tip off

Melting glaciers: the canary in the mine shaft of global warming

double-kayaks-Hooker

Kayaking at Hooker Glacier, with Mt Cook beyond. Picture courtesy mtcook.com

In New Zealand, the lies and counter-lies from the IPCC and global warming denialists about the world’s fast disappearing glaciers get their moment of truth.

The three longest piedmont glaciers in the southern alps, the Tasman, the Mueller and the Hooker, are disappearing at a speed unimaginable to this former alpine climber and my friends from that carefree and reckless past.

We crossed ice 400 metres thick near places where sightseeing boats now ply the vast lake that has replaced most of the lower Tasman Glacier.

Kids wearing board shorts, sunnies and face paint are windsurfing across another lake that is now replacing the lower Mueller Glacier, also close to the Mt Cook tourist village.

In the ’60s, the late bushwalker and early alpine climber Dorothy Butler took foolish youths to NZ Alpine Club skills courses so we’d be able to get out of crevasses, self-arrest and do all the other things that might stop callow Aussie kids dying like flies on their mountains,  it was … so different.

These lakes rapidly appeared out of nowhere, starting with huge crater-like sink holes in crumbling moraine covered black ice in 1978-79.

What was ice, massive, rock-hard sheets of slowing-moving ice, became vast reaches of shingle and streams and lakes. What became tussocks became the flowers of the plains, colonised each summer with specks of gentian-like blossoms. You can find seedlings that will grow into the first trees in places last covered by woods in the previous interglacial, maybe 120,000-130,000 years ago.

Why the IPCC sees a need to distort the tale that the glaciers already tell in abundance (and with immense beauty) about global warming is the question. Not just about glaciers, but about temperatures, and inferred warming that “eliminates” pesky ground station readings that show cooling, and outrageous scare tactic crap about decametre rises in sea levels within 20 years, 50 years or whatever number of years drives headlines and hysteria.

This career-driven, social agenda-driven scaremongering frenzy sticks in the throats of some of my friends in earth sciences here and abroad, and hey, back then, I climbed with a few them in NZ, in France, and America. In our lifetimes, the ice has disappeared and transformed some of those places beyond recognition.

The complaint is about the pressure to frame everything in earth sciences in terms of a catastrophic warming dogma. This involves a contempt for the research, which is difficult and complex and in places contradictory, yet also points inescapably to fossil carbon induced warming as real and serious.

Then the denialists buzz around the stink with their own lies. One of the most persistent is that most of the world’s glaciers are actually advancing. For sure. Nothing like confusing advance for “surge”, which is what happens when a heavy snow season sends a “ripple” of ice downstream, as happens on the NZ west-coast glaciers such as the Fox and Franz.

The large tributary ice streams that feed down into the Tasman, like the Hochstetter Icefall from the grand plateau halfway up Cook, or the Ranfurly that drains the Minarets, are thickening. The warmer temperatures up high actually mean more snowfall, and more glacial ice flow, but down low, on the main trunk of the Tasman, it means runaway melting, and a drastic retreat. Some of the Tasman ice feeders, such as the Ball Glacier have almost completely vanished. In the ’60s we used ropes and crampons to get from the Tasman to a scary place under the Caroline face on Mt Cook via the Ball Glacier. Now, the deeply crevassed glacier has vanished. Rivulets roar down slope there for all but a few months of the year and ravage metres of ice per day from the remaining middle Tasman ice.

These “temperate” glaciers are the canary in the mine shaft of global warming because they remained stable just above or below freezing point. Now that the main glacial tongues are above freezing from surface to bottom they are rotten with water. They will melt completely into lakes or shingle plains within decades, until the next glacial epoch comes.

The process of glacial retreat here, and everywhere non-polar glaciers persist, fits the rising concentrations of CO2 in the air from the onset of pre-industrial smelting and forest clearing in the clearest possible way.

It doesn’t need help from lies or distortions.

Take your children to New Zealand. Show them the places where the ice is being reclaimed by the flowers and trees and lakes, and pleasure boats. It is a rare moment in time to be able to witness what happened on such a huge scale at the end of the Pleistocene and the start of the Holocene, or “our time”.

May we use our time wisely, and truly.

46
  • 1
    Mark Duffett
    Posted Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    As an earth sciences practitioner myself, I dips me lid to you, Mr Sandilands. You’ve got this absolutely spot on.

    A pox on both denialists and apocalypse pornographers.

  • 2
    Evan Beaver
    Posted Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    Has anyone seen the actual passage in the report that is at the centre of these shenanigans? I went looking through the section on Asia: Himalayas in IPCCAR4 and could not see the claim that the Australian are referring to.

  • 3
    baal
    Posted Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    Can’t wait to read the armchair deniers hoeing into Mr Sandilands - how dare he know because he’s been there and seen it!

  • 4
    JamesH
    Posted Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    A bit excessive Ben,

    The IPCC have publicly acknowledged that they got their prediction of Himalayan melting wrong and said they will remove that bit in the next report. I’ve yet to hear any “skeptic” retract any claim, ever.

    The original mistake seems to have stemmed from a mistype of “melting by 2350” to “melting by 2035”. Convenient mistake, perhaps, but easily made and easily corrected. Since, as you say, the research “points inescapably to fossil carbon induced warming as real and serious”, how can the IPCC’s reports which document this fact also be a “lie” or a “dogma”? Sure, Pachauri now looks stupid. Big deal. Given the level of animosity and abuse which climate scientists now face (Michael Mann had to have a Secret Service escort last time he went to Texas because of credible death threats), they’ve taken on a defensive mentality. Hardly suprising.

    inferred warming that “eliminates” pesky ground station readings that show cooling” - what on earth are you referring to? who/what are you quoting? If the glaciers are indeed melting as you say (even though the Himalayan glaciers are not melting at the rate the IPCC stated) why is sea level rising so implausible to you?

  • 5
    Ben Sandilands
    Posted Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    I’d better be quick and point out that the caption on the chosen photo is wrong in that it is taken on the big pond at the foot of the Mueller Glacier and not on the Hooker which is hidden up valley in the middle distance.

  • 6
    Ben Sandilands
    Posted Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Jamesh,

    I was referring to the problem of the main Antarctic stations which was made to ‘go away’ by inferring the high latitude snow domes had really warmed contrary to down trend recorded on the ice. And it was such a pointless exercise because last winter they really did ‘warm’. The weather records for the landmark bases last winter recorded some very sharp breakouts compared to previous winters, and it will be interesting to read the papers on very recent trends when they come out.

    Sea level rises are not implausible. They are real, and persistent, but they are not showing any signs of fulfilling predictions in the tens of metres, and most likely not even single metres, by 2101 in terms of geologically stable coastlines.

  • 7
    A government big enough to give you everything, is strong enough to take everything you have.
    Posted Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    Ben,

    Interested to know what you think of Bjorn Lomborg?

  • 8
    Johnfromplanetearth
    Posted Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    The IPCC are dealing with the Himalayan non problem and the voodoo science that goes with it as we get this news about New Zealand. Glaciergate is brewing!

  • 9
    JamesH
    Posted Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Ben,

    Interesting (re: main Antarctic stations). Got a cite for that?

    The IPCC’s prediction of sea level rise by 2100 is 18-59 cm by 2100, with an as yet unquantifiable addition from non-linear ice melt. So far they seem to be on target for that. So if you are accusing the IPCC of “outrageous scare tactic crap about decametre rises in sea levels within 20 years”, you’re firing at the wrong target. Various individual scientists have made efforts to quantify that uncertain ice melt and produced higher figures, but they aren’t in IPCC AR4.

  • 10
    Andrew Baker
    Posted Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    I don’t have a view on whether the world is warming abnormally, and if so whether it is man-made. But this is a thoughtful, well written article which makes its case in a way which so much climate change hysteria has not. Nice one. I enjoyed it.

  • 11
    Evan Beaver
    Posted Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

    Here’s the original passage from AR4:
    http://www.ipcc.ch/publications_and_data/ar4/wg2/en/ch10s10-6-2.html

    Glaciers in the Himalaya are receding faster than in any other part of the world (see Table 10.9) and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate. Its total area will likely shrink from the present 500,000 to 100,000 km2 by the year 2035 (WWF, 2005).

    Ben, I liked this article, so I’m not referring to you in the next passage. This has been a storm in a t-cup and reaks of classic mud slinging.

  • 12
    Ben Sandilands
    Posted Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Jamesh,

    1.

    Nature, January 21, Michael Mann and others.

    2.

    The Australian, November 14, 2009 as clipped;-

    Lenore Taylor, National Correspondent in The Australian (14 November 2009):

    Almost 250,000 homes, now worth up to A$63 billion, will be “at risk of inundation” by the end of the century, under “worst-case but plausible” predictions of rising sea levels.

    The study — released ahead of the crucial Senate vote on Labor’s emissions trading scheme — modelled the effect of a 1.1m sea-level rise on cities and towns around Australia.

    This is a higher level than the 79cm end-of-century rise predicted by the last Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, but in the mid-range of some subsequently published research.

    It found between 157,000 and 247,000 homes “at risk of inundation” — meaning they would be permanently flooded or frequently flooded by storm surges or king tides — with hospitals, water-treatment plants and other public buildings also found to be at risk.

    Even Sydney airport would be at “increased risk” of inundation, according to the study, written by the Department of Climate Change with input from CSIRO, Geosciences Australia and scores of academics.

    The study — which models possible risks down to township and local government areas complete with aerial photographs of towns showing the possible inundation — appears timed to give the public a sharp reminder of the possible dangers of climate change.

    It also increases pressure on the opposition as the government’s ETS bill is brought back to parliament next week.

    It found NSW had “the greatest exposure”, with between 40,800 and 62,400 homes at risk, followed by Queensland (35,900 to 56,900), Victoria (27,600 to 44,600), South Australia (25,200 to 43,000) and Western Australia (18,700 to 28,000).

    Within each state, it identified the local government areas where property was most “at risk” — for NSW, Lake Macquarie, Wyong, Gosford, Wollongong, Shoalhaven and Rockdale; for Queensland, Moreton Bay, Mackay, the Gold Coast, Fraser Coast, Bundaberg and the Sunshine Coast; and for Victoria, Kingston, Geelong, Wellington and Port Phillip.

    The study says that “based on the recent science 1.1m was selected as a plausible value for sea-level rise for this risk assessment. It is important to note that the purpose of a risk assessment is to identify areas of risk and therefore plausible worse-case scenarios need to be considered.”

    Andrew Ash, director of the CSIRO climate-change adaption flagship, said the 1.1m sea-level rise was “certainly plausible”.

    “As things stand, the only variation will be exactly when we reach that level,” Dr Ash said.

    Given the study was meant to help government planning decisions, it was therefore “both plausible and appropriate” to model a 1.1m rise.

    As well as the threat of inundation, the study calculates how many buildings are under threat from “soft” erodable shorelines.

    3.

    A link that goes to your point and shows the government is relying on advice that exceeds the range you have quoted from the IPCC. We in the media should have queried this discrepancy at the time.

    http://www.anu.edu.au/…/climate-change-faster-change-and-more-serious-risks-final.pdf

    PS Google is your ‘friend’.

  • 13
    Ben Sandilands
    Posted Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Lomborg? I’m not up to speed on the latest, but if I recollect correctly, his candour in admitting that A. manmade global warming is in fact real, and B. maintaining that we should spend our money on things we can actually change has resulted in his being consigned to oblivion as no longer useful to either extreme in the debate.

    I admire his courage in admitting he was wrong about the science and then taking a hard path he regards as true but lonely.

  • 14
    Most Peculiar Mama
    Posted Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Ben,

    Are you aware of the geological setting of New Zealand?

  • 15
    Posted Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Well. All praise to Dot Butler. What an amazon. As for the earth sciences crowd replete with guilt having built their alma maters on geology, drilling, exploration and fossil fuel industry. Give me a break. Conflict of interest?: It’s so big (like God?) they can’t see it.

    The geology crowd (Prof Flannery mining funded studies in PNG!) should go back to their paleontology Ao1 lab like I did at ANU and see where today’s biodiversity is heading (6th greatest extinction in 4 billion years - you’re soaking in it).

    I walked the Hooker glacier in 1989 in partial approach to Mt Cook, after moving up to Cook NP from Mt Aspiring NP near Wanaka, did the Mt Aspiring main face out of climbing school there. So the pond pic was a surprise.

    But Kilimanjaro tells the same story. The eye tells the story. I was wondering if and when Crikey would respond to that front pager muck by The Australian.

    Also my treasuring guide book also tells the story. Climbing pics showing winter and summer. But even in 1990 what I saw was alot lighter ice and snow coverage with my eye than the 1960ies images there. It was about 1990 that Greenpeace first published a thick book called The Greenhouse Effect.

    If you live in Canberra long enough you will hear about skiing from Cooma to the snow fields. From Cooma!

  • 16
    Posted Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    Oh and another thing, the rising sea level aspect is based on exponential rate of change (non linear thing) based on potential and likely feedback loops or tipping points. It starts at a very low base. But if exponential is right then it’s metres not millimetres at the other end.

    If you believe as I do that all this world is connected in ‘the web of life’ - a 1980ies HSC biology school text, then you expect ripple effects in that web.

    You don’t know if tipping points will play like clathrates in the ocean depths, or methane in the mushy Siberian tundra. But Prof Hansen at NASA is alot more reliable than anyone you will hear or read here in Australia except for probably science master David Karoly.

    I imagine it’s the guilt that airbrushes the gravity of the situation. I would compare it to melanoma. It’s just a little glacier melt, it’s just a little mole. It’s just a noisy climate expert, it’s just my GP over reacting. Get it?

  • 17
    Johnny B Good
    Posted Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

    Tom,
    Funny you mentioned Cooma. As you may be aware on Sunday Cooma received its first Summer snow since records began in 1973. You may have been able to ski from Cooma to the snow fields last weekend…

  • 18
    JamesH
    Posted Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    Ben,
    1) I take it you mean Warming of the Antarctic ice-sheet surface since the
    1957 International Geophysical Year
    (pdf) by Steig, Schneider, et al (including Mann). Nature Letters 22 January 2009? I don’t see any reference to temperature measurements in high latitudes being eliminated.

    2) I’m glad you agree that the IPCC hasn’t exaggerated the risk of rising sea levels.

  • 19
    Ben Sandilands
    Posted Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

    Jamesh,

    Mann gave a range of interviews making just that point, which was joined with enthusiasm (insert conga line metaphor from Mark Latham’s diaries here if you wish) and coincidentally set the scene for the ice-shelves are collapsing and raising sea levels farce that followed. It went on for months. Yes, it wasn’t the IPCC re the sea levels, it was that other guy who was robbed in Florida who went overboard about melting ice caps.

  • 20
    Ben Sandilands
    Posted Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    Tom,

    1965 and 1964. The snow plows came down from the Snowy scheme to plough the Eden-Monaro highway through drifts at least 3 metres high. There was 15 cms of snow on the wings of stranded Vickers Viscounts at Canberra Airport. Snow settled beside the Appin highway and covered the Budawangs, never mind the buried Bluies and the southern highlands and the northern tablelands and upper and middle Hunter, and settled on Mangrove Mountain. They were the greatest snowstorms of the 20th century in NSW following several big ones very early in the century.

  • 21
    Posted Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    @ JamesH

    The distance from Cooma to the snow fields must be 100km (?). I mean snow drift all the way to Cooma. Not just a one off fall in summer.

    I agree it was chilly this morning. Slept at truck stop half way back from ACT. McCrap coffee was indeed …. but it was hot and wet.

  • 22
    Niall Clugston
    Posted Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    Why the IPCC sees a need to distort the tale…is the question.” Well, that’s obvious: a far-reaching, earth-shattering debate like this attracts dogmatists on both sides. Some of the comments above are testament to that.

    These pseudo-religious mental wars are a distraction from taking practical measures to deal with the problem (a) of industrial pollution, and (b) of Global Warming/the Greenhouse Effect, whether it’s manmade or not (and it obviously is).

    But I must repent: I have uttered a heresy. No practical solution needs to be sought. The answer has descended from on high on golden tablets. All we need to do is to hand the whole problem to the wizards who conjured up ENRON and the GFC and watch the market work its magic.

  • 23
    philiseedogollomoo
    Posted Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    Niall
    That is the problem you see, plenty of people want to argue the toss but noone wants to offer a solution.

  • 24
    timdotdotcom
    Posted Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    To balance the scales a bit, a quote from here - http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/climatechange/7007891/The-curious-case-of-the-expanding-environmental-group-with-falling-income.html

    Leading glaciologist Prof Graham Cogley of Ontario’s Trent University – who says that, at current rates, the melting might take ten times longer – has been worried for some time about the prediction. At one stage he thought IPCC had wrongly transposed two figures in the date from a 1996 scientific paper that forecast the glaciers’ disappearance by 2350. But the truth is even more embarrassing. It goes back to a story published in New Scientist in 1999 by its excellent environment specialist, Fred Pearce, which reported an Indian glaciologist Syed Husnain as saying they could be gone by 2035. This was mentioned six years later in a campaigning document by the environment group, WWF, and the IPCC then picked it up.”

  • 25
    timdotdotcom
    Posted Tuesday, 19 January 2010 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    And I’ll throw this in about cyclones and tornadoes - http://sciencepolicy.colorado.edu/prometheus/archives/ipcc-correspondence.pdf.

    The heat-shield covering the IPCC and AGW is starting to melt.

  • 26
    Most Peculiar Mama
    Posted Wednesday, 20 January 2010 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    The canard in the “mine” here is ignoring the fact that New Zealand lies in an active orogenic zone along the subductive boundary of two large plates.

    This hot spot covers your anecdotally “melting glaciers” theory quite nicely.

    Is the island growing undersea off Hawaii a result of “global warming” heating the ocean?

  • 27
    Evan Beaver
    Posted Wednesday, 20 January 2010 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    Oh yeah Mama? terrific theory. And this hot-spot has just appeared has it? Wasn’t there before when the glaciers were?

    Here’s some more straws if you’re looking for more things to grasp.

  • 28
    Most Peculiar Mama
    Posted Wednesday, 20 January 2010 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    Evan,

    Do you know how mountains form?

    If you’d ever been to New Zealand you see that the hot spot evidence is everywhere.

    I’m going to give you a pass on this one.

    Let’s call it a charitable oversight on my part.

  • 29
    Johnfromplanetearth
    Posted Wednesday, 20 January 2010 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    This is funnier than an episode of 30ROCK, talk about sweeping the Himalayan mistake under the carpet! How can any of you alarmists sleep at night believing everything these bozo’s tell you? How many more $billions of dollars will be spent only to hear some witch doctor say “sorry about that”?
    Interesting to read in the Australian yesterday that both Adelaide and Melbourne will be in for a cold spell for the next 3 months, of course this will bring us up to the beginning of Winter, so make that 6 months. Not bad considering we were all going to fry in a furnace of dry heat back in November! Of course i realise the difference between climate and weather, my point is nobody knows anything about this. The science is flawed and these quacks have their own self interest at the forefront of any scientific facts they may choose to present or misrepresent.
    This tiny blue ball has been floating around our gigantic sun for approximatley 4 billion years, we have been here two hundred thousand give or take a millenium.
    Heavy industry less than 200 years!!! I’m not believing anything any human has to say on something humans have had no impact on what so ever. Mother nature is laughing her head off at at us all right now.

  • 30
    Mark Duffett
    Posted Wednesday, 20 January 2010 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    MPM, apart from missing Evan’s point about timing, strike-slip orogeny and subduction does not necessarily mean ‘hot spot’. Overall heat flow in the New Zealand region is fairly close to the global average for continental crust. The presence of more local hot spots such as Taupo is due to concentration of that background heat flow in a particular location by molten material (fluid movement being vastly more efficient at heat transport than conduction). The melt arises from fluxing by water introduced in the subduction zone; nothing to do with excess heat.

    Interestingly, heat flow is actually fairly high in the Southern Alps, but that’s simply a result of extremely rapid ongoing uplift, the cooling effect of which far outstrips any heat from below.

    As I’ve written elsewhere, terrestrial heat flow is just not a player in the climate system. At most its impact is indirect, through its influence on plate tectonics (hence topography) and volcanoes (irregular injection of stuff into the atmosphere).

  • 31
    Chris Watkins
    Posted Wednesday, 20 January 2010 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    JamesH: Thanks for picking up Ben’s error over the IPCC & sea levels.

    Ben: The correct procedure is to say “Oops, sorry, I was wrong - I libeled the IPCC” and then add a correction to the article.

  • 32
    Most Peculiar Mama
    Posted Wednesday, 20 January 2010 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    @ Mark Duffett

    The problem here is one of cognitive dissonance.

    So what if the glaciers are melting?

    They have always melted; you don’t get “crumbling moraine covered black ice” without glaciers melting.

    The implication from the anecdotal AGW observations made here is that once the glaciers are gone there will be no more ‘melt’ to fill the rivers and drive the ecosystem that relies on it.

    Absolute bullshit.

    Is the author suggesting that no more snow will fall in these areas?

    Melting glaciers adds additional water. Is this a bad thing?

    BTW, in what month was the photo taken that is being used for effect here?

  • 33
    Mark Duffett
    Posted Wednesday, 20 January 2010 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    The IPCC may not have exaggerated the risk of rising sea levels , but others who should have known better certainly have, and invoked the IPCC in doing so. Less than a month before the reports such as Lenore Taylor’s quoted above, a federal parliamentary committee brought down a report on coastal risks arising from climate change. This was the source of subsequent media reports such as this one, saying that 700,000 properties in Australia were at risk from sea level rise.

    The source of that figure was a ‘fact sheet’ on the Department of Climate Change’s website>/a>, accessed 27 July 2009. No source was given for the quite fantastic forecasts of destruction contained therein (and reproduced on pages 36-37 of the parliamentary committee report).

    On further inquiry it transpired that the property impact forecasts were from a report by Risk Frontiers prepared for the Insurance Council of Australia. Certainly not peer-reviewed literature, and in fact not publicly available, but a similar article by the report’s authors can be seen here.

    It turns out that to produce the estimate of 700,000(!) Australian properties at risk, a sea level rise of six metres by 2100 was assumed. The IPCC 4th Assessment Report (2007) was cited as the source for this “plausible upper bound” on sea level rise over the next hundred years.

    In fact, virtually all the peer-reviewed literature indicates that 6 metres by 2100 is wildly implausible. The only question is whether the IPCC’s implication in the propagation of this gross exaggeration is justified. In any case it is disturbing to see how such recklessly inflated estimates found their way into a parliamentary report.

  • 34
    Ben Sandilands
    Posted Wednesday, 20 January 2010 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    Most peculiar Mama,

    The story isn’t about glaciology, and I wasn’t suggesting any of the things you mentioned, but since you asked….glaciers moderate the release of water, which is very, very important for communities that rely on them as the prime source.

    Once the glacial sources have melted, there role as a dam or reservoir is also gone. Precipitation is distributed as fast as the rivers, or floods, can discharge it. This has very negative consequences for those dependant on permanent and semi-permanent snow fields. If you seek out papers on the Lake Mungo people and the society that flourished on the shores of what indeed was an inland sea in Australia around 30,000 years ago, linkages are suggested between those inflows and the glaciers and periglacial snowfields of the Australian alps of those times.

    Of course more than the Australian icecaps must have been involved in the disappearance of the Mungo people, as the ice sheets that draped the Snowys persisted for thousands of years after these people had dispersed from the sites that have been extensively studied.

  • 35
    DC
    Posted Wednesday, 20 January 2010 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Ben, if you are really worried about “contempt for the research” don’t throw out unsubstantiated claims like these about the IPCC (and hence the researchers involved):

    This career-driven, social agenda-driven scaremongering frenzy”

    pressure to frame everything in earth sciences in terms of a catastrophic warming dogma”

    the IPCC sees a need to distort the tale” (wheres the evidence that this was a deliberate “distortion”)

    inferred warming that “eliminates” pesky ground station readings that show cooling, and outrageous scare tactic crap about decametre rises in sea levels within 20 years, 50 years or whatever number of years drives headlines and hysteria”

    The IPCC made what seems to be an honest mistake and have corrected it. As usual, Real climate has a sensible comment:

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2010/01/the-ipcc-is-not-infallible-shock/

    and an interesting piece on sea level rise….

    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/03/the-ipcc-sea-level-numbers/

  • 36
    Most Peculiar Mama
    Posted Wednesday, 20 January 2010 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    @DC

    Christ, realclimate again!

    …peer-review works to make the IPCC reports credible because many different eyes with different perspectives and knowledge look over the same text…In this case, it appears that not enough people with relevant experience saw this text, or if they saw it, did not comment publicly…”

    So realclimate admits the process is broken.

    What are the IPCC doing to fix it?

    What else has been published that “not enough people with relevant experience saw, or if they saw it, did not comment publicly”?

    Am I supposed to believe this was an isolated case?

    If this scandal was punching a hole in the “deniers” case, realclimate and the uneducated joker that runs the IPCC would be screaming blue murder and demanding heads roll.

  • 37
    merlot64
    Posted Wednesday, 20 January 2010 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    @Johnfromplanetearth says “This tiny blue ball has been floating around our gigantic sun for approximatley 4 billion years, we have been here two hundred thousand give or take a millenium.
    Heavy industry less than 200 years!!! I’m not believing anything any human has to say on something humans have had no impact on what so ever. Mother nature is laughing her head off at at us all right now.”

    However, in the last 200k years though, how many species have been hunted to extinction or otherwise died out due to habitat destruction. Even in the early part of the Industrial Revolution, Charles darwin used the changing colours of the Peppered Moth in response to the sooty pollution from the mills to support his theorey of evolution.

    One of the defining characteristics of humans, as was taught to us for years, was the ability of humans to adapt the environment to suit themselves. Unfortunately, while we adapt the environment to suit ourselves, it doesn’t always suit everything else on the planet.

    Now whether the IPCC is guilty of sloppy editorial policies or something more, it doesn’t change the basic science as defined Fourier, Tyndall, Arrhenius and Callendar. You can’t expect that the human release of 25+Giga Tonnes of CO2 per annum into a complex system will not impact on how that system functions.

  • 38
    chinda63
    Posted Wednesday, 20 January 2010 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    MPM - what really cracks me up about you is the way you jump on anything you see as a problem with science or an inconsistency of position on the “warmenista” side, but completely ignore the “denialists’” deliberate debasing and misrepresentation of the science and neatly side-step the issue of Monckton (and others) producing graphs that they *know* are a crock of sh*t (as Mr. Comitatus pointed out last week).

    Why is that?

  • 39
    Swifti
    Posted Wednesday, 20 January 2010 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    The NZ glaciers are melting? I haven’t heard of any sheep drowning? Must be bull.

    Oh yeah and…..MPM is a goose.

  • 40
    bitpattern
    Posted Wednesday, 20 January 2010 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    Tim Lambert has an illuminating piece on the so-called “widely publicised” claims

    http://scienceblogs.com/deltoid/2010/01/a_beat_up_of_himalayan_proport.php

  • 41
    Ben Sandilands
    Posted Thursday, 21 January 2010 at 6:52 am | Permalink

    Bitpattern,

    I have considerable respect for Tim’s analysis of this and other issues, including some where I wouldn’t go all the way with him. To go to one of the matters that drove my report. Under the previous government CSIRO and other voices in climate change science were, to be blunt, being pressured and censored. The critical issues were being suppressed. Now the pressure tends to come from the other direction, and I would not be surprised if at least two respected figures in relevant fields come out and publicly complain that the regime change has been just as damaging when it comes to the politicisation of the science, and the need to tailor messages to policy settings, rather than the other way around.

    There is no need for this. As reported, the glaciers do tell the story. They don’t need ‘help.’ The science is compelling, but needs continued support, and the interference that is being run from within the policy setters to promote an ETS that is totally dishonest in addressing the release of fossil sourced carbon needs to be exposed.

    The sanctimonious clap trap has to be challenged, from all directions.

  • 42
    Evan Beaver
    Posted Thursday, 21 January 2010 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Ben above said:
    “As reported, the glaciers do tell the story.”

    I like glaciers as a measure of climate change and agree they do tell a story. Point temperature data, across huge areas can be unwieldy and not very descriptive really. What significance a year to year rise of .05deg? But glaciers make it easy. A bit lump of ice, obviously affected by changes in precipitation and temperature and easily observed from year to year and even longer. And they just keep going backwards, despite Plimers assertion that they flow uphill.

  • 43
    stephen
    Posted Thursday, 21 January 2010 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    Good article Ben, I’d understand you point more if the effect of IPCC over statements had resulted in us doing too much, but we don’t seem to be doing much at all. The business as usual crowd may be able to play games with the complexities of carbons effect on global temperature, but surely it’s effect on ocean acidity is lay down mazaire.

  • 44
    Ben Sandilands
    Posted Thursday, 21 January 2010 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    So true. About seven years ago Dr Bronte Tillbrook and Dr Penny Whetton and others patiently gave me a very good story on the acidification of the Southern Ocean as revealed by sampling between Hobart and the ice in an international program lead by the CSIRO. It ran in the Australian Financial Review, and outraged
    a number of denialists. The story was made possible by experts who were prepared to engage the public with the science, rather than trot out slogans. That process is compromised today by the media reality of ‘content providing’ and the column centimetre metric per reporter. No one has enough time to invest in these stories today, leaving the issues vulnerable to media managers engaged by interested parties who increasingly influence the ‘spin’ those parties want, and capture those reporters they can ‘work with.’

  • 45
    Johnfromplanetearth
    Posted Sunday, 24 January 2010 at 4:48 pm | Permalink

    Merlot64: Switch to Shiraz, species become extinct every day on planet earth, almost every living thing on planet earth has become extinct, humans didn’t kill them all! As old species go new ones evolve, it’s what mother nature does here on planet earth. It’s an ever changing cycle of life, it may come as a surprise to most people on here but humans are for the chop too…eventually. We haven’t been here long enough to do anything that mother nature can’t handle and she has handled plenty these past 4 billion years. Enjoy it while it lasts, because we won’t be here forever folks. So we have had Climategate, Glaciergate and now i read today Disastergate is out of the bag! Ask the people of Haiti what they think of mother nature and her actions, i guarantee you they won’t be discussing the climate either. The Earth is a beautiful but volatile place to live and mother nature has a cruel streak in her.

  • 46
    bitpattern
    Posted Monday, 25 January 2010 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Ben - Did you read the section on HOW the claim made it into the report? It was a case of oversight and poor citation but to portray that as “lies” is nothing short of bombastic rhetoric of the worst kind.

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