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Accelerating Global Climate Change III

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Sore Throat

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Accelerating Global Climate Change III PostThu Jul 08, 2010 5:52 pm  Reply with quote

Climategate scientists cleared of manipulating data on global warming

Muir Russell report says scientists did not fudge data, but they should have been more open about their work

David Adam
environment correspondent The Guardian

The climate scientists at the centre of a media storm over leaked emails were yesterday cleared of accusations that they fudged their results and silenced critics, but a review found they had failed to be open enough about their work.

Sir Muir Russell, the senior civil servant who led a six-month inquiry into the affair, said the "rigour and honesty" of the scientists at the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UEA) were not in doubt. His investigation concluded they did not subvert the peer review process to censor criticism and that key data was freely available and could be used by any "competent" researcher.

But the panel said the scientists' responses to "reasonable requests for information" had been "unhelpful and defensive". The inquiry found "emails might have been deleted in order to make them unavailable should a subsequent request be made for them" and that there had been "a consistent pattern of failing to display the proper degree of openness". Scientists also failed to appreciate the risk their lack of transparency posed to the university and "indeed to the credibility of UK climate science".

The controversy began when 13 years of emails from CRU scientists were released online last year. Climate change sceptics claimed they showed scientists manipulating and suppressing data to back up a theory of manmade climate change. Critics also alleged the scientists abused their positions to cover up flaws and distort the peer review process that determines which studies are published in journals, and so enter the scientific record. Some alleged the emails cast doubt on the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Announcing the findings, Russell said: "Ultimately this has to be about what they did, not what they said. The honesty and rigour of CRU as scientists are not in doubt ... We have not found any evidence of behaviour that might undermine the conclusions of the IPCC assessments."

The review is the third and final inquiry into the email affair, and effectively clears Professor Phil Jones, head of the CRU, and his colleagues of the most serious charges. Questions remain over the way they responded to requests for information from people outside the conventional scientific arena, some of whom were critics of Jones. "We do find that there has been a consistent pattern of failing to display the proper degree of openness, both on the part of CRU scientists and on the part of the UEA," said the report, commissioned by UEA at a cost of £200,000.

It also criticised the CRU scientists for failing to include proper labels on a 1999 graph prepared for the World Meteorological Organisation, which was the subject of an infamous email about Jones using a "trick" to "hide the decline". The panel said the result was misleading, though they accepted this was not deliberate as the necessary caveats had been included in the report text.

Acknowledging that the digital age brought a greater demand for openness and access to data, it concluded "like it or not, this indicates a transformation in the way science has to be conducted in this century." Edward Acton, vice-chancellor of UEA, said the university accepted the report's conclusion that it should have been more open. "The need to develop a culture of greater openness and transparency in CRU is something we faced up to internally some months ago and we are already working to put right."

He hoped the review would "finally lay to rest conspiracy theories, untruths and misunderstandings" that had been circulating, and that the "wilder assertions" about the climate science community would now stop.

Jones issued a statement which said: "I am, of course, extremely relieved that this review has now been completed. We have maintained all along that our science is honest and sound and this has been vindicated now by three different independent external bodies. There are lessons to be learned and I need time to reflect on them." Jones is to be director of research at CRU. Acton said this was "not a demotion but a shift in emphasis of role".

Ed Miliband, the former climate change secretary, said: "Muir Russell has given the world a clear message: we should not believe those who tell us that one string of emails undermines years of climate science. We should also learn lessons because maximum openness and transparency is the best weapon against those who want us to stick our heads in the sand as if climate change isn't happening. Now the world needs to step up the momentum again and get the deal that eluded us at Copenhagen."

Writing on Comment is Free, Dr Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet, who testified to the inquiry, said: "The Russell review has rejected all claims of serious scientific misconduct. But he does identify failures, evasions, misleading actions, unjustifiable delays, and pervasive unhelpfulness – all of which amounts to severely sub-optimal academic practice. Climate science will never be the same again."

Bob Ward of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, said: "It is clear that greater transparency is required in climate research because of the intense public interest in it, and its profound implications for society. However, it is also now very apparent that many so-called sceptics owe a huge apology to the public for having presented the email messages as evidence that climate change is a hoax carried out by a conspiracy of dishonest scientists."

Acton said: "CRU will be more closely integrated in the bigger school of environmental sciences and a key difference is to place some of the administrative burden that Phil had before this incident on the head of the school."

Bob Watson, chief scientific advisor to the department of environment, food and rural affairs, said that while it was clear scientists needed to be more transparent, he hoped the report would "draw a line under this episode so that the scientific community can begin to regain the trust of the public and continue to do its vital work on climate change, which remains one of the biggest challenges we face as a planet."

Myles Allen, head of the climate dynamics group at the University of Oxford, said: "What everyone has lost sight of is the spectacular failure of mainstream journalism to keep the whole affair in perspective. Again and again, stories are sexed up with arch hints that these "revelations" might somehow impact on the evidence for human impact on climate. Yet the only error in actual data used for climate change detection to have emerged from this whole affair amounted to a few hundredths of a degree in the estimated global temperature of a couple of years in the 1870s."

• Additional reporting by Christine Ottery
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Sore Throat

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European heatwave raises power plant strain PostThu Jul 08, 2010 6:04 pm  Reply with quote

European heatwave raises power plant strain

LONDON July 8 (Reuters) - Weather forecasters have issued extremely hot weather warnings for seven western European countries this week, with the heatwave potentially straining electricity supplies as air conditioning use soars.

Eumetnet, the public European weather services network within the World Meteorological Organization, has issued severe hot weather warnings for most of Spain, the western half of Germany, most of Belgium and parts of the Netherlands.

Temperatures in Berlin are expected remain at highs of 35-36 degrees Celsius until Monday, before cooling slightly in the middle of next week, according Germany's national forecaster, while Madrid is melting at highs of 40 degrees on Thursday, according to Spain's official forecaster, with highs of over 34 degrees into next week.

Western Europe has not seen a prolonged heatwave since 2006, when sizzling temperatures caused cooling problems for some power plants. River and cooling reservoir temperatures rose so much that environmental legislation prevented the plants from warming the water up any more.

A more severe and prolonged heatwave in 2003 saw more power plants in France and Germany shut down as air conditioning use surged.

To read a BUY OR SELL piece on what impact the summer heatwave could have on European power plants click: [ID:nLDE6610XG]

To see the pan-European weather warning system covering 30 countries click here: (Reporting by Daniel Fineren; Editing by Alison Birrane)
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Sore Throat

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The Link Between Record-Breaking Global Heat Waves and Clima PostThu Jul 08, 2010 6:19 pm  Reply with quote

The Link Between Record-Breaking Global Heat Waves and Climate Change

by Brian Merchant

Can you say that a particularly massive heatwave -- or any single weather event, for that matter -- is caused by climate change? Nope. Now, is there a link between a trend of record-breaking hot temperatures over the years and climate change? Indeed. There's a fine line between the two, and it's a fine line that makes it tough for the media to successfully discuss the correlation between, say, a miserable heatwave that's currently sweeping the East Coast and the greater phenomenon of human-caused global warming.

That miserable heatwave is of course sweeping the entire globe, but that doesn't get as much attention stateside. Here's one outlet that does a good job of examining the link, the Christian Science Monitor (via Climate Progress):

Beijing hits a near-record 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia break 100 degrees and set new daily highs. Meanwhile, in Baghdad and Riyadh, on July 6 it was 113 and 111 degrees, warmer than average but still cooler than in Kuwait, which set the day's world temperature high at 122 degrees....

Yes, we're suffering a global heat wave. No, it's not the apocalypse. But it may be a further sign of climate change.

"You can't say any one heat wave is caused by global warming. But you can say that what global warming does is it makes events just like this more likely," says Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change.

Indeed. In fact, go read the entire piece to see how a story can get the link between extreme weather events and climate change right on -- because it doesn't happen often.

Also solid, but not as strong is the AP's take:

... A certain segment of the public might look at the thermometer and blame global warming, but the two things aren't necessarily related, said Gavin Schmidt, at the Center for Climate Systems Research at Columbia University.

"One winter, one heat wave, one snowstorm is not significant. You need statistics over a decade," he said, noting that day-to-day weather and global temperature are two different things.

That said, he added, "the planet is getting warmer. 2000-2009 was the warmest since the 1850s. And the last 12 months seem to be the warmest."

My only gripe here is that the discussion of global warming seems to be framed almost as an afterthought: 'Oh yeah, there's this thing that's going on too'. But still, it gets the job done, and is factually correct. Which is still saying a lot.

The point is, there is a way to make a factual connection between heat waves (for example) and climate change in news coverage -- it just takes a willingness to avoid both oversimplifying the narrative (apocalyptic global warming caused a worldwide heatwave!) and ignoring the issue altogether (boy, it's hot out, huh?). It takes good, thorough reportage.

See a wider survey of media coverage of the heat wave at Climate Progress.
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East Swelters in Triple Digits; More to Come PostThu Jul 08, 2010 6:26 pm  Reply with quote

East Swelters in Triple Digits; More to Come


BOSTON — Children at a day camp near here were pulled from the swimming pool once an hour so the lifeguards could plunge in and cool off. Commuter trains in Washington were slowed because of overheating tracks. Horse-racing tracks were closed in Philadelphia and Wilmington, Del.

Up and down the Eastern Seaboard on Tuesday, safety concerns upended the usual routines as a brutal blast of heat brought temperatures in excess of 100 degrees in several cities, with little relief expected for days to come.

The high of 103 in New York broke a record for the date. Baltimore hit 105, the highest temperature recorded since 1983, and in Boston, the temperature reached 100 degrees for the first time since 2002.

The culprit was a high pressure system “tethered along the East Coast,” said Charlie Foley, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Taunton, Mass. The system is drawing hot, humid air from the south and will probably stay put until a cold front moves in late this week, Mr. Foley said, pushing temperatures back into the relatively comfortable 80s.

“It’s a classic summertime occurrence,” he said. “The impact will continue right through the end of the week.”

Coastal areas of New England got a modest reprieve from a shallow sea breeze, but inland regions sweltered. In Norwood, Mass., where the temperature rose to 101, the campers had to let the lifeguards take advantage of the water, too.

“There’s a lot of upper-lip sweat today,” said Sarah McDonough, a supervisor at the camp, sponsored by the Norwood recreation department. “We’re really pushing the fluids and the sunscreen.”

In Philadelphia, a 92-year-old woman was found dead in her home on the second floor, where all but one window was closed. The medical examiner ruled that extreme heat was a factor in her death. In Astoria, Queens, 18 firefighters sustained minor injuries, most of them related to heat exhaustion, after fighting a three-alarm fire at a two-story house.

And in Worcester, Mass., the state’s lieutenant governor, Timothy Murray, was hospitalized on Monday night with fatigue and chest pains after marching in five parades over the Fourth of July weekend. A spokesman said that the extreme heat was partly to blame and that Mr. Murray would be released on Wednesday.

Lt. Frank Vanore, a spokesman for the Philadelphia Police Department, said summer school was canceled there Tuesday because of the heat. The police were urging residents to check on the elderly and the very young, he said.

“Unfortunately not everyone has air-conditioning so it’s a very tough situation,” Lieutenant Vanore said, echoing the concerns of officials up and down the East Coast.

In Washington, commutes were longer after trains were ordered to operate at least 20 miles per hour under maximum speeds because of the heat. In Baltimore, officials planned to distribute bottled water to the homeless over the coming days.

In Rhode Island, some residents could not even savor a cool drink from their faucets. The Department of Public Health urged residents in parts of Narragansett and South Kingstown to boil their water before drinking it as a precaution after water pressure dropped below acceptable limits.

“I just turned on my outdoor shower and there’s no water,” said David Cunningham, 46, of South Kingstown. “It’s a trickle.”

Despite the heat wave, ISO New England, the region’s grid operator, did not expect record-breaking demand for electricity in the coming days. Marcia Blomberg, a spokeswoman, said that consumer demand peaked at 27,100 megawatts about 3 p.m. Tuesday. She said the record for the region was 28,130 megawatts, set on Aug. 2, 2006. The temperature did not rise above 95 that day, she said, but it was more humid than it was on Tuesday.

Ms. Blomberg said consumer demand might be lower this week because it is a short workweek and many people are on vacation.

As the sun beat down in Norwood, Kim Randall, the aquatics director for the recreation department, acknowledged feeling “like death.” But many of the campers appeared unscathed.

“I go to Florida a lot so I don’t really feel it,” Tayla Sypek, 11, said as she prepared to make a bracelet out of string. Though her home is air-conditioned, Tayla said she would not be wasting time indoors if she were there.

“I’d be jumping on my trampoline,” she said. “I hate to sit around and do nothing.”

Katie Zezima contributed reporting.
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Sore Throat

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US to feel more heat, more often in coming years: study PostFri Jul 09, 2010 11:46 pm  Reply with quote

US to feel more heat, more often in coming years: study

Karin Zeitvogel

WASHINGTON — Targets set by policy makers to slow global warming are too soft to prevent more heatwaves and extreme temperatures in the United States within a few years, with grim consequences for human health and farming, a study warned this week.

Although the United States and more than 100 other countries agreed in Copenhagen last year to take action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions "so as to hold the increase in global temperature below two degrees Celsius," a study conducted by Stanford University scientists showed that might not be enough.

Stanford earth sciences professor Noel Diffenbaugh and former postdoc fellow Moetasim Ashfaq wrote in the study, published in Geophysical Research Letters, that "constraining global warming to two degrees C above pre-industrial conditions may not be sufficient to avoid dangerous climate change."

"In the next 30 years, we could see an increase in heatwaves like the one now occurring in the eastern United States or the kind that swept across Europe in 2003 that caused tens of thousands of fatalities," said Diffenbaugh, lead author of the study.

"Those kinds of severe heat events put enormous stress on major crops like corn, soybean, cotton and wine grapes, causing a significant reduction in yields," he said.

Diffenbaugh and Ashfaq used two dozen climate models to project what could happen in the United States if carbon dioxide emissions cause temperatures to rise 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit (one degree Celsius) between 2010 and 2039 -- a likely scenario, according to the UN's International Panel on Climate Change.

If that occurs, the mean global temperature in 30 years would be about 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (two degrees Celsius) hotter than in the preindustrial era of the 1850s.

Many climate scientists and policy makers have set a two-degree Celsius increase as the upper threshold for temperature rise, saying beyond that the planet is likely to experience serious environmental damage.

But in their two-year study, Diffenbaugh and Ashfaq found that even if temperatures rise by less than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial conditions, there is likely to be a spike in extreme seasonal temperatures and more and longer heatwaves.

The first impacts could be felt as early as during the next 10 years in the United States, the scientists said.

In the 2020s, an intense heatwave equal to the longest on record from 1951 to 1999 is likely to occur as many as five times a decade in parts of the United States -- even if global temperatures rise by only one degree Celsius, it said.

The 2030s could be even hotter, with more and longer heatwaves and a spike in extreme seasonal temperatures in the United States.

Along with rising temperatures, there would be a fall in precipitation and soil moisture could lead to drought-like conditions in parts of the United States, which would harm crop yields and could increase the number of wildfires, the study showed.

"I did not expect to see anything this large within the next three decades. This was definitely a surprise," said Diffenbaugh.

"It's up to the policymakers to decide the most appropriate action, but our results suggest that limiting global warming to two degrees Celsius does not guarantee that there won't be damaging impacts from climate change," he said.

Geophysical Research Letters is a peer-reviewed publication of the American Geophysical Union.
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PostTue Jul 13, 2010 2:14 am  Reply with quote

'Climategate' Debunking Gets Less Coverage Than Original Trumped-Up Scandal (VIDEO)

Last year, the hacked emails of climate scientists from the University of East Anglia spawned what has hitherto become known as "Climategate -- a mini media tempest that briefly provided climate change deniers with what they believed to be grist for their favorite mill: that climate change is some sort of worldwide conspiratorial scam. There was never a whole lot to hang a scandal on, but that didn't stop the frenzy that pushed "Climategate" onto front pages and network news shows.

Of course, since then, the grownups have stepped back to the fore, and five independent investigations have, as Steve Benen points out, "concluded that the integrity of the science is entirely sound" and that the "deniers' arguments were debunked." Where's the coverage, though? Last week, CJR's Curtis Brainard put out a call:

Each of these [independent investigations] has, in turn, drawn significant coverage in mainstream media and independent blogs of all varieties and points of view (see round-ups here, here, and here for instance). But only a few brief articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines, and they were usually buried deep inside. It is not surprising that editors have been reluctant to highlight each and every report as it came along (lamentably, documents and letters of this sort are commonly dismissed as having little news value). However, journalists love a good trend, and, as the BBC's Richard Black noted on this blog, these reports are "beginning to look like a pattern." As such, the press (especially the American press) needs to give this story more comprehensive, high profile treatment.

The story is primarily about the mounting rebuttal of this winter's assaults on climate scientists and their work, but also about how the scientific process and assessment of research can be improved. Again, all of the inquiries so far have recommended that individual scientists and the IPCC boost transparency and refine some their methodologies, especially where quality control of data and information is concerned. With the panel gearing up for its fifth assessment report, reporters must explore how they are going to do that.

Brainard pretty deftly underscores what sort of stories drive coverage: a braying spectacle of scandal-mongering is sure to get attention. Dry, academic studies written by experts, not so much. He hangs his hopes on the media's affection for "trend stories," which always tend to command attention -- though it's better if the "trend" is something that falls within a "style" reporter's bailiwick. Scientists who want to get their news out to the public may want to consider doing so in "listicle" form.

As Benen points out, credit Howard Kurtz with carrying the ball here:

On CNN yesterday, Howard Kurtz took note of the trend: "The New York Times, to its credit, put this British report on the front page. Most of the major papers I looked at stuck it inside. CNN's 'Situation Room' did a full story on it, but there was not many mentions on cable news, nothing on the broadcast networks."

This is, unfortunately, quite common. The right erupts with anger, the media treats the "controversy" as a legitimate story, and the public hears all about it. We eventually learn that the story was nonsense, but at that point, the media has lost all interest.

WATCH: VIDEO (go to link above)

Story continues belowIn a futility-themed, hilarious side note, Benen points out that Kurtz calls Fox News infotainer Glenn Beck to task for not revisiting the "Climategate" story now after previously blowing it out of all proportion. (Kurtz mistakes Glenn Beck's eponymous Hour of Glower for a "news show," it seems.)
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Glacier Loses Ice Chunk Equal to One-Eighth of Manhattan PostTue Jul 13, 2010 4:54 am  Reply with quote

Glacier Loses Ice Chunk Equal to One-Eighth of Manhattan

A glacier in Greenland lost 2.7 square mile piece of ice - roughly one-eighth the size of Manhattan Island - in a single day last week.

Greenland's Jakobshavn Isbrae glacier broke up on July 6 and 7, pushing the point where the ice sheet meets the ocean further inland than at any time previously observed, NASA-funded researchers said. As much as 10 percent of all ice lost from Greenland comes through Jakobshavn, which scientists also believe to be the single biggest contributor to sea level rise in the northern hemisphere.

This is part of a recent trend which scientists say started around the beginning of this decade. Between 1850 and 1964, the glacier's ice front had retreated at about 0.3 kilometers a year. It then stayed that way until 2001 when the decrease began to accelerate at about 3 km/yr. (For more on the Jakobshavn Glacier Calving Front, click here.)

Thomas Wagner, cryospheric program scientist at NASA noted that while there have been ice breakouts of this magnitude from Jakonbshavn and other glaciers before, he described this event as "unusual because it occurs on the heels of a warm winter that saw no sea ice form in the surrounding bay." "While the exact relationship between these events is being determined, it lends credence to the theory that warming of the oceans is responsible for the ice loss observed throughout Greenland and Antarctica," he said.

In February, NASA scientists reported that west Greenland's glaciers were melting 100 times faster at their end points beneath the ocean than at their surfaces. The likely explanation behind the undersea melting: warmer ocean waters.
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Global warming-induced water changes to continue for decades PostTue Jul 13, 2010 4:58 am  Reply with quote

Global warming-induced water changes to continue for decades

A reversal of human-induced temperature changes will not quickly return the hydrological cycle to its prewarming state, contrary to popular belief, according to a new study.

Peili Wu and colleagues used climate model simulations to show how the hydrological cycle could react to changes in future amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. They simulated the effects of a steady rise in CO2 levels to more than 1000 parts per million (ppm), followed by a decrease to pre-industrial levels of around 280 ppm.

The simulations reveal that even a dramatic reduction of CO2 would not immediately reverse long-term changes to global precipitation already stored in the system.

In fact, changes to the hydrological cycle would continue to intensify for several decades because accumulated heat in the ocean would continue to affect precipitation patterns long after global temperatures were brought back down. For instance, high-latitude regions would receive more rainfall, while the Amazon, Australia, and western Africa would become drier for decades after CO2 reductions were implemented, the researchers found.

The team points out that when considering climate mitigation strategies, the effects on precipitation need to be carefully considered. The more heat that is stored in the ocean, the greater will be the commitment to long-lasting changes to the water cycle.

The study appears in the journal Geophysical Research Letters. (ANI)
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PostWed Jul 14, 2010 3:52 pm  Reply with quote  

Al Gore increases his carbon footprint, buys house in ritzy Santa Barbara neighborhood
May 2, 2010 · 10 comments

Albert H. Gore. The "H", of course, stands for Hypocrite
Sometimes a mansion in Tennessee just isn’t enough. When you’re busy jetting around the world saving humanity from the terrors of global warming, you really need a west coast getaway. So global warming hypocrite Al Gore has now purchased a little place in California.

Oh, wait. Did we say “little place”? Not exactly. It’s a huge friggin’ estate overlooking the Pacific ocean in toney Montecito, California.

The Los Angeles Times reports the hypocritical news:

Former Vice President Al Gore and his wife, Tipper, have added a Montecito-area property to their real estate holdings, reports the Montecito Journal.

The couple spent $8,875,000 on an ocean-view villa on 1.5 acres with a swimming pool, spa and fountains, a real estate source familiar with the deal confirms. The Italian-style house has six fireplaces, five bedrooms and nine bathrooms.

For those of you who don’t live in California, let us explain local real estate terminology.

“Peekaboo ocean view” means you can see the ocean if you stand on a chair and look out the kitchen window.

“Ocean view” means you can see a patch of blue without standing on the chair.

“Oceanfront” means there are actual waves lapping at your back door.

Some people wonder why a man as wealthy as Gore didn’t spring for an oceanfront house.

Well, the fact is that Al Gore is just plain smarter than we common folk.
He knows that as the oceans rise, his new house will eventually become oceanfront.

Source: Los Angeles Times,0,4103538.story
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First half of 2010 sets temperature record for January-June PostFri Jul 16, 2010 4:48 am  Reply with quote

First half of 2010 sets temperature record for January-June

By the CNN Wire Staff

(CNN) -- The record combined land and ocean temperatures for the first six months of the year might have one thinking 2010 is on track to eclipse 2005 as the world's warmest year.

Not so fast, climatologists and weather watchers say.

Now that the approaching La Nina ocean current is on track to replace El Nino, Pacific waters will be colder than normal. Because of this, 2010 may not shatter the record, said CNN meteorologist Sean Morris.

The National Climatic Data Center reported Thursday that the global combined temperature of 57.5 degrees Fahrenheit was the warmest on record for January-June. That figure is 1.22 degrees above the 20th century average and breaks the 1998 mark.

Also, the combined land and sea temperature in June was the warmest on record at 61.1 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the report, or 1.22 degrees above the 20th century average.

The center reported that 2010 surpassed 1998 for the most warmest months in any single year.

Sea ice from the Arctic had its lowest June extent since records began in 1979. It covered 4.2 million square miles, 10.6 percent below the 1979-2000 average extent.

Not every place felt warmer. Spain experienced its coolest June "temperature anomaly" since 1997, according to the country's meteorological service.

The climate center has kept records since 1880.
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Bad science: Global-warming deniers are a liability PostFri Jul 16, 2010 4:56 am  Reply with quote

Bad science: Global-warming deniers are a liability to the conservative cause

Jonathan Kay

Have you heard about the “growing number” of eminent scientists who reject the theory that man-made greenhouse gases are increasing the earth’s temperature? It’s one of those factoids that, for years, has been casually dropped into the opening paragraphs of conservative manifestos against climate-change treaties and legislation. A web site maintained by the office of a U.S. Senator has for years instructed us that a “growing number of scientists” are becoming climate-change “skeptics.” This year, the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation gave a speech praising the “growing number of distinguished scientists [who are] challenging the conventional wisdom with alternative theories and peer reviewed research.” In this newspaper, a columnist recently described the “growing skepticism about the theory of man-made climate change.” Surely, the conventional wisdom is on the cusp of being overthrown entirely: Another colleague proclaimed that we are approaching “the church of global warming’s Galileo moment.”

Fine-sounding rhetoric — but all of it nonsense. In a new article published in the Proceedings of the Natural Academy of Sciences, a group of scholars from Stanford University, the University of Toronto and elsewhere provide a statistical breakdown of the opinions of the world’s most prominent climate experts. Their conclusion: The group that is skeptical of the evidence of man-made global warming “comprises only 2% of the top 50 climate researchers as ranked by expertise (number of climate publications), 3% of researchers in the top 100, and 2.5% of the top 200, excluding researchers present in both groups … This result closely agrees with expert surveys, indicating that [about] 97% of self-identified actively publishing climate scientists agree with the tenets of [man-made global warming].”

How has this tiny 2-3% sliver of fringe opinion been reinvented as a perpetually “growing” share of the scientific community? Most climate-change deniers (or “skeptics,” or whatever term one prefers) tend to inhabit militantly right-wing blogs and other Internet echo chambers populated entirely by other deniers. In these electronic enclaves — where a smattering of citations to legitimate scientific authorities typically is larded up with heaps of add-on commentary from pundits, economists and YouTube jesters who haven’t any formal training in climate sciences — it becomes easy to swallow the fallacy that the whole world, including the respected scientific community, is jumping on the denier bandwagon.

This is a phenomenon that should worry not only environmentalists, but also conservatives themselves: The conviction that global warming is some sort of giant intellectual fraud now has become a leading bullet point within mainstream North American conservatism; and so has come to bathe the whole movement in its increasingly crankish, conspiratorial glow.

Conservatives often pride themselves on their hard-headed approach to public-policy — in contradistinction to liberals, who generally are typecast as fuzzy-headed utopians. Yet when it comes to climate change, many conservatives I know will assign credibility to any stray piece of junk science that lands in their inbox … so long as it happens to support their own desired conclusion. (One conservative columnist I know formed her skeptical views on global warming based on testimonials she heard from novelist Michael Crichton.) The result is farcical: Impressionable conservatives who lack the numeracy skills to perform long division or balance their checkbooks feel entitled to spew elaborate proofs purporting to demonstrate how global warming is in fact caused by sunspots or flatulent farm animals. Or they will go on at great length about how “climategate” has exposed the whole global-warming phenomenon as a charade — despite the fact that a subsequent investigation exculpated research investigators from the charge that they had suppressed temperature data. (In fact, “climategate” was overhyped from the beginning, since the scientific community always had other historical temperature data sets at its disposal — that maintained by the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, most notably — entirely independent of the Climactic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, where the controversy emerged.)

Let me be clear: Climate-change denialism does not comprise a conspiracy theory, per se: Those aforementioned 2% of eminent scientists prove as much. I personally know several denialists whom I generally consider to be intelligent and thoughtful. But the most militant denialists do share with conspiracists many of the same habits of mind. Oxford University scholar Steve Clarke and Brian Keeley of Washington University have defined conspiracy theories as those worldviews that trace important events to a secretive, nefarious cabal; and whose proponents consistently respond to contrary facts not by modifying their hypothesis, but instead by insisting on the existence of ever-wider circles of high-level conspirators controlling most or all parts of society. This describes, more or less, how radicalized warming deniers treat the subject of their obsession: They see global warming as a Luddite plot hatched by Greenpeace, the Sierra Club and Al Gore to destroy industrial society. And whenever some politician, celebrity or international organization expresses support for the all-but-unanimous view of the world’s scientific community, they inevitably will respond with a variation of “Ah, so they’ve gotten to them, too.”

In support of this paranoid approach, the denialists typically will rely on stray bits of discordant information — an incorrect reference in a UN report, a suspicious-seeming “climategate” email, some hypocrisy or other from a bien-pensant NGO type — to argue that the whole theory is an intellectual house of cards. In these cases, one can’t help but be reminded of the folks who point out the fluttering American flag in the moon-landing photos, or the “umbrella man” from the Zapruder film of JFK’s assassination.

In part, blame for all this lies with the Internet, whose blog-from-the-hip ethos has convinced legions of pundits that their view on highly technical matters counts as much as peer-reviewed scientific literature. But there is something deeper at play, too — a basic psychological instinct that public-policy scholars refer to as the “cultural cognition thesis,” described in a recently published academic paper as the observed principle that “individuals tend to form perceptions of risk that reflect and reinforce one or another idealized vision of how society should be organized … Thus, generally speaking, persons who subscribe to individualistic values tend to dismiss claims of environmental risks, because acceptance of such claims implies the need to regulate markets, commerce and other outlets for individual strivings.”

In simpler words, too many of us treat science as subjective — something we customize to reduce cognitive dissonance between what we think and how we live.

In the case of global warming, this dissonance is especially traumatic for many conservatives, because they have based their whole worldview on the idea that unfettered capitalism — and the asphalt-paved, gas-guzzling consumer culture is has spawned — is synonymous with both personal fulfillment and human advancement. The global-warming hypothesis challenges that fundamental dogma, perhaps fatally.

The appropriate intellectual response to that challenge — finding a way to balance human consumption with responsible environmental stewardship — is complicated and difficult. It will require developing new technologies, balancing carbon-abatement programs against other (more cost-effective) life-saving projects such as disease-prevention, and — yes — possibly increasing the economic cost of carbon-fuel usage through some form of direct or indirect taxation. It is one of the most important debates of our time. Yet many conservatives have made themselves irrelevant in it by simply cupping their hands over their ears and screaming out imprecations against Al Gore.

Rants and slogans may help conservatives deal with the emotional problem of cognitive dissonance. But they aren’t the building blocks of a serious ideological movement. And the impulse toward denialism must be fought if conservatism is to prosper in a century when environmental issues will assume an ever greater profile on this increasingly hot, parched, crowded planet. Otherwise, the movement will come to be defined — and discredited — by its noisiest cranks and conspiracists.
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Then and Now: The Retreating Glaciers PostFri Jul 16, 2010 5:04 am  Reply with quote

Then and Now: The Retreating Glaciers


The eroding Rongbuk glacier in the Himalayas, in 1921 and today.

In 1921, George Mallory, a British mountaineer, took a black-and-white photograph of Mount Everest. The photo, now legendary, shows the world’s highest peak in the distance and an S-shaped river of ice running toward the foreground: the Rongbuk glacier.

Three years ago, David Breashears, a mountaineer, photographer and filmmaker, returned to the very spot where Mr. Mallory stood to take the photograph and updated the vista. The change is sobering.

Rather than ancient snow pack, only an empty rock-strewn riverbed remains: the glacier has lost 320 vertical feet of ice mass in the intervening years in what researchers describe as a striking effect of global warming. (An interactive graphic comparing the images is available.)

On Tuesday, Asia Society opened an exhibition in Manhattan of a series of photographs by Mr. Breashears, who reshot many famous mountaineer photographs from earlier decades to illustrate just how swiftly the changes in the Earth’s atmosphere are taking a toll on glaciers. Glaciers play a crucial role in providing fresh water to Asian populations.

“The snow and ice stored within the magnificent arc of high-altitude glaciers in the Greater Himalaya are crucial sources of seasonal water for almost every major river system of Asia,” the society says in materials promoting the exhibition. “If current melt rates continue, these glaciers will be unable to maintain mass balance, ultimately disrupting the water supply to hundreds of millions of people downstream.”

The show runs through Aug. 15. Here’s a video in which Mr. Breashears describes his glacier research and photography.
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Global Warming Will Kill Hudson Bay Polar Bears Within 25 Ye PostFri Jul 16, 2010 5:09 am  Reply with quote

Study: Global Warming Will Kill Hudson Bay Polar Bears Within 25 Years

Years of low sea ice conditions has put their lives in jeopardy

Biologists have studied and observed polar bears in Canada's western Hudson Bay for years. Important data has come from this research, such as how long the polar bears spend on the shores of Hudson Bay annually and how much of a decline of ice there is in the bay. Now, researchers have answered the question regarding how long the polar bears have before global warming ends their existence.

Biologist Andrew E. Derocher of the University of Alberta, along with Dr. Peter K. Molnar and other colleagues, have found that the polar bear population in western Hudson Bay could die out in approximately 25 to 30 years.

Derocher and his colleagues came to this conclusion after discovering some other startling data. The polar bears in this area have been losing more than 20 pounds per decade, their body mass has been declining, females have lost 10 percent of their body length, they've been forced to spend an extra week per decade onshore, and the overall population has decreased from 1,200 to 900 in three decades. Most of the population drop occurred over this past decade. In addition, mating habits have changed under recent climatic conditions which could hinder the survival of the polar bears.

"We developed a model for the mating ecology of polar bears," said Molnar. "The model estimates how many females in a population will be able to find a mate during the mating season, and thus get impregnated."

Molnar further explained that male polar bears find mates by tracks in the ice, and when a female is leaving tracks in mating condition, the male will follow. As the climate warms, ice is lost and more time onshore leads to a decrease in body mass and health, which results in less reproduction.

The tip of the iceberg was when projected sea ice declines were observed due to global warming, which led Derocher, Molnar and their colleagues come to the conclusion that polar bears in the western Hudson Bay would be doomed in 25 to 30 years. Polar bears' health depend very much on the time spent on on sea ice hunting seals, and with a decline in sea ice, they cannot hunt and their health is put in jeopardy. Derocher said all it would take is "several straight years of low sea ice conditions -- such as the current year -- which could force the bears onshore for more than five months a year, leading to a sharp decline in in the bears' physical condition and the female's inability to gestate cubs."

Derocher and his colleagues wrote a research paper on their Hudson Bay polar bear population findings, which was published in Biological Conservation. Derocher laid out the best and worst case scenarios for the population based on the data collected from Hudson Bay.

"The worst-case scenarios are that this population could be gone within the decade," said Derocher. "A more optimistic scenario would say that we'll bounce between good years and bad years for several decades to come. Everything that we can see about the sea ice in western Hudson Bay suggests that it's going to disappear sooner rather than later."

Some biologists have suggested that the polar bears in this area could be saved by adapting to life on land and eating goose eggs, but Derocher argues that this isn't a stable food source. While polar bears do eat goose eggs, this would only help them out for a day or two of lost time on the sea ice. Also, once polar bears ate all of the goose colony's eggs in the Churchill area, the goose population would die out, and the polar bears would face problems in food shortages on land as well.

This research has led biologists to worry about other polar bear populations around the world such as those in the Davis Strait area between Canada and Greenland and those in the Chukchi Sea between Alaska and Russia. According to Derocher, polar bears in these areas are vulnerable to climate change as well.

"The first paper I coauthored about this came out in 1993 and at that time I was still under the impression that even though climate change was a concern, it was really going to be for the next generation of biologists -- or perhaps even the one after that -- to deal with the issue," said Derocher.

"I've been really shocked at the rate of change, and I've probably been even more shocked at the lack of concern of political bodies to deal with this. It's been quite disheartening to watch this lack of interest, and I think it's really unfortunate that people don't understand that we have a limited time to deal with this issue if we want to save the polar bears."
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Global Warming Slows Coral Growth in Red Sea PostFri Jul 16, 2010 5:16 am  Reply with quote

Global Warming Slows Coral Growth in Red Sea

Source: Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

Newswise — In a pioneering use of computed tomography (CT) scans, scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) have discovered that carbon dioxide (CO2)-induced global warming is in the process of killing off a major coral species in the Red Sea. As summer sea surface temperatures have remained about 1.5 degrees Celsius above ambient over the last 10 years, growth of the coral, Diploastrea heliopora, has declined by 30% and “could cease growing altogether by 2070” or sooner, they report in the July 16 issue of the journal Science.

“The warming in the Red Sea and the resultant decline in the health of this coral is a clear regional impact of global warming,” said Neal E. Cantin, a WHOI postdoctoral investigator and co-lead researcher on the project. In the 1980s, he said, “the average summer [water] temperatures were below 30 degrees Celsius. In 2008 they were approaching 31 degrees.”

Cantin and WHOI Research Specialist Anne L. Cohen, the other lead investigator, said the findings were unexpected because D. heliopora did not exhibit one of the typical signs of thermal stress: bleaching. “These corals looked healthy,” said Cohen.

But CT scanning of the coral's skeletal structure in the laboratory revealed “the secrets that the skeletons are hiding,” she said. “The CT scans reveal that these corals have actually been under chronic stress for the last 10 years, and that the rates of growth were the lowest in 2008,” the final year of the study.

The other WHOI researchers who participated in the study are climate dynamicist Kristopher B. Karnauskas, coral biologist Ann M. Tarrant and chemical oceanographer Daniel C. McCorkle.

Cohen and WHOI graduate student Casey Saenger had previously used CT scanning to quantify skeletal growth in Atlantic corals, but she credits Cantin with “pioneering” the technique for this type of oceanographic research. “He really took it to another level,” she said. “What Neal really did was to adapt the imaging software, previously developed for bodies, specifically for our coral needs. This was an excruciatingly difficult task but it certainly paid off. We could not have used conventional techniques on this coral. The skeletal architecture is too complicated.”

Historically, scientists have used x-rays to examine coral skeletons, which display annual growth bands much like tree rings, Cantin explained. But that method usually entails cutting into the skeleton, he said. CT allows non-invasive 3-D observation of the skeletons and bands.

“The biggest advantage we have over x ray is that we can scan intact cores without cutting the core into thin slices,” said Cantin. “Since corals do not grow in a straight line, when the core is cut, inevitably the growth axis will be lost from a thin cut. Maintaining the vertical growth axis is crucial for us to visualize the annual density banding patterns.

“With CT scanning we are able to work with a complete 3-D reconstruction of the entire core. We can then make digital slices from the core, as many times as we need to in order to continually visualize the annual density bands. CT scanning is the evolution of x-ray.”

With CT, adds Cohen, “We have a 3-D visualization of the skeleton from which we can make ‘virtual’ cuts on the computer that have the exact thickness, orientation and location that we need for a particular coral to get the most precise measurements. X-ray requires that we cut the core ‘blind’ beforehand, before we know what the orientation of growth is. Whole cores can be sacrificed this way. With CAT scanning, our cores are imaged intact, nothing else is required. This is a huge leap forward over x-ray.”

Like MDs diagnosing a sick patient, the researchers scanned six skeletal cores of D. heliopora and were able to pinpoint two high-density growth bands, indicating high thermal stress in 1998 and 2001. This correlates with an abrupt drop in skeletal growth after 1998, which has continued steadily since then.

The corals are building skeleton, or calcifying, at a progressively slower rate because they are losing symbiotic algae that live in the coral tissue. By performing photosynthesis, the algae provide the fuel for the corals to make new skeleton.

But, says Cohen, “when the corals are thermally stressed, they lose algae and many will eventually starve and die. When corals lose enough algae, they actually turn white, and that’s what bleaching is. We think these corals are on their way to bleaching.”

It was the CT technique that enabled early detection of the problem. “The corals look healthy, but looking inside at the skeleton gives you an idea of things to come,” she said. “It’s like osteoporosis. You look at a person and, on the outside, everything seems fine, but inside there are signs of trouble.

The same corals had a similar reaction to a “warm event” in 1941-42 but recovered within three years as the ocean cooled. The recovery was possible because that warming episode was probably triggered by El Nino, a natural, short-term climate anomaly.

In contrast, the current warming trend—which Cantin says has been going on since 1980--“is due to human-induced climate change,” he says, and appears unlikely to be slowed or reversed before coral health deteriorates further. Climate models from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predict that “summer temperatures in the central Red Sea will continue to rise as atmospheric CO2 concentration rises through the 21st century,” the WHOI researchers report in Science.

Co-author Karnauskas concurs that there is little doubt that the Red Sea phenomenon is attributable to long-term climate change. “El Nino events typically last about one year, and in a few rare cases last for two years.,” he says. “El Nino--and its ‘cold’ counterpart, La Nina--are quite well known with a very distinct signature in the Pacific Ocean, where they originate. In the past few decades, there have been several El Nino and La Nina events.

Therefore, there is no way El Nino could account for a ‘trend’ that persists for decades. These are simply superimposed upon the human/CO2-induced warming trend. There is probably nobody in the scientific community who would argue the rising temperatures in the Red Sea are related to El Nino. So, in the past few decades, the Red Sea temperature has been going up just like the global mean temperature, and the corals are suffering accordingly.”

The IPCC models forecast another 2.5-3-degree C rise in Red Sea temperature by the end of the 21st century. But the authors project that D. heliopora will cease calcifying altogether by 2070, when the models predict that temperatures will reach 1.85 degrees C higher than they are now.

Even that “is probably a conservative estimate,” they say. Cohen suggests the end for this species of Red Sea coral may come as early as 2050.

The scientists point out that the results show that, at least in this case, the culprit is sea surface temperatures and not ocean acidification, another effect of CO2 emissions that has become an increasing concern for scientists.

“We were able to pinpoint temperature as the driver of the declining growth rates because we have long records of skeletal growth going back to around 1930,” Cohen said, “and we were able to correlate skeletal growth with temperature records that span the same time period. We were also able to rule out ocean acidification because we have actual measurements of the aragonite saturation state of seawater--a measure of acidity--at our study sites.

She cautions against drawing conclusions about other coral species based on these results. “This study reports the impact of rising temperature on one coral species,” she says. “It’s an important reef-building coral in the Red Sea, but there are about 250 species of stony corals in this region and we have no idea what the other species are doing. Some might be doing much worse; some might be doing a little better in terms of thermal tolerances. We need much more of this type of work to be able to predict what the coral reefs will look like over the next few decades.”

These corals, Cantin says, have demonstrated that they are capable of recovering from the transient high-temperature event in the early 1940s. "However" he says, “"this species [in this study] has not [recovered] from the last decade of global warming.”

On a long-term scale, he says, “This [CT] technique allows us to assess reef recovery rates without monitoring that reef for 30 years. We can establish an ecological baseline of coral growth for as far back as the corals lived. We can assess this coral colony’s physiological performance back through time.”

But now, for D. heliopora, the outlook appears bleak. “The data in hand suggest that without immediate, aggressive global intervention to reduce carbon emissions,” they conclude in their report, “the pressures of predicted annual heat stress will most certainly result in further deterioration of coral health in the central Red Sea over the next century.”
The work was funded by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is a private, independent organization in Falmouth, Mass., dedicated to marine research, engineering, and higher education. Established in 1930 on a recommendation from the National Academy of Sciences, its primary mission is to understand the oceans and their interaction with the Earth as a whole, and to communicate a basic understanding of the oceans' role in the changing global environment.
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Northern hemisphere swelters under heat wave PostSun Jul 18, 2010 5:47 pm  Reply with quote  

Northern hemisphere swelters under heat wave

Temperatures soar as heatwave hits Germany

Russian heat wave kills fish, crops

Britain set to swelter under hot temperatures as heatwave returns

Hundreds dead as fierce heatwave wreaks devastation across Europe

Italy sweltering in major heatwave

Health warnings issued in Finland as heatwave continues

China on heatwave alert as temperatures soar

SoCal heatwave expected to get hotter
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