Temperature Changes in Alaska

President Obama recently visited Alaska and stirred the urge to check into the global warming controversy. He visited the Exit Glacier and mentioned that it had retreated 1.25 miles in 200 years. I was inspired to check into temperatures in Alaska and found one web site that says it is managed by members of the “American Association of State Climatologists.” They observe that, “The topic of climate change has attracted widespread attention in recent years and is an issue that numerous scientists study on various time and space scales. One thing for sure is that the earth’s climate has and will continue to change as a result of various natural and anthropogenic forcing mechanisms.” (Bravo!)

The site presents a graph showing that temperatures since the late 1970s have trended upward. However, they point out there has been little warming “…with the exception of Barrow (on the coast above the Arctic Circle) and a few other locations. The stepwise shift appearing in 1976 corresponds to a phase shift in the Pacific Decadal Oscillation from a negative phase to a positive phase.” That causes “…increased southerly flow and warm air advection into Alaska during the winter, resulting in positive temperature anomalies.” I don’t understand how increasing levels of carbon dioxide could have caused that, but I’m not a climatologist.

One article I read about President Obama’s visit to Alaska should have been checked more closely for errors before it went to print. It said (and I’m certain this must have been an error) that “The administration asked Congress to speed the acquisition of a new heavy-duty Coast Guard ice breaker from 2022 to 2020 and begin planning for the acquisition of additional ships that could help maintain year-long access to polar regions.” Why am I so convinced this must have been an error? It makes no sense to build ice breakers when the global warming models indicate polar ice will be mostly melted in the next few years.

The National Snow and Ice Data Center web site shows current levels of ice are less than those measured in 2013 and 2014, equal to 2011, and much more than 2012. A quick look at the graphs for the last five years indicates the levels of ice are about constant. Perhaps we should hope the data eventually will begin to track with the predictions from the global warming models and we can save money by not needing ice breakers.

Ponderer was kind enough to comment on the information above and points out that Dr. Strangelove would have wanted us to not have an icebreaker gap with the Russians reminiscent of the fallout shelter gap of that movie (not the exact words, but sorta close). Ponderer also thought it would be fair to show a chart of Arctic sea ice from the 1950s, which dramatically demonstrates that there is much less ice today. Point taken. However, I continue to have the suspicion that nature (including solar activity) has more to do with the extent of sea ice than the influences caused by man.

Chinese Militarization of the South China Sea

The Obama administration has been mostly silent on the Chinese efforts to build infrastructure and armaments in disputed territory. One article says the Chinese are building a “Great War of Sand” on reefs using dredges and bulldozers in areas where six Asian nations have territorial claims. Some of the new islands have helipads and anti-aircraft towers. One island that was once called “Fiery Cross Reef” can accommodate an airstrip.

The latest construction is the expansion of two islands Vietnam says it owns.  Satellite images show seven new “islets” in the South China Sea. The Philippines and Vietnam have both accused China of breaking a nonbinding code of conduct agreeing “…to refrain from provocative actions in the disputed region.” Chinese officials responded by saying that the islands “…are an inherent part of China,” and that they would be used for “…military defense and for a range of civilian purposes.”

I wonder whether President Obama discussed this with the Chinese during his recent visit. We do know that global warming was an important part of his agenda. He promised that the U.S. would cut emissions 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. The Chinese responded with vague promises to use “…best efforts to peak emissions while boosting green energy use by 2030.” I can’t imagine what the Chinese said about Mr. Obama’s negotiating skills after he departed their country.

A Criticism of Climate Change Science

The following was provided by Dr. William F. Downs, a Geochemist and friend. I’ve done a tiny bit of editing, and added a comment at the end. The timing is perfect as a contrast to  the review posted today.

earth climate changeThere is little controversy over the fact that the temperature of Earth is currently rising and has been since the end of the “Little Ice Age” which lasted from about 1380 AD until circa 1780 AD.  Previously the climate experienced a warm period which was called the “Millennium Optimum” (c. 850 AD – 1300 AD) when I studied it during the 1960s.  It was considered “optimum” because the Vikings were able to expand into and develop farms in Greenland and grapes that had been planted in Britain by the Romans produced wine.  By the early 1300s, Greenland was no longer able to sustain agriculture and the Viking society in Greenland had collapsed.  There was another warming period termed the “Roman Warm Period” that existed in the first few centuries after the time of Christ.  The “Little Ice Age” was documented by Monks in Monasteries along the roads to Rome as Alpine Pilgrims on their way to Rome told their stories of glacial destruction of their Villages.

The temperatures and CO2 contents of the atmosphere in the past are estimated by measuring the oxygen isotope ratios and concentrations of CO2 released from ice cores collected from Vostok Glacier in Antarctica.  These data have been collected from ice that had formed during the last 100,000 years or so.  These data indicate that the current temperature level is lower than those experienced during the Millennial Warming Period. Continue reading

Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change Report

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a report from Copenhagen, Denmark that said, in summary, “Climate change is happening, it’s almost entirely man’s fault and limiting its impacts may require reducing greenhouse gas emission to zero this century…” (I’m assuming they don’t intend to reduce the amounts of carbon dioxide exhaled by humans and other animals.)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “Science has spoken. There is no ambiguity in their message. Leaders must act. Time is not on our side.”  The report once again mentions the “…melting glaciers and Arctic sea ice…”

I’ve expressed my opinions on this subject many times, and I still consider myself a denier, as the global warming advocates enjoy calling people who don’t agree with them. I still think the earth may warm, or it may cool, but it is certain the climate will change just as it always has.

I intend to focus on Antarctic and Arctic ice levels posted on the National Sea and Ice Data Center web site. Recent peak levels in the Antarctic set a new record over the period of satellite observations. Global warming fans say that isn’t important. I reason, perhaps naively, that warmer temperatures probably would result in less ice and not more. Continue reading

Climate Science is Not Settled

There was an excellent article by Steven E. Koonin by this title in the Wall Street Journal. The subtitle was “We are very far from the knowledge needed to make good climate policy…” The author refuses to be on either side of what has become an increasingly contentious argument about whether or not man’s activities are leading us to a climate disaster that, according to some of our politicians, beats terrorism as the greatest threat. The article adds refreshing reason to the discussion. He was undersecretary for science in the Department of Energy during President Obama’s first term. Perhaps those who are convinced that climate science is settled will dismiss his ideas because one previous position was chief scientist of British Petroleum. I suggest you will learn something regardless of your position if you chose to read his article.

The article leads with the statement that the claim that “Climate Science is settled” “…has distorted our public and policy debates on issues related to energy, greenhouse-gas emissions and the environment…it has also inhibited the scientific and policy discussions that we need to have about our climate future.” The author observes that the crucial question isn’t whether the climate is changing “The climate has always changed and always will.” The average global temperature did increase by 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit in the 20th century, and there is little doubt carbon dioxide levels increased in the atmosphere and influenced the climate. But the author follows those observations with, “The impact of human activity appears to be comparable to the intrinsic, natural variability of the climate system itself.” He also writes that he has “…come to appreciate the daunting scientific challenge of answering the questions that policy makers and the public are asking.” Continue reading

Costs of Fighting Global Warming

I was inspired to weigh in again on the issue of global warming by an article titled “Post-coal Pueblo left out in the cold” by Lydia DePillis of the Washington Post. Under the headline there is a picture of Pueblo resident Sharon Garcia who “…doesn’t allow lights to be left on in rooms that aren’t being used.” She had her power shut off in 2010, and is constantly struggling to make ends meet running a day care center. She is struggling with paying her electricity bill because the residential rate per kilowatt hour has increased 26 percent since 2010.

The reasons for the increase are complex, and I suggest you read the entire article. The impact of regulatory requirements on utility companies is what attracted my attention. A big part of the problem is caused by “…coal plants shutting down as Colorado transitions to renewable energy.” Black Hills Energy provides power to Pueblo, and Colorado’s 2010 Clean Air—Clean Jobs act caused them to shutter three older plants that would have been too expensive to overhaul. Utility regulators guarantee Black Hills an 8.53 percent return, which gives it an incentive to close nearly all of its relatively inexpensive coal capacity, build new plants, and pass the costs to consumers. Continue reading

Global Warming Commentary by Guest

Ponderer and I have posted “dueling” commentaries on global warming. A reader sent a paper to join the discussion. It is longer than commentaries usually posted on this site, but it has so much information that deserves consideration that I’ve decided to post it in its entirety with a few minor edits.

The so-called ‘greenhouse effect’ comes about by short wave radiation impinging on the earth from the sun.  Some fraction of this short wave radiation is reflected back into space with little effect.  Another fraction is absorbed by the earth.  Essentially blackbody long wave radiation is emitted from the earth’s surface as a result.  Carbon dioxide (and a few other gases that we will get to) absorbs and reemits this longer wave radiation.  It emits the longer wave radiation in all directions, so some fraction comes back to be reabsorbed by the earth’s surface (either soil or water).  On balance under these conditions there is more heat (in the form of both long and short wave radiation) entering the system than leaving it, so overall heating occurs. Continue reading