Posts tagged ‘Antarctica’

Want to Save The Ice in the Arctic?

I wrote below about Chinese pollution, but here is one other thought.  Shifting Chinese focus from reducing CO2 with unproven 21st century technology to reducing particulates with 1970s technology would be a great boon for its citizens.  But it could well have one other effect:

It might reverse the warming in the Arctic.

The reduction of Arctic ice sheet size in the summer, and the warming of the Arctic over the last several decades, is generally attributed to greenhouse warming.  But there are reasons to doubt that Co2 is the whole story.   One is that the sea ice extent in Antarctica has actually been growing at the same time the Arctic sea ice cover has been shrinking.  Maybe there is another explanation, one that affects only the northern hemisphere and not the southern?

I don't know if you have snow right now or even ever get snow.  If you do, find some black dust, like coal dust or dark dirt, and sprinkle it on a patch of snow.  Then come back tomorrow.  What will you find?  The patch of snow you sprinkled in dark dust melted a lot in comparison to the rest of the snow.  This is an albedo effect.  Snow takes a while to melt because it reflects rather than absorbs solar radiation.  Putting black dust on it changes that equation, and suddenly solar radiation is adsorbed as heat, and the now melts.  Fast.  I know this because I run a sledding hill in the wintertime, where snow falls on a black cinder hill.  The snow will last until even the smallest patch of black cinders is exposed.  Once exposed, that small hole will grow like a cancer, as it absorbs solar energy and pumps it into the surrounding ground.

By the way, if you have not snow, Accuweather.com did the experiment for you.  See here.  Very nice pictures that make the story really clear.

So consider this mess:

china_pollution_ap971430398958_620x350

Eventually that mess blows away.  Where does it end up?  Well, a lot of it ends up deposited in the Arctic, on top of the sea ice and Greenland ice sheet.

There is a growing hypothesis that this black carbon deposited on the ice from China is causing much of the sea ice to melt faster.  And as the ice sheet melts faster, this lowers the albedo of the arctic, and creates warming.  In this hypothesis, warming follows from ice melting, rather than vice versa.

How do we test this?  Well, the best way would be to go out and actually measure the deposits and calculate the albedo changes from this.  My sense is that this work is starting to be done (example), but it has been slow, because everyone who is interested in Arctic ice of late are strong global warming proponents who have incentives not to find an alternative explanation for melting ice.

But here are two quick mental experiments we can do:

  1. We already mentioned one proof.  Wind patterns cause most pollution to remain within the hemisphere (northern or southern) where it was generated.  So we would expect black carbon ice melting to be limited to the Arctic and not be seen in the Antarctic.  This fits observations
  2. In the winter, as the sea ice is growing, we would expect new ice would be free of particulate deposits and that any new deposits would be quickly covered in snow.  This would mean that we should see ice extents in the winter to be about the same as they were historically, and we would see most of the ice extent reduction in the summer.  Again, this is exactly what we see.

This is by no means a proof -- there are other explanations for the same data.  But I am convinced we would see at least a partial sea ice recovery in the Arctic if China could get their particulate emissions under control.

Update:  Melt ponds in Greenland are black with coal dust

 

From the Archives: Eliot Spitzer and the Antarctic Liberation Front

I posted this in 2004, but it seems relevant today:

OK, but what is this Antarctica thing?  Back when I was an undergrad
at Princeton, one of my fondest memories was of a bizarre Student Body
Governing Council (USG) election.  The previous USG administration,
headed by none other than fellow Princetonian Eliot Spitzer, had so
irritated the student body that, for the first time in memory, the
usually apathetic voting population who generally couldn't care less
who their class president was actually produced an energetic opposition
party.  Even in his formative years, Spitzer was expert in using his
office to generate publicity, in this case frequent mentions in the
student newspaper that finally drove several students over the edge.

The result was the incredibly funny and entertaining Antarctic
Liberation Front.  I wish I had saved their brochures, but their
proposals included things like imposing a dawn to dusk curfew on the
school and funding school parties by annexing the mineral rights
between the double yellow lines of the US highways.  All of this was
under the banner of starting jihad to free Antarctica.  The ALF swept
the USG election.  This immensely annoyed Spitzer and other USG
stalwarts, who decried the trivialization of such an august body.  The
pained and pompous wailing from the traditional student council weenies
(sounding actually a lot like liberals after the last presidential
election) only amused the general student population even further.
After a few student-council-meetings-as-performance-art, the ALF
resigned en mass and life went back to being just a little bit more
boring.

If you think I am exaggerating in saying that the Spitzer-led
student council types had a whiny reaction to this bit of fun, you
should know that Spitzer was still whining about it 20 years later to the New Yorker magazine.  Virginia Postrel, also a Princetonian at the time, had a similar reaction to mine here, and fisks the New Yorker article.

Did the World Overlook a Volcano Eruption?

An interesting story told by Anthony Watts, of trying to figure out if an seemingly extinct volcano erupted in Antarctica last October.  No definitive answers yet, but a reminder that  even in a world of billion dollar particle accelerators, amateurs still have a role in science.

Antarctica

On Sunday, CBS claimed that Antarctica is melting.  In fact, once small
portion of the Antarctic peninsula is warming and may be losing snow, while the
rest of Antarctica has not been warming and in fact has been gaining ice cover. 
The show visits an island off the Antarctic Peninsula which has about as much
weather relevance and predictive power to the rest of Antarctica as Key West has
to the rest of the United States.  Absolutely absurd.

Unfortunately, I have a real job and I don't have time to restate all the
rebuttals to the CBS show.  However, I took on the Antarctic
issue in depth here
, and this post at NC Media
Watch
has more.

Anatomy of A False Panic

I am trying to keep most of my long climate posts off this site and over at Climate Skeptic.  However, I have cross-posted this one because it is a good example for laymen of just what crap gets put forward in the media today about global warming.  It demonstrates the gullibility of the media, the gross exaggerations that exist in nearly every climate catastrophe article, and, as an added bonus, demonstrates the scientific incompetence of the man who leads the UN, the organization that has taken onto itself the role of summarizing the state of climate science. 

OK, here is a great example of the media blithely accepting panicky catsrophism where none is warranted (Link HT to Maggies Farm)

Scientists
welcomed Ban Ki Moon to Antarctica with a glass of Johnny Walker Black
Label served "on the rocks" with 40,000-year-old polar ice. But the
researchers delivered an alarming message to the UN Secretary-General
about a potential environmental catastrophe that could raise sea levels
by six metres if an ice sheet covering a fifth of the continent
crumbles.

The polar experts, studying the effects of global warming on the icy
continent that is devoted to science, fear a repeat of the 2002
collapse of the Larsen B ice shelf. The 12,000-year-old shelf was 220
metres (720ft) thick and almost the size of Yorkshire.

"I was told by scientists that the entire Western Antarctica is now
floating. That is a fifth of the continent. If it broke up, sea levels
may rise as much as six metres," Mr Ban said after being briefed at the
Chilean, Uruguayan and South Korean bases during a day trip to King
George Island, at the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. ...

Eduardo Frei Montalva Air Force Base, a year-round settlement of
corrugated-iron cabins belonging to Chile, lies in one of the world's
worst "hot spots" "“ temperatures have been rising 0.5C (0.9F) a decade
since the 1940s.

I don't even know where to start with this.  So I will just fire off some bullets:

  • Over the last 30 years, satellites have found absolutely no warming trend in Antarctica  (from UAH via Steven Milloy):

South_pole_temperatures

  • The tail is measuring the dog.  The Korean station
    couldn't possibly be more irrelevent to measuring Antarctic
    temperatures.  It is on an island labelled 26-34 north of the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula in the map below.  One might as well declare she is measuring temperatures in the continental US from Key West.

Antarcticastationsmap1s

  • It is well known that the Antarctic Penninsula,
    representing 2% of Antactica's area, is warming while the other 98% is
    cooling.  I discussed this more here.
    Al Gore took the same disingenuous step in his movie of showing only
    the anomolous 2%.  The Antarctic Penninsula in the first graph below shows
    warming.  The rest of Antarctica shows none  (click to enlarge)

Antarc35_2 Antarc34 Antarc33_2

  • The IPCC (run by the Secretary General and his organization) predicts that with global warming, the
    Antarctic penninsula will see net melting while the rest of Antarctica
    will see net increases in ice.  The penninsula is affected more by the
    changing temperatures of sea currents in the surrounding seas than in
    global climate effects.  For most of Antarctica, temperatures will
    never concieveably warm enough to melt the ice sheets, since it is so
    cold even in the summer, and ice sheets are expected to expand as
    warming increases precipitation on the continent.
  • Scientists studying Antarctica have been there at most a few
    decades.  We know almost nothing about it or its histroy.  We certainly
    don't know enough about "what is normal" to have any clue if activities
    on the Larson B ice shelf are anomolous or not.
  • The UN Sec-gen said that this ice shelf represented a fifth of
    the continent.  Here, in actuality, is the Larsen ice shelf.  The red
    box below greatly exaggerates Larsen's size, and Larsen-B is only a portion
    of the entire Larsen shelf.

Antarctic_map_larson_b

  • The statement that the entire Western Antarctic is floating is
    just absurd.  God knows what that is supposed to mean, but even if we
    ignore the word "floating", we can see from the map above we aren't
    even talking about a significant portion of the Antarctic Pennninsula,
    much less of Western Antarctica.  Here are actual pictures of the 2002 event.  (by the way, if ice is really "floating", presumably in sea water, then it's melting will have zero effect on ocean levels)
  • Such a feared collapse already happened 5 years ago, and sea levels did not budge.  But
    the next time it happens, sea levels are going to rise 20 feet??  Even
    the UN's IPCC does not think sea levels will rise more than 8-12 inches
    in the next century due to their overblown temperature forecasts.

As always, you can consult my my book and my movie (both free online) for more details on all these topics.

Does the US Matter?

After NASA was forced to restate its US temperature data downward, James Hansen argued that the US doesn't matter.  After it was observed that long-term temperature measurement is flawed in South America and Africa, James Hansen agreed and argued that South America and Africa don't matter.  Since oceans cover 75% of the globe and we have no long-term temperature record for these oceans or for Antarctica, I ask the question at Climate Skeptic:  What does matter?

I Find This Argument Uncompelling

I am skeptical of some but not all global warming claims, but must admit that even as a skeptic, I find this argument by James Lewis uncompelling:

Now imagine that all
the variables about global climate are known with less than 100 percent
certainty. Let's be wildly and unrealistically optimistic and say that
climate scientists know each variable to 99 percent certainty! (No such
thing, of course). And let's optimistically suppose there are only one-hundred x's, y's, and z's
--- all the variables that can change the climate: like the amount of
cloud cover over Antarctica, the changing ocean currents in the South
Pacific, Mount Helena venting, sun spots, Chinese factories burning
more coal every year, evaporation of ocean water (the biggest
"greenhouse" gas), the wobbles of earth orbit around the sun, and yes,
the multifarious fartings of billions of living creatures on the face of the earth, minus,
of course, all the trillions of plants and algae that gobble up all the
CO2, nitrogen-containing molecules, and sulfur-smelling exhalations
spewed out by all of us animals. Got that? It all goes into our best
math model.

So
in the best case, the smartest climatologist in the world will know 100
variables, each one to an accuracy of 99 percent. Want to know what the
probability of our spiffiest math model would be, if that perfect world existed?  Have you ever multiplied (99/100) by itself 100 times? According to the
Google calculator, it equals a little more than 36.6 percent.

The Bottom line: our best imaginable model has a total probability of one out of three. How many billions of dollars in Kyoto money are we going to spend on that chance?

Yes, there is a point to be made that climate is really complicated.  However, I can still make correct and valid directional predictions without knowing the exact state of every variable.  For example, I can say with some certainty that, at least here in Arizona, that the temperature at 4PM is going to be higher than the temperature at 4AM, and probably by many degrees.  I can make this statement despite having no idea what the temperature at either time actually is.

I think one can say that the hypothesis is pretty strong that man-made CO2 is increasing atmospheric CO2 concentrations which in turn is causing some warming.  Where Mr. Lewis probably has a point is on the issue of positive and negative feedbacks.  Most of the warming in the estimates in productions like "An Inconvenient Truth"  relies not on just CO2-driven warming, but warming from a variety of feedback processes.  These feedbacks are really really complicated and not well understood.  I discuss this issue of feedbacks both here and here and here.

(HT Maggies Farm)

Remind Me, Why is Dick Grasso on Trial?

Aspiring Governor, self-proclaimed substitute for the SEC, and enemy of Antarctica Eliot Spitzer is about to start a criminal trial against Dick Grasso, former head of the NY Stock Exchange (NYSE). 

And I have no idea why. 

Certainly it has something to do with Mr. Grasso's pay, which Mr. Spitzer thinks was too high.  The NYSE, for those who may be confused, is a private institution owned by some of the richest and supposedly financially savviest people in the country.  The owners or seat-holders select a board of directors, who in turn approved Mr. Grasso's pay package.  I imagine that there are folks who think that the stock exchange is a public institution or uses public money, but it is not and does not, though it does have some quasi-regulatory responsibilities.

The best I can figure it, Mr. Spitzer is arguing that Mr. Grasso somehow tricked these babes-in-the-woods on the board, which include naive and inexperienced people such as CEO's of Fortune 50 companies, heads of investment banks and brokerage firms, and a former US Secretary of State.  Now, I can imagine that the government might have an interest if Mr. Grasso somehow cooked the books to inflate his pay fraudulently.  In fact, the director of HR has admitted he did not give the board all the relevant information, but board members have already said that they did not rely on this person for their information.  Remember that most of the folks on the board themselves get paid in a similar league as Mr. Grasso's pay, so most saw it as a competitive offer, at least until negative publicity caused all the cockroaches to run for cover.

So Mr. Spitzer is starting criminal proceedings against people who he thinks negotiate too well for themselves or are paid more than they are worth.  I am sure glad he wasn't doing this 15 years ago.  I remember getting hired as a new Business school grad at McKinsey & Co. as a consultant for some ridiculous amount of money, and thinking "I can't be worth that!  I don't know anything!  Are they really paying me to tell experienced CEO's what to do?"  Boy, what panic I would have had if I had known there was an AG out there looking to send overpaid people to jail!

The WSJ has a really fascinating editorial that I will link to, though a paid subscription is required (update:  Try this link instead, it may get you there free or maybe here).  The overall picture is one of, if there was a crime at all, the wrong people are on trial.  Here is a taste:

In early June of 2003, when the
membership of the [NYSE] compensation committee changed, the Webb interviews
begin to tell a story of wider board dysfunction. And if there was a
screw loose in this new operation it appears to be not Mr. Langone --
who by all the interview accounts ran a tight ship -- but his
successor, [former New York State Comptroller Carl] McCall. This is a vital point, given that Mr. Spitzer, a
fellow Democrat, did not name Mr. McCall in his lawsuit. What toppled
Mr. Grasso was not the $139 million payment the board approved in
August of 2003 but the later news that Mr. Grasso was owed $48 million
more. Many board members said they didn't know about this payment and
for that many blame Mr. McCall.

The interview notes are rife with comments that Mr.
McCall had little inclination or ability to understand the contract he
took over negotiating. An outside consultant, William Mischell, said
that when he and Mr. Ashen explained the contract to Mr. McCall, "the
meeting . . . lasted somewhere between 15 to 30 minutes, with McCall
making or taking phone calls throughout and not really focusing on the
details." Mr. McCall himself told investigators that "the subject of
executive compensation was entirely foreign to him" -- yet he refused
offers of help to explain the contract to others. When asked why Mr.
McCall was chosen to chair the committee rather than someone more
knowledgeable, Mr. Karmazin told the Webb team that it was an "image
thing" (the NYSE had just instituted new governance standards).

Mr. McCall's excuse for not giving directors
"additional details" about the $48 million or other aspects of the
contract -- which were clearly stated in the text -- is that "he was
not aware of any." That's because, as he admitted, he didn't read the
full document, even before he signed it. Moreover, at least one
director, Van der Moolen's Mr. Fagenson "asked McCall twice to make
certain that all pension plans and other plans were going to terminate
on this date, but stated he never received any updates from McCall on
these issues."

As Mr. McCall went to brief the full board on Aug. 7,
2003, he was given talking points that referenced the extra $48 million
but didn't read these or tell the board. J.P. Morgan Chase CEO William
Harrison noted that Mr. McCall "did not appear to understand the
proposed payout very well. . ." Avon CEO Andrea Jung noted that "McCall
struggled" and that "others were more able to answer questions." Mr.
Karmazin described Mr. McCall as "flustered," and said he did a
"horrible job" of explaining the numbers. Leon Panetta, former Clinton
White House chief of staff, speaking of a later McCall performance, was
blunt: "Carl knew nothing."

The article sums up the Board this way:

The board, which was often
dysfunctional, was stocked with celebrities from diverse
constituencies, many of whom didn't understand the NYSE or take their
responsibilities seriously. Former New York State Comptroller Carl
McCall, who brought Mr. Grasso's contract to fruition, was viewed by
his colleagues as incompetent and, in the words of Goldman Sachs CEO
Henry Paulson, not "financially sophisticated." Former Secretary of
State Madeleine Albright felt she shouldn't "question" the pay; Bear
Stearns CEO James Cayne admitted he "tuned out" of the pay proceedings;
and Van der Moolen Vice Chairman Robert Fagenson suggested the only
real concern was "how this was going to reflect on the Board."

But the interviews also make clear that more astute
board members, such as Mr. Langone, former Viacom President Mel
Karmazin, and former Merrill Lynch Chairman David Komansky, took it
upon themselves to understand Mr. Grasso's contract, and offered strong
arguments for why they'd paid him as they had. "We knew what we were
doing when we paid him. We did it purposely, and we believed it was the
right compensation," Mr. Komansky said in his interview

In this environment, Grasso is culpable, how?

Student Government, Pirates, and Antarctica

Okay, how could you resist that title for a post.  My thoughts on this subject were spurred by an article by Fox News about pirates that won election to the NC State student government:

By an overwhelming majority, the Raleigh school last week elected a candidate
called "The Pirate Captain" student body president, giving the old sea dog 58
percent of the vote.

"We're quickly goin' to bae getting our plank started, get the simple things
out of the way," The Pirate Captain (search), real name Whil
(or maybe "Will") Piavis, a junior, told supporters after election results were
unveiled Wednesday night.

Many outlets have reported this story with incredulity that such an unserious person could be elected to so lofty an office.  Several student government weenies at NC State agreed:

More sober student-government types seemed appalled that a character straight
from "SpongeBob SquarePants" had crashed their party.

I was not surprised in the least, for two reasons.  First, I think many Americans in general are fed up with the self-importance of most legislators.  This goes double for students and the student government.  In fact, I think it is nearly a law of nature that the more trivial the government post, the more self-important the occupants of that post are.

The second reason I was not surprised was that we had a similar event twenty years ago at Princeton where the student government was taken over by the Antarctic Liberation Front:

Back when I was an undergrad
at Princeton, one of my fondest memories was of a bizarre Student Body
Governing Council (USG) election.  The previous USG administration,
headed by none other than fellow Princetonian Eliot Spitzer, had so
irritated the student body that, for the first time in memory, the
usually apathetic voting population who generally couldn't care less
who their class president was actually produced an energetic opposition
party.  Even in his formative years, Spitzer was expert in using his
office to generate publicity, in this case frequent mentions in the
student newspaper that finally drove several students over the edge.

The result was the incredibly funny and entertaining Antarctic
Liberation Front.  I wish I had saved their brochures, but their
proposals included things like imposing a dawn to dusk curfew on the
school and funding school parties by annexing the mineral rights
between the double yellow lines of the US highways.  All of this was
under the banner of starting jihad to free Antarctica.  The ALF swept
the USG election.  This immensely annoyed Spitzer and other USG
stalwarts, who decried the trivialization of such an august body.  The
pained and pompous wailing from the traditional student council weenies
(sounding actually a lot like liberals after the last presidential
election) only amused the general student population even further.
After a few student-council-meetings-as-performance-art, the ALF
resigned en mass and life went back to being just a little bit more
boring.

Yes, that Eliot Spitzer, the overreaching Aspiring Governor of New York.  He is STILL mad about getting dissed in this student election, and whined about it twenty years later in print.  And don't miss fellow Princetonian Virginia Postrel's reflections on the ALF and Eliot Spitzer.

Even More Niche Blogs

I try to keep on the lookout for odd, niche blogs out there.  Previously I linked to the remote (as in TV remote) blog and the NFL Cheerleader Blog

The niche blog today is the Payphone Project, which is both a photo blog as well as a news site about payphones.  Make sure to look at the pictures, but here is my favorite-- The Antarctic Payphone at Scott Base, Antarctica  (uhhh, anyone here have 426 quarters they can lend me?)

Kiwiphonebooth

Though I must admit that this one on Lake Victoria is cool:

Lake_victoria_solar_payphone_01

I actually first ran into this site when I was working in the online directory world at Whitepages.com

Update: While I called this a niche, it must be a big niche, because the Payphone Project has competitors (and here, and jeez, here too)

Coming soon: Carnival of the Payphones?

Iceberg Collision

Courtesy of Nature Noted, comes this article on two enormous blocks of ice set to collide in the next week in Antarctica.

104274main_iceberg_story_pic

As the Nasa site linked above puts it:

It is an event so large that the best seat in the house is in space: a massive iceberg is on a collision course with a floating glacier near the McMurdo Research Station in Antarctica. NASA satellites have witnessed the 100-mile-long B-15A iceberg moving steadily towards the Drygalski Ice Tongue. Though the iceberg's pace has slowed in recent days, NASA scientists expect a collision to occur no later than January 15, 2005.

Eliot Spitzer and the Antarctic Liberation Front

The "news" today is that Eliot Spitzer has announced he is running for governor of New York.  This is about as surprising as the "revelation" that Barry Bonds took steroids.  Duh.  The "AG" job is not nicknamed "Aspiring Governor" for nothing.  Also, Spitzer represents the worst of a new trend of AG's using their prosecutor role to engage in lawsuits more for their media and publicity value rather than an sense of public service.  Why else would Spitzer involve himself and the AG office in a compensation dispute between two private parties, except for the fact that the two private parties are very high profile in NY.

OK, but what is this Antarctica thing?  Back when I was an undergrad at Princeton, one of my fondest memories was of a bizarre Student Body Governing Council (USG) election.  The previous USG administration, headed by none other than fellow Princetonian Eliot Spitzer, had so irritated the student body that, for the first time in memory, the usually apathetic voting population who generally couldn't care less who their class president was actually produced an energetic opposition party.  Even in his formative years, Spitzer was expert in using his office to generate publicity, in this case frequent mentions in the student newspaper that finally drove several students over the edge.

The result was the incredibly funny and entertaining Antarctic Liberation Front.  I wish I had saved their brochures, but their proposals included things like imposing a dawn to dusk curfew on the school and funding school parties by annexing the mineral rights between the double yellow lines of the US highways.  All of this was under the banner of starting jihad to free Antarctica.  The ALF swept the USG election.  This immensely annoyed Spitzer and other USG stalwarts, who decried the trivialization of such an august body.  The pained and pompous wailing from the traditional student council weenies (sounding actually a lot like liberals after the last presidential election) only amused the general student population even further.  After a few student-council-meetings-as-performance-art, the ALF resigned en mass and life went back to being just a little bit more boring.

If you think I am exaggerating in saying that the Spitzer-led student council types had a whiny reaction to this bit of fun, you should know that Spitzer was still whining about it 20 years later to the New Yorker magazine.  Virginia Postrel, also a Princetonian at the time, had a similar reaction to mine here, and fisks the New Yorker article.