Lonnie G. Thompson's Kilimanjaro Fallacies

Is the Kilimanjaro losing ice because of man-made global warming? Now, that would be a challenging thing to properly demonstrate (never mind it would run against the gist of the IPCC work for example, where no particular weather-related occurrence can be attributed to “Global Warming”, let alone of the anthropogenic variety).

Little wonder then if scientists publishing a study “Glacier loss on Kilimanjaro continues unabated” have “reached no consensus on whether the melting could be attributed mainly to humanity’s role in warming the global climate“.

Regardless…step forward lead author Lonnie G. Thompson, concluding “that the melting of recent years is unique” (in the sense of unseen for “over the last 11,700 years“). And how does he know that AGW got anything to do with it?

Dr. Thompson emphasized that the melting of ice atop Mount Kilimanjaro was paralleled by retreats in ice fields elsewhere in Africa as well as in South America, Indonesia and the Himalayas. “It’s when you put those together that the evidence becomes very compelling,” he said.

This quote from somebody that has just published an article containing the following texts:

  • An energy balance study (7) concluded that mass loss from the upper (horizontal) surfaces of the ice fields has been dominated by sublimation although there is physical evidence of melting as well
  • The limited satellite observations have yet to confirm any unambiguous trend toward drier atmospheric conditions (1979–1995) and the lack of radiosonde observations over less-developed countries has limited the accuracy of tropical water vapor trends
  • Over recent decades there has been a continual transformation of the landscape surrounding Kilimanjaro into agricultural land, thus, unraveling large-scale climate forcing from regional forcing caused in part by landscape changes is difficult.

Oh well.

Let’s have a look at how many logical fallacies can be found in statements like the below:

Regardless of the relative importance of the multiple drivers responsible for the loss of Kilimanjaro’s summit ice fields, [the] widespread glacier mass loss, shrinkage, and retreat at high elevations (>5,000 m above sea level) in lower latitudes (30° N to 30° S), particularly in the thermally homogeneous tropics, suggests the likelihood of an underlying common driver on which more localized factors such as changes in land use, precipitation, cloudiness, and humidity are superimposed.

This is my list so far:

I am sure there’s more.

As every hammer knows, the world is made of nails…

0 Replies to “Lonnie G. Thompson's Kilimanjaro Fallacies”

  1. Vince – as I said, you are a True Believer because of your facile attitude towards identifying honesty in other people’s writings. This has nothing to do with your skepticism or belief in AGW.

    1. If I might be permitted;

      I think you’re confusing moral dishonesty with intellectual dishonesty. He’s saying that your argument is intellectually dishonest because it invokes logical concepts without explaining or substantiating them. He’s not making a judgement on your moral honesty or integrity.

      That is the part which I think you do not understand.

      1. Joseph W – let’s assume you’re right. Would that make any difference? Once again…what is the point of discussing if intellectual honesty is not implied? Whatever I am going to say, Vince will always have the escape route of claiming my words are not “intellectually honest”.

      2. But intellectual honesty isn’t something implied or accepted on faith – it’s something whose presence or absence we ascertain by applying logical or critical reasoning. Vince’s accusation is that the reasoning you make in your article is false or incomplete, and this is the source of his charge of dishonesty. It’s something he explains – showing his own reasoning – in the post he made on the twenty third, at nine fifty-three.

        We don’t just have to deal in beliefs and assertions and assumptions. We can judge an argument by whether it hangs together logically. Vince’s accusation hinges on your misapplication of logic, and it seems a pertinent point for discussion.

      3. On the other hand, what is the likelihood that any further explanation of mine will be accepted as “hanging together logically”, if the intro to the discussion is about (intellectual?) dishonesty?

        Why should I waste any time in explaining myself further, as if I were to “defend” my argument? I have participated to a large number of flamewars, thank you very much. We are all free to draw our own conclusions, and free to think whatever we like to think.

        And whoever doesn’t understand why I wrote what I wrote, and charges up with accusations of dishonesty of any kind, well, he or she won’t inspire me in explaining myself at all.

      4. Well, okay. We’ve arrived at an impasse fairly quickly, so I won’t harass you much longer. We’re each free to believe whatever we choose, but logic isn’t a relativistic tool, and the assertions it aims to make are absolute and verifiable. It’s something valuable, and worth defending when we see it misapplied.

        If someone challenges our arguments on logical grounds, we have a few options. We can refine or explain our arguments so that they are more likely to convince; we can take the challenge as a springboard for reflection, and change our beliefs accordingly; or we can close up, and refuse to talk any more.

        If an argument’s worth making, then it’s worth defending, regardless of whatever umbrage we might take at being challenged. But the defense is only worth making if you make it properly.

      5. thank you Joseph. You know what, I might as well explain myself further after your comment (later though, there’s not enough time at the moment).

        I don’t mind being challenged really (otherwise I’d heavily censor all comments). I do mind wasting my time with people that won’t ever agree with me in principle. One way they can be identified, is when they attack my honesty (I have plenty of experience with chemtrailers and creationists…).

        “The defense is only worth making if you make it properly” and if it has any chance to make a difference.

  2. The conjecture fallacy is an observation about probability of two or more evens. Cited here, the author incorrectly cites this in order to undermine a conclusion based on relative frequency of outcomes. The original author asserts a higher likelihood of a common underlying cause based on a global occurrence of the phenomenon of de-glaciation while acknowledging the contibutions of other factors. The conjecture fallacy is irrelevant and used to cloud the scientific argument unjustifiably.

    Proof by example is inappropriate as no assertion of any proof is made. Again the writer of this blog uses words as a smokescreen to obfuscate the debate without real justification.

    Fallacy of a single cause is cited when the extract itself acknowledges the multiple drivers at work. It is used as a tool to intellectually undermine perfectly reasonable conclusions and is a fine example of the non-scientific attacking science without the need to produce evidence. It is dishonest and reflects poorly on the writer here.

    1. Vince – I am impressed by two achievements of yours. First of all you manage to pontificate about my text in total disregard of the direct quotes I have used.

      Secondly, you manage to draw conclusions about the honesty of a stranger’s reasoning. Congratulations and good luck with your fellow True Believers.

      1. Thanks for this reply.

        You have laid three charges against the conclusion without expanding your reasoning. You make no reference to the direct quotes you have used yourself, only arrange the text to imply fallacy. A clever device, but ultimately, having cast doubt by reference to wikipedia I would really like to see your substantiation of these accusations.

        The very reason I draw conclusion about the honesty of your reasoning is because it is not fully explained but achieves much damage by the way it is written. It requires more than pretty words to destroy a scientific conclusion. I clearly see someone at work here who has a position to maintain and a capacity to make words work.

        Have I stated anywhere what my belief is. I am a skeptic. I do not take anything as read. This outraged me by the way it was written. Are you Omnologos substantia or insubstantia?

        I’m sorry, what you have inferred requires further clarification.

      2. What is the point of discussing if honesty is not implied? Whatever I am going to say, you will always have the escape route of claiming my words are not honest…

      3. and yes you are a True Believer – because you believe you possess enough of the truth to establish when somebody’s honest or not

      4. I do not doubt your honesty, I will rephrase my view of what you have done in this article. It is my belief that none of the three charges, the conjunction fallacy, proof by example or fallacy of the single cause can be applied against the stated conclusions. The prerequisites for their invocation do not truly exist in the quote you have used from Mr Thompson work. In saying that, I firmly believe you either explain in more detail your own reasoning, or you withdraw the article from your blog.

      5. You assertion that I am a true believer is rather odd. I am questioning your reasoning, not establishing truths. We are both in a position of not knowing the truth.

        Climate change isn’t a relativistic concept. Truth can only be extrapolated from the evidence in terms of probabilities. To attempt to undermine evidence in the manner you attempt here is wrong. As a journalist you have the power to influence, I would hope you use that power more responsibly and with greater oversight than you have here.

  3. George – careful about what you suggest 😎

    Why’s that — you’re not a nuclear energy opponent are you?

    I’m moderately sceptical on AGW, but I think “anti-nuclear power” is at least as bad as “AGW alarmist”. Even if AGW is a hoax there are plenty of good reasons to ditch fossil fuels for nuclear power (noxious pollution from coal, despotic oil rentier states, oil wars and ultimately Peak Oil).

    Of course I regard anyone who is both anti-nuclear power AND an AGW alarmist as an out-and-out enemy of humanity >:(

    1. I am not fully convinced on the future of nuclear power, rather than the present. But my comment was about your “suggestion” about “martial law”…

      I am sure there’s people thinking about that already, if only to protect the world from us grandchildren-betting skeptics..

      1. Are you worried about “peak uranium”? Don’t be — it’s a hoax cooked up by Storm van der Leeuwen (Club of Rome member). His “study” includes several deliberate mistakes:

        1. No breeder reactors (either U238-Pu239 or Th232-U233)
        2. No natural-uranium reactors (Candu, Magnox)
        3. Use of obsolete gaseous diffusion for uranium enrichment rather than centrifuges (which use only one percent as much energy)
        4. Massive overestimation of the amount of energy needed to extract uranium from low-grade ores.

      2. Thanks. I am actually going to a lecture on nuclear power on Thursday…if there’s anything worthwhile reporting, I will

      3. I am sure there’s people thinking about that already, if only to protect the world from us grandchildren-betting skeptics..

        I don’t really have a problem with this attitude. What I have a problem with is the way that climate campaigners always think the answer is to use less energy, rather than to switch to alternative energy sources not based upon combustion. (I support nuclear because so far it seems to be the only way to produce enough energy for our civilization by non-combustion means.)

      4. You don’t have a problem with martial law?

        Not if it’s necessary to counter a genuinely overwhelming threat, and provided that the policies of those wielding the instruments of coercion would not have consequences even worse than those posed by the threat itself.

        I only have a problem with Stalin’s “Not a step back!” order in so far as this might have hurt the Red Army’s fighting chances by allowing units to be encircled. Morally, it was fully justified in the face of genocidal Nazi aggression.

        If the threat of catastrophic AGW was genuine, then a Stalinesque policy of forced nuclearization (to break the back of clueless anti-nuclear activists and greedy fossil-fuel vested interests) would be justified. Forcing society to massively reduce its collective energy usage would not be justified, as its consequences would probably be just as lethal as those threatened by AGW itself.

  4. Maurizio – my recent comment for Wayne appears to have jumped back in time on the list – it’s never happened before but I’d hate for Wayne to miss it.

  5. Wow Wayne’s World or what. I’m reluctant to participate in a discussion with someone who puts the word science in capitals but let’s begin with just one of his comments:

    “300,000 a year are already dying because of in action – but lets face it they are brown and not you family so why the hell would you care?”

    Ignoring the implied racism, let’s pop Wayne’s delusion very quickly – 300,000 represents a doubling of the WHOs 150,000 figure which itself is simply an assumption that a small percentage of the current rate of deaths from a variety of causes can be linked to climate change. In context the 300,000 is (twice) 0.5 or 0.6% of the total number of deaths in developing countries. This contrasts with 1.1 and 2% (of males and females respectively) dying from being overweight, for example, over 600,000 dying of iron deficiency and another 1.9 million from blood pressure. Such inconvenient facts will not sway “our Wayne” but if he wants to learn more about this specific spurious number he might want to watch:


    Finally, Wayne did you know they’ve removed the word “gullible” from the dictionary?

    BTW Realclimate is running in WordPress – I think Wayne might be onto something here!

  6. Great post as always, and terrific commentary (!) I never realised, for instance, that WordPress was part of an evil, Exxon-funded conspiracy – UNTIL NOW.

    Kilimanjaro appears to be one of those memes that never seem to die out completely – drowning polar bears and the whole Hockey Stick thing being other prominent examples.

  7. Hey Wayne, Mommy’s calling. Your cookies and milk are ready so come on up out of the basement now.

    Really, these climate trolls are just too cute. They continue to fly in the face of the actual data again and again.

    Hey Wayne, please explain the absense of the Mid-Tropospheric Hot Spot? Hmmm? It is the pivot point of the whole AGW/CO2 Greenhouse model. No one has been able to find it. Hmmmm, very curious. Unless, of course, it’s all a bunch of bunkum. No-o-o-o…. do ya think…. maybe??? [/sarc]

  8. Wayne, put down the Kool-Aid! The burden of proving that man is responsible for global warming is on those making the claim. If you want to claim that man is responsible then show your empirical proof.

    The hockey sticks, Mann’s MBH98 and Briffa et al and the rest have been thoroughly debunked. Al Gore’s big Vostock ice core graph shows, as do all the others, that temperatures rose first and CO2 followed at least 800 years later. Temperature changes affect CO2 levels, not the other way around. GCM models have never accurately predicted the climate. These are the same models that were use by major financial institutions who said that credit default swaps were a great way to go. The models were wrong and we have experienced a tremendous financial crisis. If a GCM model was right all the others would have been discarded or they would all be in agreement. The global warming scam is nothing but a power grab by the far left.

    Wayne show me the empirical evidence. Put up or shut up, unless you enjoy embarrassing yourself!

  9. Wayne apparently mistakes this blog with RealClimate or many of the other AGW blogs that censor their comments. And as long as he’s pushing books, I’d recommend he read Peter Taylor’s Chill.

    1. AhmNee – Wayne is not the first one coming to one of my blogs with the expressed intent of getting himself censored.

      Truly there’s strange, strange people out there…

  10. Ah just noticed…

    You were coming over as completely insane but then I realized, you and wattsupwiththat have EXACTLY the same fonts spacing, layout and back engines. Hmmmm

    I’m guessing the reason you can’t be honest is because YOU ARE BEING PAID NOT TO BE! Watts is linked to the Heartland Institute a notorious denialist Exxon funded think tank…

    You are not as I was beginning to believe insane but instead VERY VERY VERY evil.

    Quick take down this post before anyone notices…

    1. The idea that someone who believes in an imminent danger of climate catastrophe would deny it for mere money is ludicrous! After all, what good is Exxon money if there is no planet on which to spend it?

  11. Interesting comment by Georg Kaser of the University of Innsbruck that Thompson’s dating of the ice may be off. Apparently there is not enough organic matter to get C-14 dating.

    “The lead author of the study, Lonnie G. Thompson, a glaciologist at Ohio State University, has concluded that the melting of recent years is unique. In 2000 he extracted deep cylinders of ice from Kilimanjaro’s glaciers and found that the higher layers were full of elongated bubbles — signs that melting and refreezing had occurred in recent years. There was no presence of the bubbles in the deeper layers of the cores, Dr. Thompson said. If his dating of the ice core layers is accurate, surface melting like that seen in recent years has not occurred over the last 11,700 years.

    “But Georg Kaser, a glaciologist at the Institute for Geography of the University of Innsbruck in Austria, said that the ice measured was only a few hundred years old and that it had come and gone over centuries.

    “What is more, he suggested that the recent melting had more to do with a decline in moisture levels than with a warming atmosphere.”

  12. See if you are bigoted this makes perfect sense, if however you were gifted with even the slightest compliment of objectivity it falls to pieces.

    ****** Is the Kilimanjaro losing ice because of man-made global warming? Now, that would be a challenging thing to properly demonstrate (never mind it would run against the gist of the IPCC work for example, where no particular weather-related occurrence can be attributed to “Global Warming”, let alone of the anthropogenic variety). ********

    Yeah VERY weaselly words. First no particular weather related event can be attributed but also no particular event CAN’T be attributed. See something like Katrina cannot definitely be attributed to global warming but those denying a link ALSO cant say there isn’t. This is VERY different from your claims.

    An then there is the silly nonsense about Kilimanjaro. Now there is some debate about the cause. Therefore by you bonkers assertin I take it CO2 does not absorb long wave radiation and adding more will not increase temperatures and melt ice? Will you just say that for the record.

    You have also done that typical denialist thing of picking a single example to TRY to represent the broad sweep of what is being said. Now Gore ((I am almost certain this is the man you got this focus from) used VARIOUS examples to try to make a GENERAL point abut melting glaciers. But you are DELIBERATELY? taking what you consider to be one of the weak points to try to demolish a much bigger arument. Gore’s point was that galaciers are melting – you are claiming 1 that’s 1 out of many thousands of glaciers MIGHT have an alternative cause for its melting. SO because of this are you saying the overwhelming majority of the glaciers are not melting?


    And Asia has nothing to fear from losing its melt water? Or are the lives of BILLIONS inconsequential to you?

    Basically this is the same framing as that for the polar bear. Millions of species threatened by global warming but focus on the polar bear, cast doubt and hope that the rest can then be taken to extinction – rather than making a 1-3% change in life style – SHAMELESS…

    And yes I am expecting this devastating post to be removed – after all it’s not about truth is is?

      1. Yes Gore. The focus on Kilimanjaro is because of Gore. Thomson would be known by next to no one in the general public – and lets face it this blog is here to confuse the public not to influence the science (or as I have said before he would collect data and publish).

        So if Gore hadn’t put Kilimanjaro in ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ I doubt very much this article would be on this site…

        Oh, and yet again, you could have looked at THE BROAD SWEEP of what I said and and realised that I am right. But no you nit picked a TINY peripheral point and hoped the rest would just go away.

        See right wingers DESPERATELY need to get some information about the bias built into the human mind. Try ‘A Mind of it’s own’ by Cordellia Fine – it will shake up your biases…

      2. Wayne – Are you sure you are not mixing things up with some other blog? The focus is on Kilimanjaro because Thompson et al wrote a paper on Kilimanjaro. All the quotes are from Thompson or from the paper.

      3. No I am not getting confused. And I am getting suspicious that you are feigning ignorance. Are you in all honesty claiming that this blog does not have the aim of disproving AGW? I mean really?

        So, it really is just about Thomson and no larger consequences should be drawn from this? That is what you are claiming? So lets test this? Could you just say then that Gores movie is right about glaciers? – That the glaciers around the world are melting – most likely because of rising temperatures cause by man made CO2 and that if this continues that water shortages will affect billions…

      4. Yes and it is VERY obvious this is just a VERY manipulative way of holding on to a do nothing let the world fry position. So tell me if – as is predicted by the latest studies, the Earth warms by 4oC over the next 50-100 years, with 1/3 covered with desert, 1/2 in severe drought – how the hell is this a good thing we can adapt to?

        How many people on this planet who study the science agree that that level of devastation is a good thing?

        How the hell is an anoxic ocean a good thing? How the hell is having the amazon burn down a good thing? The coral reefs destroyed – hundreds of millions rely on these alone. How the hell is having 10-100’s of millions displaced by rising seas a good thing? What are you going to breath when the rise in hydrogen sulphide poisons the air and destroys the ozone layer? ALL of Africa, India, China and most of the US will be uninhabitable – this would be just peachy on you planet I bet. Wars to drarf the secondworld war will break out, armed gangs dominate within countries, dictatorial govenments – even canibalism brough on by starvation.

        There is even the threat of releasing methane hydrates over the next few centuries that blanket the atmosphere with methane and comust whith lightening creating thermobaric explosions (like the MOAB – mother of all bombs used in Iraq) with a total explosive firepower of 10,000 time the worlds nuclear arsenal – but that woild be fine I’m betting?

        Between 1.4-2.4oC (it is not possible to stop the rise to 2.4oC BTW – we are already that far gone because of people like you that want 100% certainty or nothing) we lose between 17-35% of all the species on the planet – now back around 1998 a study was done to see how much ecoservices provided. At the time global GDP was $18 Trillion and the benefits from the stuff that nature does for us totaled $30 Trillion – 1.5 times global GDP at the time – now above 4oC we are expected to lose 40-70% of life forms – HOW THE HELL CAN YOU WITH ANYTHING RESEMBLING A CONSCIENCE JUSTIFY THIS BIGOTED DENIAL?

        The SCIENCE is against you. The SCIENTIFIC INSTITUTIONS are against you. The CLIMATOLOGISTS are against you – the reports like IPCC and Stern review are against you (just making up stuff and not wanting it to be true is looney tunes) yet you know better than all these? I mean what planet do you come from? Really?

        300,000 a year are already dying because of in action – but lets face it they are brown and not you family so why the hell would you care?

        Now I came to this site because I was arguing with someone else and they had a link to here – I am disgusted with what you are doing – THIS IS NOT A GAME!

        We live on a finite planet – you should be giving up 80% of your consumption (if you live in the US) to save the world (this is in spite of the global warming threat). The costs to you of fighting gloabl warming is a pittance by comparison – about 1-3% of your lifestyle.

        Can you just say for us you would rather risk the future of the biosphere (which will take between 10-100 MILLION years to recover the biodiversity after a mass extinction), have billions be killed and displaced and for TRILLIONS of people in the future to live in an impoverished world rather than change your lifestyle by 1-3% – Go on stop with all the cowardly worming – say it for us to hear…

      5. So again you run away?

        See you are basically dishonest. If you have read any of the latest SCIENCE you would know the utter mess we are in.

        I’m happy to supply references if you like – but the appalingly lazy replies from your side would indicate you are not the sort of person who checks things.

        But out of curiosity one of the MINOR extinction events was the Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum 55 million years ago – wouldn’t like to explain how that came about eh? And tell why today is different…

      6. Another thing I wouldn’t do, if I believed all that, is to run around like a headless and very insulting chicken with the underlying goal of irritating all the unconvinced. Are you trying to save the planet, or score lowbrow “points”?

      7. Wayne – Thank you for understanding the point about not wasting time. And I really appreciate your effort at finding something not yet in the list. Now…could you please post the insults in alphabetical order?

      8. Ah just noticed…

        You were coming over as completely insane but then I realized, you and wattsupwiththat have EXACTLY the same fonts spacing, layout and back engines. Hmmmm

        I’m guessing the reason you can’t be honest is because YOU ARE BEING PAID NOT TO BE! Watts is linked to the Heartland Institute a notorious denialist Exxon funded think tank…

        You are not as I was beginning to believe insane but instead VERY VERY VERY evil.

        Quick take down this post before anyone notices…

      9. Wayne – you are disappointing me – the peculiar inanity of this contribution of yours might go a long way explaining why you found a whole book such a shaking experience

        WordPress.com is a free blog hosting service and I guess I share lots of the underlying code with Watts and a few tens of millions other people if not more

      10. I’m sorry, Sir. But more and more the science is against … you. The latest science is showing that the latest trend in warming has been majorly influenced by oceanic temperature cycles and solar cycles. The IPCC has even been adjusting their stance to show that natural variability has had a greater role than was before thought.

        There has been no appreciable warming for nearly a decade and the major oceanic cycles are predicting we could slip into a period of global cooling will last for at least the next decade.

        The oceanic rise has been steady since the little ice age period between 1400 and 1700 and the glacial melt has been at a record low since, I believe it was, 2007.

        I’m sorry, Wayne. Your predictions of devastation are unwarranted and unjustifiable. And you soap boxing is, in my estimation, unfortunate attention seeking.

        Thanks for stopping by.

      11. We live on a finite planet – you should be giving up 80% of your consumption (if you live in the US) to save the world (this is in spite of the global warming threat). The costs to you of fighting gloabl warming is a pittance by comparison – about 1-3% of your lifestyle.

        This doesn’t compute — how can 1-3% of the average Westerner’s lifestyle be responsible for 80% of his/her energy consumption?

      12. If there’s a threat of water shortages caused by melting glaciers, why not build a brace of nuclear desalination plants?

      13. Wayne,
        So you also think that a removal of glaciers of the rocky mountains would dry up the mississippi? Because that’s what you imply with “water shortages will affect billions”. Most people live at the terminus of the biggest rivers of the world. Those major rivers a not depending on glacier melt for their runoff. Al Gore doesn’t know how hydrology of major river systems works, after all he is a politician.
        You can trust me I have a degree in geophysics and hydrology.

      14. I thought that glaciers (or to be more exact, snowfields) have an important benefit in that their melt provides year-round runoff for the rivers they feed (which precipitation may not, as rainfall is strongly seasonal in many parts of the world).

        Correct me if I’m wrong, as you’re obviously better credentialled than I am…

    1. Why is the political RHETORIC about imminent danger of climate thermageddon utterly belied by the ACTIONS of the politicians?

      Why haven’t they declared martial law and started building nuclear power plants as fast as possible (with every conceivable corner cut in the interests of speed), and with any anti-nuclear protesters who tried to stop them being simply gunned down?

      If the threat of near-term catastrophic man-made climate change was real, that would be the obvious thing to do…

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