"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.”

Global Warming and the Apollo Moon Hoax

(these are my responses to a blog first published on LiveScience by Robert Roy Britt about a year ago, and that I have “rediscovered” today. RRB clumsily tried to put all global warming skeptics together with the Apollo-is-a-hoax people: sort of the lowest of the low in scientific circles. I have put out a series of challenges at the time, all of them still unmet.)

February 2nd, 2007 at 8:26 am

How about this for logical fallacy: the Apollo mission are historical events, global warming is a forecast (i.e.: it is about the future).

Shame to the scientific mind that is not skeptical of the future!

I am also aghast at your sudden penchant to follow “governments”. From a scientific point of view, who cares what governments have to say about astronomy or particle physics or biology or chemistry or or or?

One wonders what you had to say about Kansas politics deciding the scientific merits of Evolution and intelligent design

So unless you are going to rename this website “LivePolitics”, please do try again at making an intelligent point on climate change

February 6th, 2007 at 5:32 am

I am satistied to see that nobody has picked up the challenge of explaining why, if the evidence of climate change is so unquestionable, we had to get 113 governments approve the first IPCC report after 4 days behind closed doors.

Too bad we have to wait now several months to get to see such “evidence”. One of the few things we have for certain is that, whilst a large number of hurricane experts signed a statement saying there is no definite link between climate change and hurricanes, the IPCC did not think that worthwhile of consideration

Also, nobody has explicitly defended the absurd comparison of climate change skeptics to Moon hoaxers.

What would IPCC supporters say about the lack of difference between Intelligent Design (”there is a God as there are things we cannot explain in biology”) with Anthropogenic Climate Change (”there is human-induced climate change as we cannot explain our data with known mechanisms”)?

Here’s a more serious challenge: find a weather pattern that has changed IN_THE_RECENT_PAST anywhere in the world due to climate change. Rain bands, prevailing winds, weather fronts’ paths, anything would do really.

Now, that would finally give climate change some historical evidence…

Happy hunting!

March 5th, 2008 at 12:07 pm

Just to report that when the evidence did come out (IPCC Fourth Assessment Report – Working Group 2 (AR4-WG2), Chapter 1), we’ve learnt that 96% of the reported changes concern just the continent of Europe.

Actually, there are twice as many European changes incompatible with warming, than worldwide changes compatible with it.

Europe, by the way, occupies just 2% of the Earth’s surface.

The “whole picture” on global warming is unbelievably far from complete. Why don’t the IPCC and climate and environmental scientists push for a truly planet-wide assessment?

ps no, the results of a model cannot be used as “evidence”.

Skeptics Society: How Broadcast Journalism Is Flawed

I have already exposed in the recent past the obvious bias in global warming reporting by publicly-funded BBC.

Around very similar notes, but with a much much wider outlook, the Skeptics Society has now published a very interesting essay by investigative and feature journalist Steve Salerno, titled

How broadcast journalism is flawed
in such a fundamental way that its utility as a tool for informing viewers is almost nil.

It exposes broadcast journalism as reporter-of-nothing, when not creating panic out of that same nothingness. And it is especially critical of “campaign journalism”.

A couple of quotes:

In truth, today’s system of news delivery is an enterprise whose procedures, protocols, and underlying assumptions all but guarantee that it cannot succeed at its self described mission. Broadcast journalism in particular is flawed in such a fundamental way that its utility as a tool for illuminating life, let alone interpreting it, is almost nil.

You’re in Pulitzer territory for writing about something that — essentially — never happens.

In upcoming blogs I will return to parts of this essay that may be used to explain pretty much all the Climate Change scares that have ever (not) happened.

For now I strongly recommend reading it in full.

China and the BBC Warming Bias

Shameless self-promotion of my “China and the BBC Warming Bias” blog over at the “Omniclimate – The Unbearable Nakedness of CLIMATE CHANGE” site, in which I compare the BBC attitude towards reporting heatwaves vs snowstorms.

Very shortly:

July 2002: Chinese heatwave is caused by “the increase in vehicles on the roads, which raise street temperatures

One year ago: Warm, dry weather in north China “linked to climate change“ (page is chock-full of climate change links)

Today: “China is struggling to cope with its worst snowfall in decades” (not one climate change link in sight)

They didn’t even care to mention that severe snowstorms have affected the very areas that were experiencing “climate-change-related” drought last year…

For more thoughts on the AGW bias at the BBC:




China and the BBC Warming Bias

(here and here and here some more thoughts on the all-too-apparent bias at the BBC towards global warming and doom-and-gloom news in general)

There is almost no need to comment the following at all…

(1) Almost six years ago
BBC News – Wednesday, 17 July, 2002, 07:53 GMT 08:53 UK
Seven die in Chinese heat wave

[…] The heat has intensified in recent years as a result of the increase in vehicles on the roads, which raise street temperatures.

(2) One year ago
BBC News – Tuesday, 6 February 2007, 12:34 GMT
Climate change ‘affecting’ China – Unseasonably warm weather in north China has been linked to climate change
(page is chock-full of climate change links)

At least 300,000 people in north-west China are short of drinking water because of unseasonably warm weather, which officials link to climate change. Parts of Shaanxi province face drought after January saw as little as 10% of average rainfall, state media say. Frozen lakes are melting and trees are blossoming in the capital Beijing as it experiences its warmest winter for 30 years, the China Daily reported.
[…] The country’s top meteorologist, Qin Dahe, said the recent dry and warm weather in northern China was related to global warming. […]

(3) January 2008
BBC News – Thursday, 31 January 2008, 13:53 GMT
Food warnings amid China freeze – Millions of people have been affected by the severe snow
(not one climate change link in sight)

China is struggling to cope with its worst snowfall in decades, with officials warning of future food shortages as winter crops are wrecked.[…]
Dozens are thought to have died as much of the country endures one of its harshest winters for half a century.

How many people died in the 2007 heatwave? Perhaps…zero.

(4) How about Shaanxi? Sadly, no space for it this year on the BBC (at least, so far). Here’s what is happening though:
rediff – January 30, 2008
Snowstorms paralyse China

[…] In northwestern Shaanxi province alone, 1,200 people were reportedly ill or injured in snow-related incidents […]

UPDATE: This particular post has become quite popular having been linked from “Biased BBC”

January Warmth Weakens BBC Meteorologist's Logical Skills

How many times have we been told that “weather” is not “climate”, that a heatwave or a cold front or heavy winds or hurricanes or the lack thereof, can say absolutely nothing about the state of the global climate?

Lo and behold, here comes the BBC’s John Hammond in the current “Monthly Outlook” for the UK:

The predominance of south or southwesterly winds kept temperatures at or above average in many parts in the early days of 2007. This theme looks set to continue for a greater part of the next month.
This comes on the back of recently released figures for 2007, which showed that on a global level 2007 was the seventh warmest on record since 1850.

Should it really be necessary to tell a meteorologist that if local above-average temperatures are due to “south/southwesterly winds” THEN the only way to connect the temperatures to global warming would be by demonstrating a link between those winds, and that warming?

Furthermore: the Hadley Centre has not published yet the final figures for 2007. Data so far show sea-surface temperatures for 2007 to be the 9th on record, globally (the southern oceans have actually recorded in December the coolest value in 13 years).

UPDATE JAN 26: HadCRUT data now available up to December 2007

Ban Ki-Moon’s Remarks on Chilean Children

In “Alarming UN report on climate change too rosy, many say” (IHT, Nov 18) Elisabeth Rosenthal and James Kanter report that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has “described […] children in Chile having to wear protective clothing because an ozone hole was letting in so much ultraviolet radiation.

Is that actually happening in Chile?

I have not been able to find any evidence supporting such a strong statement.

(1) Pubmed through keywords “chile”, “ultraviolet” and “children” shows an article by Aranibar et al [Association between sunburn in children and ultraviolet radiation and ozone layer, during six summers (1996-2001) in Santiago, Chile (33,5 degrees S)] Rev Med Chil. 2003 Sep;131(9):1011-22.

I cannot find the original article, but the abstract seems to report that the behaviour of children 6-10 is at risk of sunburn (hardly world-shattering).

(2) From that article I was able to find more relevant stuff. There is one by Abarca JF, Casiccia CC., “Skin cancer and ultraviolet-B radiation under the Antarctic ozone hole: southern Chile, 1987-2000. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed. 2002 Dec;18(6):294-302.

It reports that people of whiter skin may suffer in Punta Arenas due to repeated exposure, and increased rates of skin cancer may be occurring, and recommends further research.

(3) Another related article is by Abarca JF, Casiccia CC, Zamorano FD., “Increase in sunburns and photosensitivity disorders at the edge of the Antarctic ozone hole, southern Chile, 1986-2000”, J Am Acad Dermatol. 2002 Feb;46(2):193-9.

It indicates the worries but lists no actual skin cancer data.

(4) Then of course there is Molgó M et al, [Sun exposure behaviors and knowledge among Chileans] Rev Med Chil. 2005 Jun;133(6):662-6. Epub 2005 Jul 22. In Spanish.

It’s a survey and reports risky behaviours. Once again, no data on Skin Cancer.

(5) I then visited the website for CONAC, the Chilean ONG about Cancers. The pages of the National Network of Ultraviolet Medicine mention a prevalence of 10/100,000 among Chileans for skin cancer

(6) As a comparison, in England the prevalence among Europeans is 13/100,000

(7) “Environmental Journalist” Stephen Lehay writes a year ago that “Ailments Surge as Ozone Hole Widens” indicating that “Diagnoses of malignant melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer, have doubled in recent years, leading Chilean health authorities to recommend avoiding direct exposure to the sun between 11:00am and 5:00pm, and especially to protect children”.

No sources and no absolute values are reported for this information.

(8) The same Lehay writes a couple of months ago “Skin Cancer Rising Despite New Ozone Deal to Cut CO2 Emissions” making a controversial connection betweeen skin cancer rates in the USA and a “crippled” ozone layer.

Being an environmental article (here in full) it can’t help predicting soaring numbers of cancer victims by 2060


In conclusion:

(a) Peer-reviewed work has not find much interest in Chilean children, or better yet in any Chilean skin cancer.

(b) At best, CONAC (the Chilean ONG on Cancer) is recommending protection in the middle of the day, but that is good advice the world over especially in summer, and nothing special about Chile.

Either children in South America are risking their lives as we speak among a global indifference, or the UN Secretary General has “sexed up” the truth.

One wonders.

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…“.

Climate Supremacists Cannot Tolerate Any Dissent

I have just stumbled into two examples of all that is wrong with Climate Supremacists’ mindset of impending doom by climate change/global warming: their absolute inability to tolerate any form of dissent, however mild.

First, have a look at Bill McKibben’s review of Bjorn Lomborg’s new book “Cool It: The Skeptical Environmentalist’s Guide to Global Warming” (The New York Review of Books, October 11, 2007).

McKibben’s review is a series of invectives against Lomborg, with ample space dedicated to denigratory remarks and the one, solitary invite to visit www.lomborg.com to read anything positive about the Danish author.

I simply cannot remember any article of comparable vitriol on the NYRB during the past 2 years at least. Evidently McKibben holds some grudge against Lomborg: from the former’s remarks, it is apparent that the issue is Lomborg’s questioning of the received wisdom of having to be very, very worried about the evolution of the world’s climate.

It is important to note that Lomborg believes in the scientific consensus of anthropogenic global warming (AGW). Alas, he commits the radical sin of trying to think for himself, of pointing out there are other issues to tackle, and (the shock! the horror!) of having received “right-wing support“.

For all of the above, Lomborg’s work cannot simply be reviewed by McKibben: it has to be demolished along with its author’s reputation, over and over again in sentence after sentence.


The second example is an inadvertently hilarious piece by Roger Harrabin, BBC Environment Analyst (“The heat and light in global warming“, BBC News Website, October 11, 2007).

After a long analysis on all that is wrong with people that don’t think it appropriate for the movie “An Inconvenient Truth” to be shown to youngsters in schools, Harrabin remarks about his own experience after asking an inconvenient question to Al Gore:

“…after the interview [Al Gore] and his assistant stood over me shouting that my questions had been scurrilous, and implying that I was some sort of climate-sceptic traitor.”

Once again, Harrabin is a firm believer that AGW is happening, and he even shows all signs of worry for the future: still, the one time he tries to think for himself, immediately he’s considered a “traitor”.

Will Roger Harrabin ever connect the dots, and understand that Al Gore’s message on climate is an ideological, all-encompassing, freedoms-destroying credo that cannot leave any space whatsover to any dissent? Some hope!


It is a constant of history that leaders have been able to curtail freedoms in the name of public safety and a brighter future.

As Climate Supremacists ominously follow those earlier examples, stopping their dictatorial attitudes is the duty of every libertarian and of anybody that takes liberty into consideration.