The Week That Was (Dec 20, 2008) brought to you by SEPP


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Quote of the Week:

… they went on "reputation," which is to say they acquired their faith in Mr. Madoff more or less the way people acquire their faith in global warming … from people equally as ignorant as they.  
-- Holman Jenkins in WSJ Dec 17 on the Madoff financial fraud

Excerpt:  The Brussels summit symbolizes a turning point. The watered-down climate deal epitomizes the onset of a cooling period in Europe's hitherto overheated climate debate. It may lead eventually to the complete abandonment of the unilateral climate agenda that has shaped Europe's green philosophy for nearly 20 years.   --Benny Peiser, The Wall Street Journal, 16 December 2008

SEPP Science Editorial #16 (12/20/08)

The sorry state of surface temperature data:

GW advocates are ‘spinning’ the ‘warmth’ of 2008, claiming it to be the xth warmest year since yy – all the while trying to ignore the low temperature records being set worldwide [see Item #6].  I share the critical views about the quality of the surface data, along with Courtney, d’Aleo, Gray, McKitrick, Watts and many others who have looked into the matter.  I consider only satellite data truly reliable  [See discussion in NIPCC report].

So I was struck by a short item about 2008 temperatures in the blog of NY Times writer Andrew Revkin

The top graph shows the geographic distribution of 2008 mean temperatures, compared to a base period of 1951-1980.  Two features are very striking:

1. The base period is of course a cool period just before the sudden temperature rise around 1977.  This would explain why one sees so much warming. 

2. The most interesting feature is the warmth of the FSU, and particularly the extreme warmth of Siberia.  I was puzzled by that and then recalled that during the communist period station managers were said to be under-reporting temperatures in order to gain larger fuel allocations. 

I’m wondering now what the pattern would be like if we chose a *post-communist* base period, say 1990-2005.  Would the pattern be preserved?  Would Siberia still show strong warming in 2008?

[There’s the additional matter of the closing down of many weather stations in that area after 1980.]

We can now look at the second GISS graph and note two interesting features:

1. Unlike the Hadley surface data, and unlike the satellite data, the graph shows 21st-century temperatures that are higher than 1998.  The reason for that is not clear. 

2. Close inspection also shows an unusual temperature increase starting in 1992, which is not present in the satellite data for the northern hempisphere.  This would seem to support the hypothesis that pre-1990 Siberian temperatures might have been under-reported. 


1.  Cooling on Global Warming at EU -- WSJ

5.  Viability of 'Clean Coal' process (CCS) Questioned


Virtually all of the warming found in the satellite temperature record has taken place since the onset of the 1997-1998 El Nino [and before 2002]. Earth's average temperature showed no detectable warming from December 1978 until the 1997 El Nino [and since 2002]. Climate Group, Univ of Alabama, Huntsville

Dr. Benny Peiser of Liverpool John Moores University has written a brilliant seminal analysis of the slow death of ‘global warming’ across the world [“Is the tide turning on climate policy?”, Local Transport Today, Nov 14, 2008:


Al Gore Speech, Poznan, Dec 13, 2008 "Massive flooding has resulted at record rates on every continent"
It is "abundantly clear that increased CO2 emissions anywhere are a threat to the integrity of this planet's climate balance everywhere."

The Wall Street Journal, 16 December 2008

The timing didn't help. The final plenary session wasn't called until nearly 11 p.m. Friday night (technically the last day of the conference) and most of the contentious issues didn't come to the floor until after 1 a.m., so negotiators were too exhausted to express much in the way of triumph or disgust. Remember too, that, most had booked flights to leave Poznan early Saturday morning.

Still, there was a bit of theater in the wee hours Saturday.

First there were there was a round of high fives and thumbs up exchanged among delegates from small island states as the chairman of the conference announced that the money in the long planned adaptation fund would be controlled by the states themselves, rather than doled out via some international organization that could monitor the money, like the older
Global Environmental Facility.

But moments later, that sense of triumph was followed by half an hour of passionate protests on the floor, after it was announced that separate negotiations had failed to increase sources of funding to support poor countries in their quest to limit impacts from a changing climate.

Prodipto Ghosh of the Indian delegation berated wealthy countries for their "refusal" to "experience a minuscule loss of profits" to help poorer nations cope.  "In the face of the unbearable human tragedy that we in developing countries see unfolding every day, we see callousness, strategizing and obfuscation. We can, all of us, now see clearly what lies ahead at Copenhagen."

But his statement came after 2 a.m. Many of the senior delegates from richer countries had already left, heading to hotels to pack their bags and then race off to the airport.

[UPDATE, 8 p.m. from Andy Revkin: I only just caught up with coverage of former Vice President Al Gore's mention in his
Poznan speech of the importance of focusing on this vital issue instead of on O.J. Simpson, Paris Hilton, and Anna Nicole Smith. The comment seemed to produce more Web news than the treaty talks themselves. Was the goal, in tossing those names into the speech, to snag Web wanderers endlessly sifting for celebrity news?]


The Associated Press warns that the new administration won't have much time to save the planet from a global warming apocalypse. Never mind that the "ticking time bomb" is a dud.

The temperature at Denver International Airport dropped to 18 below zero on Sunday, breaking the previous record of 14 below set in 1901. White Sulphur Springs, Mont., reported 29 below to the National Weather Service, breaking the record of 17 below set in 1922. Meanwhile, ice storms ravage the Northeast and the upper Midwest.

This is not a local phenomenon. Hong Kong had the second-longest cold spell since 1885. Cold in northern Vietnam destroyed 40% of the rice crop and killed 33,000 head of livestock. The British Parliament debated climate change as London experienced the first October snow since 1934.

Presumably this has all been reported by the Associated Press. But according to a weekend AP report, this is all an illusion and "2008 is on a pace to be a slightly cooler year in a steadily rising temperature trend line." Rather than being "evidence of some kind of cooling trend, it actually illustrates how fast the world is warming." Oh.

The report, which includes no comments from any skeptic, says global warming "is a ticking time-bomb that President-elect Obama can't avoid." It warns "warming is accelerating. Time is running out, and Obama knows it." Especially if he relies on AP wire reports.

Problem is, nature didn't get the memo. Geophysicist David Deming found that for the first time since the 18th century, in the days before SUVs, Alaskan glaciers grew this year instead of retreating. Fairbanks had its fourth coldest October in 104 years of records.

U.S. Geological Survey glaciologist Bruce Molnia reported: "On the Juneau Icefield, there was still 20 feet of new snow on the surface of the Taku Glacier in late July." It was the worst summer he'd seen in two decades.  As the Anchorage Daily News reports, "Never before in the history of a research project dating back to 1946 had the Juneau Ice Field witnessed the kind if snow buildup that came this year. It was similar on a lot of other glaciers too."

The consequence of melting glaciers and sea ice is supposed to be rising sea levels. The poster children for this phenomenon are low-lying coral islands such as the Maldives and Tuvalu. Again, the facts are ignored in the quest for headlines.  The satellite record shows the sea level has actually fallen four inches around Tuvalu since 1993, when the $100 million international TOPEX/POSEIDON satellite project record began.

As in other places around the world, sea-level changes have many natural explanations, including geologic changes in the land.  The atolls of Tuvalu rest on sinking volcanic rock on top of which new coral grows to replace the coral die-off that occurs as the volcanic rock sinks deeper into the ocean where coral does not survive. Sand is excavated for building material on Tuvalu. Excavation for building material has eroded the beach, thus giving to the casual, or biased, observer the impression of rising sea levels.

The strong El Nino of 1997-98 caused the sea level surrounding Tuvalu to drop just over one foot.  Patrick Michaels, a research professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia and visiting scientist with the Marshall Institute in Washington, D.C., notes that Tuvalu is near the epicenter of a region where the sea level has been declining for nearly 50 years. He has written that the decline has been so steep that, even accepting the U.N.'s median estimates of global warming over the next hundred years, Tuvalu would not return to its 1950 sea level until 2050, much less disappear under the sea.

None of this, of course, matters to the warming zealots and some major media outlets. If it's too dry or too wet, too hot or too cold, everything is caused by global warming. We believe, as do many reputable scientists, that the warming and cooling of the earth is a natural phenomenon dictated by forces beyond our control, from ocean currents to solar activity. We needn't worry about one day mooring our boats to the Washington Monument

By Peter Fairley, Technology Review (MIT), December 15, 2008

The concept of selling mobility on demand rather than cars themselves may be finally gaining some traction. Remember the stackable urban rental cars proposed by GM-funded researchers at MIT last fall?

Well, Paris is working hard to make that vision a reality. The French capital is gearing up to offer the auto equivalent of Vélib, a distributed bicycle-rental scheme that provides more than 20,000 bikes at more than 1,400 sites across the city and the suburbs. Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoë announced in June that the city will place 4,000 small electric cars at 700 Autolib pickup points around Paris and the suburbs starting in 2010. And according to business daily Les Echos, train giant SNCF is vying to operate the Autolib points out of its train stations, which are distributed across and around Paris.

And now, the city may finally have a solution to a potential game-killing problem: the uneven distribution of vehicles as cars pile up at popular destinations. Parisians are well aware of this problem. By midmorning, for example, as Vélib stations at the periphery of the city empty out and those downtown jam up, it's not unusual to see trucks redistributing the bikes to counter the tide. That's easy enough with bicycles but harder to envision with even small electric vehicles.

The city's solution? According to a leaked document reported by auto-news website, the plan is to simply have users declare their destination upon checking out a car. In response, the system will determine the closest Autolib point with a free spot for drop-off and reserve that space. No news on solving another potential problem for Paris's Autolib scheme: the name. Lyon, which beat Paris to the bike-share program with its own vélo'v, already sports a conventional car-share program called Autolib.

Could a similar scheme work in the U.S.? Issues of Forbes magazine that will appear on newsstands next week tout the MIT City Car concept as the embodiment of a new car-sharing direction for troubled automakers. City Car co-designer Bill Mitchell of the MIT Media Lab's Smart Cities group adds to the drumbeat in a recent editorial for architecture website BD. "People don't want cars, they want personal mobility," writes Mitchell. He argues that, rather than bailing out car firms, governments should be radically rethinking urban transport around ultra-light-weight battery electric vehicles (Eves). To provide mobility most efficiently, says Mitchell, we should