panic – The Arctic has survived warmer temperatures in the past

Arctic to be ice free within four months


Arctic to be ice free within four months

May 7, 2015

A milestone than many are dreading will arrive within the next four months.  The Arctic will be ice free, probably for the first time in the last 6000 or so years.  This event has been long predicted by the eminent Professor David Barber.  In 2008 the Winnipeg Free Press quoted Barber…

“We’ll always have ice in the winter time in the Arctic, but it will always be first-year ice,” Barber said on Friday.  “2015 is our estimate for summer free (of) ice.”

As Barber said, the Arctic will always have ice in the winter, but some winters may have more or less than others.  Data collected over time has allowed the calculation of the average ice extent for each day of the year.  Of course, that average is higher in the winter and lower in the summer.  The lowest average occurs in September after the long summer melt.  Deviations from this average are called the “anomaly.”

In September the average ice extent drops down to about 4.5 million square kilometers.  But in recent years the anomaly has been negative.  So, the ice extent in September has been less than 4.5 million square kilometers.

Barber made his prediction in 2008 after that the previous year’s anomaly had dropped to about 2.5 million square kilometers.  That is, after that year’s summer melt there was only about 2 million square kilometers of ice left.  The strange thing is, six out of seven years since Barber made his prediction the anomaly has been higher (i.e. there was a greater ice extent) after the summer melt than in 2007.  This might surprise you, because you would expect that anomaly to get lower and lower (more and more negative) as you approached the dreaded ice free summer.

One might think that this strange circumstance indicates that Barber was wrong about his prediction.  But that can’t be, because he is a SCIENTIST (SCIENTIST, Scientist, scientist, scientist).

So here is what we can expect the anomaly to do this year…

If Professor David Barber is right, then the Arctic ice extent anomaly will look something like this.

If Professor David Barber is right, then the 2015 Arctic ice extent anomaly will look something like this.

Barber could have made a lot of money (for his favorite charity) off of this prediction, because there was some blogging kook who gave him 10 to 1 odds that it wouldn’t happen.  But I am sure he felt it was much more important to remain the impartial SCIENTIST (SCIENTIST, Scientist, scientist, scientist). 


A new round of Antarctic ice alarm

March 28, 2015

The alarm of a catastrophic meltdown of the Antarctic cycles up and down every year or two.  A journal article says the rate of melt is increasing, the popular press picks up on it and breathlessly warns about huge sea level rises sinking coastal cities around the world. We are told that x number of gigatonnes of ice per year are being dumped off the continent and wreaking their havoc on the world.   Then another study says “not so fast,” the mass losses aren’t that great after all.  Or, some crazy old skeptics ruin all the fun by recklessly bringing some logic to the discussion.

Today we have “Volume loss from Antarctic ice shelves is accelerating” (Paolo, et. al., Science, 2015).  The abstract warns us

“Overall, average ice-shelf volume change accelerated from negligible loss at 25 ± 64 km3 per year for 1994-2003 to rapid loss of 310 ± 74 km3 per year for 2003-2012.”

310 km3 per year (roughly the same as 310 gigatonnes per year) is pretty high compared to most other estimates. So you will probably see many references to this number because the bigger and scarier the more the press likes it.  But for the more sober minded, consider the following comparison of ice loss estimates from “Ice sheet mass balance and climate change” (Hanna, et. al., Nature, 2013)

Various estimates of ice mass change in the antarctic

Various estimates of ice mass change in the Antarctic

How does the recent Science paper compare?  If we place it on estimate plots from Hanna’s paper it would look like this..

Ice sheet mass balance and climate change - Hanna - Nature - 2013 v4

The Paolo Nature paper is an outlier.  But lets take them at their word.  They say that the Antarctic, on average, shed about 300 more Gigatonnes of ice per year during the 2003 to 2012 period than during the 1994 to 2003 period.  Where did all this ice go?  In to the oceans, of course.  That is why we have the great sea level rise scare.

So it follows that the sea level should have been rising faster during the 2003 to 2012 period than during the 1994 to 2003 year period.  How much faster?  Well, every gigatonne of water dumped into the oceans raises the sea level by about 2.78 microns. So 300 gigatonnes of extra water per year would raise the sea levels about an extra 840 microns a year, or about an extra 0.84 mm per year.  We are told that satellite data indicates that the global sea level is rising about 3 mm per year.  0.84 mm per year is a significant fraction of 3 mm per year, so such a rate increase should really stand out in the sea level rise data..

Well, here is some of that satellite sea level rise data…

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This discussion has been about ice that is moving from the land to the sea and raising the sea level.  But let’s take a quick moment to look at the sea ice that surrounds Antarctica.  While this ice does not contribute to changes in the sea level, it does say something about the conditions in that area.

seaice_anomaly_antarctic - Cryosphere Today 150328

Do you see a trend?  I see a trend.  And I know there are variety of “just-so stories” to explain away this trend, but I am unconvinced.


Between 1994 and 2003 the average sea level rise rate was 3.77 mm/yr, according to satellite data (University of Colorado).  If the Antarctic were depositing an average of about 300 more gigatonnes of water in the ocean per year in the following years (2003 to 2012), then the average sea level rise rage from 2003 to 2012 should have increased by about 0.84 m/yr, to 4.61 mm/yr.

Instead, the average sea level rise rate from 2003 to 2012 dropped to 2.66 mm/yr.

The claim of a huge rise in ice loss from the Antarctic over this period is quite implausible.


Alarmism at Scientific American (again)

February 24, 2015

Scientific American is such an embarrassment.  It’s sad, because I used to like that magazine.

Once again they are shills for the global warming alarmists, scaring people with wildly exaggerated claims about sea level rise.  This time Colin Sullivan writes that the sea level at New York City could increase by six feet by 2100.

Heat waves and floods caused by climate change could mean disaster for the Big Apple’s five boroughs by the end of the century, with sea levels now predicted by a new report to climb by as much as 6 feet by 2100.

Really?  6 feet by 2100????

First, lets start with a minor point.  Real scientists and science writers usually don’t use “feet,” they use meters.  So why does Scientific American use “feet?”  My guess is that it is some linear combination of the following two reasons: the Scientific America audience isn’t really scientifically literate these days, and “6 feet” sounds like more than “2 meters” (even though it is actually slightly less).

Now, lets get to the major point.  Any responsible journalist writing about sea level rise in at New York City would present the historical data.  There are nearly 150 years of sea level rise data available for The Battery (at the southern tip of Manhattan) from NOAA


Do you notice that the sea level rise is less than 3 mm/year?  Can you detect an acceleration over the past 150 years?  The sea level at the Battery will go up about 22 cm by 2100 at the present rate.  To go up 6 feet (1.83 meters) by 2100 it would have to look something like this…

Battery sea level rise extended 4

There is a part of me that wants to heap invective on Colin Sullivan and Scientific American, but I realize that while that may make me feel better, it will not help the situation.  So I will simply ask them, “Why don’t you show the actual historic data?”  It seems like a no-brainer, and anything less is journalistic malpractice.

Deniers and Alarmists

People like me have been branded with the “denier” epithet.  Why this particular word?  We are called “deniers” an ugly attempt to link us with Holocaust deniers.  It is an inaccurate and unfair moniker.

But we tend to call those at the other end of the spectrum “alarmists.”  Is that an unfair accusation?  I don’t think so, and this Scientific American article demonstrates why.  They pretend to be an objective source, but leave out the most pertinent data.  I can only think of two possible reasons for this: they are just stupid, or they want to cause a state of alarm.  I may be charitable in assigning the second motive.  “Alarmist” is an accurate and fair epithet for them.


Strategy for Protecting Freedom of Speech

January 17, 2015

The world is grappling with how to handle Islamist extremists.  The lynch pin of advanced civilizations is the freedom of speech, and the Islamist extremist now see this as one of our vulnerabilities.  By taking down this one pillar, the integrity of the entire structure trembles.

I propose what I will call the “expanding infidel group” strategy.  

The center of the infidel group will be those individuals or organizations who have already published ideas, including cartoons and satire, that the Islamic extremist condemn with threat of death.  

The outside part of the infidel group will be individuals or organizations who pledge support to the inside part.  Specifically, they will pledge to also publish ideas that the Islamic extremists object to if somebody from the inside of the infidel group is attacked.  

Attacks on our freedom of speech would then be guaranteed to expand the very thing they attack. 

Further, civilized societies will step up retribution against individuals who carry out attacks, as well as their social support groups and supporting organizations.  

We have seen this already happening in effect with the courageous groups that have defied the Islamic extremists by republishing the Charlie Hebdo cartoons and the 50-fold increase in the sales of the Charlie Hebdo issue after the massacre, and the rapid advance of various European police forces on suspected terrorist groups.

I propose the above as an organizing principle.

I would say to US news organizations that have not published the offending cartoons: it is not too late to do so, or pledge to do so (or more) if further attacks occur.


Seven IPCC Claims Refuted

December 8, 2014

Roger Andrews addresses seven claims of the IPCC Working Group 2.  I know that oil people are supposed to be automatically suspect, but open your mind and read what Andrews has to say as he handily addresses these points…

Claim 1: Glaciers continue to shrink almost worldwide due to climate change

Claim 2: Many terrestrial, freshwater, and marine species have shifted their geographic ranges ….. in response to ongoing climate change.

Claim 3: While only a few recent species extinctions have been attributed as yet to climate change, natural global climate change at rates slower than current anthropogenic climate change caused significant ecosystem shifts and species extinctions during the past millions of years.

Claim 4: Based on many studies covering a wide range of regions and crops, negative impacts of climate change on crop yields have been more common than positive impacts.

Claim 5: Impacts from recent climate-related extremes, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, cyclones, and wildfires, reveal significant vulnerability and exposure of some ecosystems and many human systems to current climate variability.

Claim 6: At present the worldwide burden of human ill-health from climate change is relatively small … and is not well quantified. However, there has been increased heat-related mortality and decreased cold-related mortality in some regions as a result of warming.

Claim 7: Violent conflict increases vulnerability to climate change.

Here is a teaser.

Part of Andrews’ responses for claims 1 and 4…

Glacier length

World Grain Production

Read Roger Andrews’ Latest IPCC Findings Undermine Climate Change Claims at OilPrice.com.