Archive for February, 2011

The Real Climate Deniers (Plus A Prediction On Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature’s Results)

2011/02/28 9 comments

For as long as predictions will be difficult, especially about the future, “denialism” will as a matter of course remain appropriate only in the context of past facts, i.e. in the “denial” that they actually occurred.

So let’s set aside the widespread, idiotic name-calling against anybody having any question regarding impending climate catastrophes: because the real Climate Deniers are very easy to spot.

And it’s the people that to this day still live in the fantasy world where Climategate was a non-event and had no consequence (esp. on the science of climate change). You know, the people that haven’t read Andrew Montford‘s GWPF report, or the findings of the Muir Russell review, or Lord Oxburgh’s comments about reconstructing temperature trends for the past 1,000 years (Q36 in the link) (or, erm…my preface to the Italian translation of Montford’s report).

Or they have read the lot, but due to their denialist attitude they can’t fathom the meaning of what’s written in there.

Everybody else might have instead noticed by now that a major. widely-funded, “independent, replicable, inclusive, transparent…approach [to] estimate…global temperature change” (and “the uncertainties in the record“) is expected to come to fruition sometimes next year. And yes, Climategate had an important role in getting Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature (BEST) up-and-running.

QED…all those labelling of non-believers as “deniers” has simply been a kind of preventative attack. And finally, it has backfired.

ps my predictions on the BEST results:

  • According to the Berkeley group, the Earth’s surface temperature will have risen (on average) slightly less than what indicated by NASA, NOAA and the Met Office
  • Differences will be on the edge of statistical significance, leaving a lot open to subjective interpretation
  • Several attempts will be made by climate change conformists and True Believers to smear the work of BEST, and to prevent them from publishing their data
  • After publication, organised  groups of people will try to cloud the issue to the point of leaving the public unsure about what exactly was found by BEST
  • New questions will be raised regarding UHI, however the next IPCC assessment’s first draft will be singularly forgetful of any peer-reviewed paper on the topic
  • We will all be left with a slightly-warming world, the only other certitude being that all mitigation efforts will be among the stupidest ideas that ever spung to human mind.

Have Things Changed Much From 1969?

Expert Says Arctic Ocean Will Soon Be an Open Sea; Catastrophic Shifts in Climate Feared if Change Occurs“. Yes, it’s 1969.

What else has changed?

Well, one thing is that at the time, Walter Sullivan of the New York Times could still afford to write “Other Specialists See No Thinning of Polar Ice Cap” in mid-size letters near the title. As for the rest:

  • Arctic sea ice cover is “vulnerable
  • An ice-free Arctic Ocean is presented as harbinger of European “deserts” with “great ice sheets…farther north
  • Focal point” in the research is “the use of giant computers to simulate the world’s weather patterns
  • Climatologists keep following the latest trends, wildly extrapolating them in the future. For example, there is a Soviet-American consensus among specialists around prediction of “continued cooling in step with an expected decline in sunspot activity through the nineteen-eighties“, after a “climate cooling during the last decade or two“. Likewise, “until recently there was a suspicion that the warming trend of the century preceding 1940 was a by-product of the industrial revolution” (yes, CO2 emissions)

However, there are other interesting details:

  • Sullivan presents as common knowledge ideas such as “progressive shrinkage of the Arctic pack ice over the last century
  • About one quarter of the Arctic pack melts each summer“…that would be very peculiar, since according to Cryosphere Today even in 1979 it was more like two thirds
  • Nortber Untersteiner is interviewed about a report of his in Naval Research Reviews showing that “the climatic trend in the Arctic has turned toward cooling
  • There is a mention of a 1893 Fridtjof Nansen report of “43 feet thick” Arctic pack, followed by others “indicating a steady thinning of the pack that, the data suggest, could vanish by 1970 or sooner“. These conclusions are not supported by “under-ice journeys of American nuclear submarines” (why don’t they use submarines nowadays, instead of clowning around for Catlin?)

Meet the Musk Ox, Climate Change(s) Survivor (And Evidence-Bearer)

2011/02/24 1 comment

Who would have thought…it seems that the largest mammal of North America, Ovibos moschatus or Musk Ox (actually, a big big kind of sheep) really does like it hot, even if it’s usually found around Canada and Greenland: to the point of disappearing from Europe, Asia and Alaska in the late XIX/early XX century due to climate change, a turn to cold that is.

For all its funny amounts of hair, in fact, the Musk Ox is not exactly perfectly suited to deal with snow:

Muskoxen are poorly adapted for digging through heavy snow for food, so winter habitat is generally restricted to areas with shallow snow accumulations or areas blown free of snow.

On the other hand, there has been considerable effort put into understanding how the Musk Ox reacts to climate change. A Mar 8, 2010 PNAS study (*) used mitochondrial DNA to determine a series of environmentally-driven changes in the size of Musk Ox population, finding that

the genetic diversity of the species increased and decreased frequently over the past 65,000 years


  1. Those changes are out of sync with changes in population sizes of other similar animals, such as mammoths
  2. A 1902 New York Times article lamented the death of the one remaining Muxk Ox in the City’s zoo, because of…a cool summer
  3. Another New York Times article (from 1892) praised the Musk Ox for its ability to eat a varied range of food, and to “bear heat
  4. It has been relatively easy to reintroduce the Musk Ox to Alaska and the Svalbard Archipelago in the XX century (blue areas)

Seems perfectly reasonable to consider that the best thing that might happen to the Musk Ox is a warming of the climate. Alas, that’s not the way things have been spoken about in public, for a long time. The PNAS article from 2010 was (of course!) presented as part of a general worry about the fate of the Musk Ox in “the current climate instability“:

There’s a lot in the news about the plight of polar bears, but musk ox may be similarly at risk

In fact, it had been April 2008 when the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) decided to launch:

a four-year study to determine if climate change is affecting populations of a quintessential Arctic denizen: the rare musk ox

Fast forward to December 2010 and some changes in the WCS tones are in order:

[Dr. Joel Berger, WCS senior scientist] who has been studying musk oxen in Alaska since 2006, is looking into various factors responsible for the animals’ ability to thrive in some areas, hold stable population numbers in others, and decline in still others. He and his partners are currently evaluating the impacts of changing climate, species interactions, and nutrition to musk oxen population dynamics and distribution in Alaska

What happened? It happened that the Musk Ox failed to comply. Rather than a weakling threatened by a 0.5C change in the average planetary temperature, Berger and colleagues discovered that:

…the quintessential example of megafaunal fortitude in the face of really bad weather is the musk ox…the animal has managed to persist through repeated climate shifts and habitat upheaval…Historical records and genetic evidence alike suggest that the musk ox is a Rasputin, “the comeback kid of the Quaternary”…They undergo periods where they really bolster their numbers for a few years, then they go down to an almost complete collapse, then later they come back like gangbusters…It would be hard to argue that musk ox are on their way out the door…

Really? Who could have guessed…no worries, though, National Geographic and the WCS are still accepting donations. And neither Science Daily nor the NGS nor the WGS will find the courage to publish an article stating the scientific evidence: “Musk Ox most likely easier to adapt to  a warmer than to a cooler climate“.


(*) Paula F. Campos, Eske Willerslev, Andrei Sher, Ludovic Orlando, Erik Axelsson, Alexei Tikhonov, Kim Aaris-Sørensen, Alex D. Greenwood, Ralf-Dietrich Kahlke, Pavel Kosintsev, Tatiana Krakhmalnaya, Tatyana Kuznetsova, Philippe Lemey, Ross Macphee, Christopher A. Norris, Kieran Shepherd, Marc A. Suchard, Grant D. Zazula, Beth Shapiro, and M. Thomas P. Gilbert. Ancient DNA analyses exclude humans as the driving force behind late Pleistocene musk ox (Ovibos moschatus) population dynamics. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2010; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0907189107

How Long Before Romm Blames The Christchurch Quake On Global Warming?

2011/02/22 7 comments

Here’s What Gives Science A Bad Name

TerraDaily reports today of Jeffrey Kiehl’s “Lessons from Earth’s Past“, actually published by Science magazine a month ago. A cursory reading is what is needed to understand how flawed Kiehl’s whole idea is, of focusing on a question like:

when was the last time Earth’s atmosphere contained as much carbon dioxide as it may by the end of this century?

(Kiehl’s answer: 35 Million years ago)

How flawed is that question? Very, very flawed. For the geologically-challenged readers of this blog, here’s an in-depth commentary of Kieh’s rag(*) by Doug L. Hoffmann at Resilient Earth, summarized by this quote:

All of the factors outlined above clearly point to the fact that geological forces, operating over tens of millions of years, caused Earth’s climate to cool dramatically during the past 35 million years. Claims that the cooling was caused by a reduction in atmospheric CO2 have been refuted by many. Studies of the Late Ordovician glaciation found that, without orbital forcing, ice sheets can grow with CO2 levels as high as 10 times preindustrial atmospheric level. Yet Kiehl maintains this fiction to the end, even to the point of reintroducing claims based on computer models.

People that don’t believe in geology and are obsessed with temperatures can limit themselves to Wikipedia’s helpful graph “65 Million Years of Climate Change“, showing high temperatures around 35 million years ago indeed. But when seen in context, the 35Myr point is part of a whole different story than “CO2 concentrations driving the planet’s temperatures“: it was the end of the Eocene and of a steady decrease in temperatures, the time of the Antarctic glaciation and a brisk decrease in temperatures, the start of relatively cool 10 million years (still, warmer than today) etc etc.

And so Kiehl’s context-free “it’s all CO2” work ends up looking like a tirade against people driving on a motorway at 70mph, written by somebody obsessed with analyzing what happens when people drive at 70mph, yes, but in a crowded market.

Science, it ain’t: it’s just ever-the-misnomer “Science” magazine.

(*) poetic license taken

Greenland Ice Cap Receding And Disappearing!

2011/02/11 6 comments

In 1930 of course.


This is getting boring. Seemingly all one has to do in order to find instances of past climate change, totally invalidating the “unprecedented” claim attached to today’s, is to guess the right combination of words for this or that search engine.

AGWers should have tried earlier, in the age before the Internet, when fantasies such as labeling any unusual weather pattern as “anthropogenic” would have been easier to maintain.

For Green “Science” (and The Guardian and The New York Times), Any Rubbish Will Do

2011/02/07 2 comments

As I get labeled “most controversial” (thank you, whoever), let me mention a perfect yet extraordinary example showing how any claim, however far-fetched and based on little or no science at all, can be dressed as the latest scientific warning about impending doom caused by humanity’s excesses, without of course anybody involved showing any sign of critical thinking.

I am talking about the “Guardian news” (from Sep 12, 2007) that “man-made chemicals [should be] blamed as many more girls than boys are born in Arctic” (that is, twice as many girls as boys). This is specific to the Guardian as every other link I have found about it, can be traced back to a Paul Brown reporting from Nuuk, Greenland, that

Twice as many girls as boys are being born in some Arctic villages because of high levels of man-made chemicals in the blood of pregnant women, according to scientists from the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme (Amap)

[…] The scientists measured the man-made chemicals in women’s blood that mimic human hormones and concluded that they were capable of triggering changes in the sex of unborn children in the first three weeks of gestation. The chemicals are carried in the mother’s bloodstream through the placenta to the foetus, switching hormones to create girl children.

This would have been an incredible finding, shattering a lot of established ideas on the roles of chromosomes in humans. And it was picked up as such by (no comment) and a scienceblogs site called (the irony!) “Island of Doubt. Its author James Hrynyshyn wrote on Sep 13, 2007, that the news was “not good“, proceeding then to equivocate when pointed out how outerwordly it all sounded.

What makes this all exemplary is that it would have taken just a few minutes to figure out the holes in the story. First of all, the “findings” were:

disclosed at a symposium of religious, scientific and environmental leaders in Greenland’s capital, Nuuk,…organised by the Patriarch of the Orthodox Church, Bartholomew I, which is looking at the effects of environmental pollution on the Arctic.

More importantly, there was very little about the “findings” in the AMAP communications at the time (and even less, today). The 2006 State of the Arctic Environment Report (SOAER) says nothing at all about skewed sex ratios. An AMAP report from 2001 titled “Human Health” mentions two works by Mocarelli and others showing a change in the boys/girls ratio due to exposure to dioxin by the fathers (and so it would have nothing to do with the Guardian’s claim)

Mocarelli P, Brambilla P et al. Change in sex ratio with exposure to dioxin. Lancet 1996; 348: 409.

Mocarelli, P., P.M. Gerthoux, E. Ferrari, D.G. Petterson, S.M. Kieszak, P. Brambilla, N. Vincoli, S. Signorini, P. Tramacere, V. Carreri, E.J. Sampson, W.E. Turner and L.L. Needham, 2000. Paternal con- centrations of dioxin and sex ratio of offspring. The Lancet 355:1858-1863

There is also an AMAP report from 2000 (mentioning the excess girls as per the Mocarelli’s studies, but also the absence of such an excess in a similar situation in Taiwan). An AMAP poster from 2002 mentioning a decrease in the number of male newborns in whales (from 56% to 44%, far far less than what claimed about humans).

What would explain the enthusiasm leading to the…unorthodox announcement at the Orthodox Church symposium rather than through the usual scientific channels (or even, an official press release), is the AMAP report from 2006 saying that “Two new special projects have been initiated: one investigating contaminants in relation to sex ratio (based on the results from the PTS report)“. Hoever, in the Conclusions and Recommendations of the PTS report one reads something extremely vague:

Statistically significant associations have been found between blood concentrations of total PCBs (Arochlor 1260), lead and a number of non-specific reproductive and developmental health effects such as the prevalence of low birth weight, premature births, stillbirths and major structural malformations. Serum concentrations of total PCBs in maternal blood also appear to be associated with impacts on newborn sex ratios.

Anybody with a half-curious mind would have also read the literature mentioned by AMAP, for example this article from 2006, “Pathways of endocrine disruption during male sexual differentiation and masculinization“, where the abstract ends:

There is currently no definitive evidence that exposure of humans to environmental chemicals can induce testicular dysgenesis and/or impair masculinization, though pathways via which this could potentially occur are established.

It should have gone without saying that even if AMAP had found that “definitive evidence“, of course they wouldn’t just have seen two girls for every boy, but an enormous number of boys with various degrees of “endocrine disruption“.


There’s more, thanks to our hindsight of 2011. Of course the Guardian article has never been followed by any update (you know there’s something particularly fishy when all mainstream media but one refuse to report a story). How about AMAP? Here’s from their 2009 report, with some added emphasis:

POPs exposures have been suggested as the reason for observed alterations in birth sex ratios in animal populations and occasionally in human studies. New research results with pigs, which have a similar reproductive system to humans, indicate that exposure of sperm to environmentally pertinent organochlorine mixtures in vitro adversely affects oocyte development, polyspermy, sperm fertility and embryonic development. However, a comparison of existing population studies, one including Arctic countries, did not reveal any definitive or consistent relationship between POPs, sperm X:Y ratios or male:female birth ratios. Emerging data from a larger cohort in the Russian Arctic indicate that increasing maternal PCB concentrations may be associated with an initial effect of increasing the male:female newborn ratio; however, causality has not been determined and the increase in the ratio appears to disappear in the highest concentration group. The possible effects of other contaminants have not been determined. Systematic epidemiological studies, including all possible confounders and other relevant contaminants, must be performed before any conclusive statements can be made about contaminants and sex ratios in Arctic populations

[…] Results from the INUENDO study…This study indicates that POP exposure might be involved in changing the proportion of ejaculated Y-bearing spermatozoa in human populations. Inter- country differences, with different exposure situations and doses, may contribute to varying Y:X chromosome ratios. However, the higher proportion of Y sperm did not support the observed increase in the female:male ratio reported previously

[…] In general, no definitive conclusion could be drawn from these studies. Emerging data from a larger cohort in the Russian Arctic indicate that increasing maternal PCB concentrations may be associated with an initial effect of increasing the ratio of male:female newborns. The Russian results appear to confirm the trend reported in the previous AMAP Human Health assessment (AMAP, 2003); however, causality has not been determined and the increase in the ratio appears to disappear in the highest concentration group

Good luck with finding any of that in the Guardian. In the meanwhile, the initial rubbish gets repeated verbatim, for example in a highly-praised book by Sara Wheeler, titled “The Magnetic North” and reviewed with the brains fully shut by Holly Morris for the New York Times:

One boggling case in point: “Endocrine-­disrupting chemicals handed up the food chain have triggered changes in the sex of unborn children in the first three weeks of gestations, resulting in the birth of twice as many girls as boys in some villages in Greenland and among the Inuit nations of eastern ­Russia.”

No prize if you notice the full certainty of Wheeler (and Morris): HAVE TRIGGERED CHANGES. I am sure AMAP has written to the New York Times protesting already.

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