Toppling the favourite. Slum Dog Millionaire begins as a short-priced favourite to be voted Best Film, now that the field has been settled, but I expect the theme developed by Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan to be used to good effect by the spin doctors pushing the case for the other starters — The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Frost/Nixon, The Reader and Milk. Mr Bachchan is among those who have criticised the film, suggesting that it “projects India as [a] Third World dirty underbelly developing nation and causes pain and disgust among nationalists and patriots”.

Abetz and the airing of policy laundry. You have got to love the cheek of Eric Abetz. The Tasmanian Senator is lecturing young Liberals today on “Jeremiahs and snake oil merchants” seeking to shift the Coalition’s policy direction could cause the Liberal Party’s destruction. Such debates should be conducted within the private confines of the party. So what does he do? Give an advance copy of his speech to the Sydney Morning Herald so his particular piece of grubby laundry can be fully aired. Hypocritical? Yes, but unfortunately, it is probably the way to increasing influence.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh got back to work this week to be greeted with these headlines: It’s not a good look in an election year when the power starts blacking out. Queensland Premier Anna Bligh got back to work this week to be greeted with these headlines:

It has made it devilishly difficult to decide whether to go for an early election or to hang on and hope for the best. Further blackouts in the middle of an early campaign would be disastrous. Hanging on while the number of unemployed rises could be even worse. Such are the choices leaders must make and Ms Bligh can at least be thankful that the charade of a united Liberal National Party is exposed further with every day that passes. The latest story that senior Nationals are searching for a way of breaking the agreement between the so-called merged parties to ensure that one of theirs can replace Barnaby Joyce in the Senate is just the latest example.

Disappearing on one side growing on another. It is a confusing thing this world climate business. This morning the radio was telling me that some silly people had been assuming that because weather stations in the Antarctic were recording colder temperatures that the great southern continent was not getting warmer. “Most studies of Antarctic climate change in the recent past have relied on weather records, which are located at the Antarctic research stations,” Professor Eric Steig at the University of Washington told the ABC’s AM program. “And most of those stations, there are 42 of them, are on the coastline or near the Antarctic coastline, with only two in the interior of the continent. Some of those stations have shown cooling in recent decades, including one of those in the centre of the continent at the South Pole, and that’s resulted in the popular notion that all of Antarctica is cooling.”

One problem with popular notions, it would appear, is that they do not tie in with what has been happening on the rest of the planet. So the good Professor Steig and his colleagues tackled the challenge of establishing what was happening across the icy interior of Antarctica. “What we did is we took advantage of the fact that, in fact, there is data. There’s over 25 years now of data from satellites, which provides an alternative way to measure the temperature,” Professor Steig said. By correlating the two sets of data, the research team believes it has come up with an accurate picture stretching back half a century, and it shows western Antarctica especially has been getting warmer by about a 10th of a degree every decade. “What we found, in a nutshell, is that Antarctica is not cooling,” Professor Steig said.

“Now some parts of it have been cooling, but only since the late 1970s, and only in certain seasons, primarily in autumn. On average the entire continent is warming and especially it is warming in winter and spring. Finally, west Antarctica, just like the Antarctic peninsula, is warming in all seasons.”

So there we have it. Just believe in the computer modeling that correlates the data so that actual readings at actual weather stations are shown to be misleading.

What radio cannot show, of course, is pictures and these from the National Snow and Ice Data Center don’t seem to be following the correct correlated course.

The first is a graph of what has been happening to the extent of sea ice over the last 25 years. Despite what we have just been told are the rising temperatures, the trend line of total ice coverage is steadily upwards from the 1979-2000 mean of 11.1 million sq km.

Looked at as a map, the data from last month shows a total area of 12.2 million sq km — 1.1 million sq km above the mean. There are clearly some parts of the continent where ice is disappearing and others where its extent is growing.

The variation in concentration from 100% ice to no ice is considerable.

In some parts of the Antarctic sea, the concentration is 50% greater than during the mean years and in others substantially less.

When the trends are mapped it is clear to see why scientists are so concerned about what is happening to the ice shelf where the Antarctic continent points up towards South America. Here the ice concentration looks to be falling at around 20% a decade, but there are equally parts where the ice concentration is increasing at a similar rate.

Peter Fray

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