Tag Archives: glaciers

Science Manipulation Hides Reporting And Political Failures Of The New York Times

The more I read the “As Glaciers Melt, Science Seeks Data on Rising Seas” article (NYT, Nov 13; and on the IHT on the same day, with a full page dedicated to it, and the pride of place on the first page with a giant photo next to it), the more it looks like something halfway between the first salvo in the “war on science” against the GOP and “many newly elected legislators openly skeptical about climate change“, and a call to rally to the AGW Believer Troops.

(1) Apparently, author Justin Gillis and the NYT Editors don’t mind writing more than six columns about an issue that they readily admit might not be serious at all:

The missing information makes it impossible for scientists to be sure how serious the situation is […] the researchers lack elementary information.

As the saying goes then…glacier melting is a grave problem, but not serious.

(2) One has also to question Mr Gillis scientific knowledge if there is any (if there isn’t, then it’s hard to take the article seriously at all). We are treated to pearls of wisdom such as:

Hanging out the sides of the craft, two scientists sent a measuring device plunging into the water, between ice floes. Near the bottom, it reported a temperature of 40 degrees (*). It was the latest in a string of troubling measurements showing that the water was warm enough to melt glaciers rapidly from below.

(*) that’s 40F=4.4C. On the IHT the value is reported as “just above 4C or 39F”

Well, it happens that 4C is exactly the temperature where water is at its most dense, so there is no surprise at all that 4C is measure “near the bottom”.

Note that I am not saying that the scientists involved provided manipulated information: all I am saying is that, as reported, the measured temperature is no “troubling measurement” at all. And so if there’s anything “troubling” about it, it’s been Mr Gillis’ fault not to report it properly.

(3) Another point that shows a remarkable level of naivety concerns the consequences of the projected rises in sea levels, presented throughout the article as if the seas would raise of a certain amount the world over

Abroad, some of the world’s great cities — London, Cairo, Bangkok, Venice and Shanghai among them — would be critically endangered by a three-foot rise in the sea

That is worse than absurd: the NOAA map for 1993-2010 has its reds, blues and purples, not exactly uniformity. A worldwide effort to protect coastal cities would therefore result in a giant waste of resources to say the least.

Mr Gillis’ failure to get some more meaningful statements about the risk of sea level increases from his scientists/interviewees is quite glaring, to the non-credulous eye.

(4) The list of baseless statements by Mr Gillis and his interviewees keeps growing with every new reading of the article too. For example we have a “Robin E. Bell, a scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University” saying

We’re used to the shoreline being fixed, and it’s not

Who’s used to the shoreline being fixed? The people of East Anglia? The guys and gals of the Netherlands? The city of New Orleans? Where are the remains of the ancient port-city of Ephesus (5km inland) and of much of ancient Alexandria in Egypt (underwater)?

Inches below that, it’s Mr Gillis’ turn:

But at all times in the past, when the shoreline migrated, humans either had not evolved yet or consisted of primitive bands of hunter-gatherers who could readily move. By the middle of this century, a projected nine billion people will inhabit the planet, with many millions of them living within a few feet of sea level

So we have primitive hunter-gatherers on the one side, and a worldwide technological civilization on the other…and the h-g’s win? Says who? Wouldn’t it be much more logical to consider our resource-rich global society at minimal risk from any change in sea levels?

How about previous dire predictions?

In the 1920s and ’30s, for instance, a warm spell caused many glaciers to retreat.[…] scientists say that the recent changes in Greenland appear more pervasive than those of the early 20th century, and that they are occurring at the same time that air and ocean temperatures are warming, and ice melt is accelerating, throughout much of the world.

Yeah. Right. How about “Warming Arctic Climate Melting Glaciers Faster, Raising Ocean Level, Scientist Says“. It’s vintage NYT from 1947. And “Glaciers give hints of weather change“. It’s NYT again, 1955 (article reports of five decades of retreating glaciers, no less). And here’s the link to a 1978 NYT article blaming melting glaciers for beach-side troubles in Rhode Island. Looks like there haven’t been many decades without a “Fear the Glaciers!” article on the New York Alarmist Times. And all we get is a “it’s different this time around”. Not serious, indeed…

(5) And finally for the political punch that wasn’t. Mr Gillis laments the lack of funding for glacier research (again, we can’t tell if it’s his thought, or he’s just reporting), and doesn’t shy from placing the blame:

Several federal agencies and two presidential administrations, Democratic and Republican, have made decisions that contributed to the problems.

We are then told that, as if by magic:

Now, the Obama administration is seeking to chart a new course, abandoning the goal of returning to the moon and seeking a substantial increase in financing for earth sciences. It is also promising an overall strategy for improving the country’s environmental observations.

Any thoughts on why it would have taken two years to the Obama administration to understand the situation? Any comment on how this alone would be enough to show what a giant waste of time the Cap&Trade aborted bill was, when I am sure a new “strategy for improving the country’s environmental observations” would have received enough funding quite quickly with a lot less controversy?

I guess we can’t expect as much from Mr Gillis, as that would show the NYT itself greatly at fault in having pushed so hard and for so long for Cap&Trade to pass, blinded by politicking and its desire to yell “the science is settled” whilst polar research has been “slowly going blind in space”, in the words of  “Robert Bindschadler, a polar researcher at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, who spent 30 years with NASA studying ice

English-World Exclusive: Little Wonder Some Glaciers Are Melting…

(mysteriously, this piece of very interesting news has so far only appeared in Italian)

(ANSA) – AOSTA, April 9 – City-like pollution levels on the Everest and the entire Himalayan range. That’s the conclusion of project Share – Stations at High Altitude for Research on the Environment – sponsored by the EvK2Cnr Committee and highlighted in studies published by researchers at ISAC-CNR in Bologna, Italy and Lgge-CNRS in  Grenoble, France.

All observations were taken at the Nepal Climate Observatory, a.k.a. the Italian National Research Council (CND) “Pyramid”, at an altitude of 5,079 meters on the south side of the Everest. The samples were collected in the  pre-monsoon season, when pollutants from the Asian Brown Cloud are more easily transported to the high peaks of the Himalayas. According to Angela Marinoni, ISAC researcher, pollutant levels observed in early April are already beyond the already high levels reached in previous years”.

“Black carbon is close to 6 micrograms per cubic meter”, continued Marinoni, “and PM1 (the amount of fine dust)  largely exceeded 100 micrograms per cubic meter, a value never recorded at the observatory”.

These concentrations are so high, they exceed the EU-sanctioned alarm thresholds for air quality in cities. Moreover, according to Paolo Cristofanelli, head of Share’s atmospheric activities, ”these worrying particulate concentrations are accompanied by high levels of ozone, a highly-oxidizing greenhouse gas that is formed in atmosphere in the presence of primary pollutants and solar radiation” .

Original 09/04/2010 13:45 ANSA

There Is No Evidence

From Icecap why Global Warming Clearinghouse, here’s an intro to “There is no evidence” by Dr David Evans:

Let’s break down the case for human-caused global warming logically:

1) There is plenty of evidence that global warming has been occurring recently.
2) There is ample evidence that carbon emissions causes warming and that the level of atmospheric carbon dioxide is increasing.
3) But there is no evidence that carbon dioxide emissions are the main cause of the recent global warming.

The alarmists focus you entirely on the first two points, to distract you from the third. The public is increasingly aware of this misdirection. Yes, every emitted molecule of carbon dioxide (CO2) causes some warming – but the crucial question is how much warming do the CO2 emissions cause? If atmospheric CO2 levels doubled, would temperatures rise by 0.1, 1.0, or by 10.0C?

We go through the usual “evidence” offered by alarmists, and show that in each case either it:

• Is not evidence about what causes global warming. Proof that global warming occurred is not proof that CO2 was mainly responsible.
• Is not empirical evidence; that is, it is not independent of theory. In particular models are theory, not evidence.
• Says nothing about how much the temperature would rise for a given rise in CO2 levels.

[…]  If they just had some evidence of (3) they could just tell us what it was and end the debate.

[…] Typical Alarmist Offerings of “Evidence”: Polar Bears, Glaciers, Arctic Melt, Antarctic Ice Shelves, Storms, Droughts, Fires, Malaria, Snow Melt on Mt Kilimanjaro, Rising Sea Levels, Ocean Warming, Urban Heat Island Effect. Although each of these issues may say something about whether or not global warming is or was occurring, none of them say anything about the causes of global warming. It would make no difference to these issues if the recent global warming was caused by CO2 or by aliens heating the planet with ray guns.[…] Often the assumption takes the form that nearly all the temperature rises since the start of industrialization are due to CO2 rises, or that there are no other possible significant causes of global warming.

Computer Models are Evidence
Computer models consist solely of a large number of calculations that, individually, you could do on a hand-held calculator. So models are theoretical, and cannot form part of any evidence.

Computer Models Incorporate a Lot of Sound Empirical Science
Yes they do. The climate models contain some well-established science that has been verified by empirical observations. But they also contain a myriad of:
• implicit and explicit assumptions
• omissions
• guesses
• gross approximations.

A single mistake in any one of these can invalidate the climate models. Typical engineering models that mimic reality closely contain no untested assumptions, material omissions, guesses, or gross approximations. They are the result of mature understanding of the reality being modelled, and have been tested ad nauseum in a wide range of circumstances. On the other hand, climate science is in its infancy, individual models routinely fail most tests, the climate models are riddled with untested assumptions and guesses, they approximate the atmosphere with cells a hundred kilometres square and hundreds of meters high, and they do not even attempt to model individual cloud formations or any feature smaller than the cell size. Don’t let the word “model” fool you into thinking climate models are better than they are.

"Glacier Shrinkage" Data Reveal Extent of Measurement Bias

Glaciers suffer record shrinkage” say the BBC on its front page, International version tonight. Cue mentions of millions of people in danger of being left almost without water; talks about canaries and coal mines; and appeals for an immediate “green” change of people, economies and the whole society.

Google News report an alleged 122 news articles about the same story:

The rate at which some of the world’s glaciers are melting has more than doubled, data from the United Nations Environment Programme [UNEP] has shown

So much for the news though. Let’s investigate the original source. And lo and behold, things are quite different from what has been reported.


A quick search brings one to the website for the World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS), the Zurich-based group that is actually collecting the data for the UNEP. Top news on their home page, “The preliminary mass balance data for the year 2006 is now available!“.

Why it is out now, it’s explained in the other news: “Workshop on mass balance measurements and modelling (26-28 March 2008, Skeikampen, Norway)!

WGMS say more or less what the news is reporting:

Preliminary mass balance values for the year 2006 are now available from more than 80 glaciers worldwide. The continuous mass balance statistics below are calculated based on the 30 glaciers in 9 mountain ranges*** […]

The average mass balance of the glaciers with available long-term mass balance series around the world continues to decrease, with tentative figures indicating a further thickness reduction of 1.4 m w.e. (*) during the hydrological year 2006. This continues the trend in accelerated ice loss during the past two and a half decades and brings the total loss since 1980 at more than 10.5 m w.e.

An analysis of the published data reveals something else.

First of all one minor error (positive balances occur in 5 glaciers, not 4). Then something a tad more significative: the actual reported mean thickness reduction is 1.301m, not 1.4m. The difference is around 10cm, that is 100 times the claimed resolution of 1mm.

But the biggest revelation is actually a confirmation: of the extraordinary extent of measurement bias in all things about so-called GLOBAL warming.

(1) What is the distribution for the “30 glaciers in 9 mountain ranges” included in the WGMS analysis? 20 in Europe; 4 in North America; 6 in the rest of the world. That is: 66.7% in Europe, 13.3% in North America, 20% in the rest of the world.

(2) How many glaciers are included in the full WGMS list? 111. Of those: 60.4% in Europe, 24.3% in North America, 15.3% in the rest of the world.

(3) For how many glaciers is there data for 2005/2006? 97. Of those: 66.0% in Europe, 22.7% in North America, 11.3% in the rest of the world.

(4) How are thickness reductions distributed? Of the largest 19, 18 relate to European glaciers, and only one to a North American glacier. The first glacier from the rest of the world ranks 35 out of 97.

(5) How many glaciers show a thickness reduction larger than 10cm? 88. Of those: 69.3% in Europe, 20.5% in North America, 10.2% in the rest of the world.

(6) What is the average thickness reduction in all the glaciers for which data is available? 1.142m. In particular: 1.337m for Europe, 0.865m for North America, 0.565m for the rest of the world. Surely it must be by pure chance that the official WGMS statistics use a particular set of glaciers whose average thickness reduction is larger than the whole dataset’s.


The pro-European (and pro-North American) bias is so blatant it doesn’t need any further qualification.

I have already shown how the IPCC itself may have unwittingly indicated that “Global Warming may be just European“. And now it may as well be the turn of the WGMS: for all we know, glaciers have been shrinking especially in the Northern Hemisphere temperate regions.

Is this sign of a “global” phenomenon? Who knows?

In truth, there is no meaning in speaking of “global warming” or of “global climate change” until the data are sufficiently “global“.

Let’s hope it will happen, one day…


(*) w.e.” means “water equivalent“.

Mass balance is reported in meters of water equivalent. This represents the average thickness gained (positive balance) or lost (negative balance) from the glacier during that particular year.”

Scientific Literature on Patagonian Glaciers

And so once more Global Warming has meant the publication of misleading pictures, with a wrong caption…why oh why does the mere mention of AGW force so many otherwise thoughtful and wise people to switch their brains off?

Here a “Letter to the Editors” just sent to the New York Review Of Books:

Dear Editors

Clarifications and at least one correction are required about the pictures of the Upsala Glacier in Patagonia, Argentina, “from Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth (2006)”, on the first page of Bill McKibben’s “Warning on Warming” (NYRB, March 15, 2007).

At the top, the 1928 photograph of a vast flat glacier; at the bottom, the 2004 ice-free landscape as captured from a similar vantage point as the one 76 years earlier (at least two peaks are clearly distinguishable).

I was surprised indeed to see the New York Review of Books reproduce without much commentary and with a wrong caption a couple of photographs that may turn out to be exceedingly misleading.


First of all: the caption is wrong. Contrarily to the published text, it is _not true_ that by 2004, “most of the glacier had melted“.

Upsala Glacier still occupies well in excess of 850 sq km (330+ sq mi), an area vastly larger than the one covered by the photographs.

You can see pictures of Upsala taken from the Space Shuttle in January 2004 at the NASA website.

A discussion of the situation 2001-2004 is available on the same site.



If one could rely on photographs alone, those of Upsala could be the definitive, final, closing, incontrovertible evidence that something has warmed up during the XX century, at least at the location of the Upsala Glacier.

Pictures, however, are not everything, as any modern consumer must have learnt one way or another by now.

Do some little research about Upsala, in fact, and more than one doubt arises about the glacier’s changes having not been mostly caused by warming, global or local or otherwise.

They may be the result instead of the behavior of a large glacier when subjected to particular mechanical stresses.

See for example “Historic Fluctuations of Outlet Glaciers from the Patagonian Ice Fields” at the USGS web site.

That web site reports a picture from “Thinning and retreating of Glaciar Upsala, and an estimate of annual ablation changes in southern Patagonia“, by R. Naruse, P. Skvarca and Y. Takeuchi (Annals of Glaciology, Vol. 24, 1997).

In that paper, it is suggested that “considerable retreat due to calving may have resulted in reduction of longitudinal compressive stress exerted from bedrock rises and islands near the glacier front, causing a considerable decrease in the emergence flow.”

R. Naruse repeated similar considerations at the 2nd International Symposium on Arctic and Antarctic Issues, at Punta Arenas, Chile, in November 1998 (“Dynamic features of glaciers in Patagonia“).

More recently, in “Recent behavior of Glaciar Upsala, a fast-flowing calving glacier in Lago Argentino, southern Patagonia” (Annals of Glaciology, 36, 2003), P. Skvarca, B. Raup and H. De Angelis proposed again that “drastic glacier retreat in the last two decades” may be explained “partly due to the release of back stress when the glacier retreated beyond the islands in Brazo Upsala […] which acted as pinning points.”

You can also read an earlier paper by Mr Skvarca: “Significant Ice Retreat in the Region Patagonia – Antarctic Peninsula Observed by ERS SAR” (ESA ERS 1997 Workshop, 1997) by H. Rott, W. Rack, M. Stuefer and P. Skvarca:

It cannot yet be assessed if the ice retreat in Patagonia […] indicates just regional changes of the atmospheric circulation patterns or can be assigned to global climatic change.”

Last but not least, Upsala is not the only glacier in Patagonia.

Surely if the dramatic retreat of Upsala were related to global warming, all the other glaciers would be retreating too? And yet that is clearly not the case.

Read “Recent Fluctuations and Damming of Glacier Perito Moreno, Patagonia” by H. Rott, M. Stuefer, T. Nagler and C. Riedl (ESA Envisat and ERS 2004 Symposium):

The satellite data, in synergy with field measurements, confirm the stability of the [Perito Moreno] glacier, showing only minor front fluctuations and indicating an approximately balanced mass budget since many years.”

Furthermore, they report the Pio XI glacier as having experienced a “net advance of about 10 km […] from 1945 to 1995“.


Some revealing considerations should be made about Perito Moreno glacier indeed, the advancing glacier whose pictures have been used by Frank Capra in 1958 and by Al Gore in 2006 to demonstrate the retreat of glaciers due to global warming: but those will have to wait for a future article or letter.

For the time being, I am confident the above makes the main points clear:

(1) Most of the Upsala glacier has not melted.

(2) The Upsala glacier 1928-2004 pictures can only be seriously understood with an in-depth commentary of what is being shown, including “what lies beneath”.

And there are all the indications that the local characteristics of the terrain, rather than “Global Warming”, have had a major role in what has been happening.


Given the reputation of the New York Review of Books then, I will be expecting a prompt publication of this letter and of all the necessary explanations.

Keep up the good work


Maurizio Morabito

UPDATE: The NYRB went only as far as admitting the caption was wrong (read it here)…

How to Be Right About the Climate: Always!

Vincenzo Ferrara, the scientist advising the Italian Environment Minister on Climate Changes, explains how to become a famous Climatologist in a 1982 article (“(”Rivista di Meteorologia Aeronautica”, Vol XLII n. 1, Jan-Mar 1982).

The following is an abridged translation:

If you are a climatologist and you want to survive as a climatologist, perhaps even increasing your reputation, all you have to do is provide the exact diagnosis and prognosis that people expect.

To the question “Is the climate changing?“, by all means, never, ever reply “No, everything’s normal“, or “It’s just fakery pumped up by newspapers and on television“: because people would unanimously conclude that you understand nothing about metereology, and nothing about climate.

It would be the end of your career.

The only sensible answer is: “Of course it is changing! It’s a well-known fact, scientifically confirmed and one that none cannot argue against“. You can then launch yourself in forecasting for the next hundred years a climate identical to the current one, amplifying the latest phenomena to extreme consequences.

If it is cold you’ll therefore predict “ice ages“, if it’s warm a “torrid period“, and if there are signs of strong variability “short-term climatic extremes” and more-or-less the same climate in the long term.

You may be wondering, how can a serious climatologist provide impossible, mutually-excluding forecasts without looking silly? Fear not: science will provide all the support needed.

Because climatology has already thought of everything and will supply the right solution in every circumstance, even in the most hopeless cases.

So if it is cold, here’s what you will have to say: “The climate is changing and we are approaching an Ice Age.

This fact has already been scientifically assessed because since 1940, the average temperature of the northern hemisphere has diminished by approximately 0,4°C, probably because of a decrease in atmospheric transparency due to air pollution.

The cooling of the air causes an increase in the extension of glaciers and of snow fields, furthering lowering temperatures with their highly reflecting (high albedo) surfaces. Glaciers therefore increase even more, in a positive feedback that will bring us to a new Ice Age in a hundred years or even less“.

What if it is warm? Then the discourse becomes: “The climate is changing and we are approaching a Torrid Age.

This fact has already been scientifically assessed because since 1850 the carbon dioxide content in the atmosphere has progressively increased and just in the last twenty years has gone from 315 to 334 parts for million. That means that in 2020 the accumulation of carbon dioxide will have more than doubled, taking into account the continuously increasing energy demands and consumption of fossil fuels.

The increase of carbon dioxide reduces the Earth’s long-wave emissions to space (greenhouse effect) so within half a century the average air temperature will increase by approximately 2 or 3°C; the polar ice will dissolve and a sizeable sea level increase will submerge several coastal cities“.

This can inspire a new version of an old joke:

An atmospheric physicist, a metereologist and a famous climatologist are interviewed for a position as climatologist. The atmospheric physicist is asked: “What do you predict for the climate next year?” and proceeds to answer: “I am not sure, but give me a supercomputer and I will set up the calculations for a rough forecast“. It’s now the metereologist’s turn, and the answer is: “I am not sure, but provide me with the seasonal charts and the observations from previous years, I will set up the calculations in order for a rough forecast“.

The famous climatologist is finally asked “What do you predict for the climate next year?“. To that, the answer is “Whatever you want me to predict…“.