Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Another day, another melting glacier scare

Burn the words, "Pine Island Glacier" into your list of Gonzo Climate Reports.

For the Climatoides are at it again. We have another fairy tale about another glacier, on a continent far, far away, (too far for you to check on) that is about to suffer a mental breakdown and spill it's guts into oceans, yours and mine. And the fact that no studies have ever found evidence of a glacier actually having had a nervous breakdown and gutspill, has not deterred these intrepid scaremongers from their increasingly shrill speculative excesses. Any natural feature so far from proper scrutiny as this one is certain to merit inclusion within the territorial boundaries of the new, expanding empire of "Bull$hitistan".

Today's "scarenario" is brought to you by the BBC in, "Antarctic glaciers surge to ocean" through the gullible reporting of Martin Redfern. And true to form for this entertainment genre, it takes ten paragraphs of spin before we get to any semblance of specific, verifiable facts.

The first piece of infotainment is pure speculation. After the obligatory hint of "new evidence" it leaps onto a giant "IF", and rides off to battle climate demons. "If the trend continues, they say, it could lead to a significant rise in global sea level." This is then massaged through the phobias with, "the "rivers of ice" have surged", and the kind of Churchillian reference to "the weak underbelly of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet" that would enrage every ghost at Gallipolli.

When we finally get to some facts we are told that satellite measurements show three large glaciers have speeded up and the largest one is called the Pine Island Glacier. And being the largest, it is supposedly of the greatest concern. Well, it would really be a crap story if the smallest one was causing most concern now, wouldn't it? I wonder if smaller glaciers are just as prone to mental breakdowns as the big ones?

Meanwhile back at the few facts in this "Beeblical excess", this volume of ice is reported as being, "a couple of kilometres thick, its 30km wide and it's moving at 3.5km per year, so it's putting a lot of ice into the ocean." Note the ambiguity of "a couple" of kilometres. We know that in human terms a "couple" may include an extra person or two on the sly but in this instance we are left to assume that the thickness of this ice is 2.0km, not 1.8km, and not 2.2km in parts. And at 2km thick by 30km wide and 3.5km distance each year we are left to conclude that there must have been 210km3 of ice falling into the ocean this past year.

It takes another ten paragraphs of guff before we are given the most rudimentary map possible, and as usual, no scale. And we are then told that throughout the 1990s the glaciers increased speed at 1% a year. We are not told what the rate of increase was between 2000 and 2006 or indeed, if the speed increased at all. It may well have slowed down prior to 2006 because that is what glaciers do. They have periods of surge followed by periods of relative stasis.

But we did get to hear that the speed in 2007 was 7% faster than what it was in the 1990s, whatever that means. For they were increasing by 1% each year in the 1990s, remember, so which of these ten speeds was used as the benchmark? The first or the last? We know from the guff that Vaughan, Scott and Bingham spent 97 days there and they "also placed recorders linked to the global positioning system (GPS) satellites on the ice to track the glacier's motion, recording its position every 10 seconds."

Now lets see, 3.5km/year is 9.59m/day, 399.6mm/hour, 6.66mm/minute and 1.11mm every 10 seconds. And this tells us that they are going out of their way to try and appear credible because only the most accurate GPS instruments have an error margin less than a metre so hourly records over time would still yield greater accuracy than the "couple of km" in height we were given above.

Working back from the numbers, we find that if 210km3 is 7% faster, then the comparison volume (be it 1999 or 2006) was 196.26km3. And if we assume that 1999 was the comparison year and there was no change from 2000 to 2006 then the discharge volume in 1990 was still 179km3. We are talking about a total increase in discharge of only 31km3/year.

But wait, we are also informed that they, "left a GPS there over winter to see if it is going to continue this trend." Yes, they have extrapolated from about 90 days worth of data and we can be reasonably certain that the 1990s data was obtained without the benefit of onground markers. In fact, the last people in that area before them were back in 1961.

They also inform us that if most of the volume in the Pine Island Glacier were to suddenly melt then global sea levels would rise by 25cm. And as we know that there is 361 million km2 of ocean surface, they are telling us that they think there is more than 90,000km3 of water, and therefore 100,000km3 of ice in the glacier. The problem is that when I try to transpose the area on their rudimentary map onto a decent one with a scale I get an area that is approximately 300km long and about 100km wide. And this 30,000km2 would need to be 3.3km thick to give that volume, not just "a couple" of km.

This would mean that the glacier discharged only 0.21 of 1% of its volume last year, assuming the rate for the 90 days of mid summer measurement was the same for the whole year. It means that the rate of discharge has increased from 0.18 of 1% since 1990. And if there really is 100,000km3 of ice in the glacier and it continues to discharge at the rate of 210km3/year, and assuming there is no new ice deposition at all, then it will take 476 years to go away. At the 1990 rate it would take 558 years. This is quite a bit different to the "nervous breakdown gut spill" scarenario that Scott claims, "might take decades or a century".

But wait, there is much, much more. A quick google of "Pine Island Glacier" suggests that there is quite a bit left unsaid in the BBC report, and some very serious garbled messages to say the least. First, the Antarctic Sun ran an article in the lead up to the above expedition on 22 November 2007 by Editor Peter Rejcek

The article dealt with the research to be undertaken by the above mentioned team and made reference to the interface of ice with ocean currents. The natural focus of that interface was on the "grounding line", the point at the base of the ice where the bedrock, ice and water intersect. The article stated, "If all goes as planned, work would begin in earnest the next two field seasons to use a hot water drill to bore through the 500-meter-thick ice and lower instruments into the ocean cavity below". Yes, the grounding line is the point, some 35km back from the ice shelf "calving line", where the volume of ice discharge is best measured and in this case the height of that ice column is 500 metres, half a kilometre, NOT "A COUPLE OF KM" as the BBC reported.

We also went to the Scott Polar Research Institute (at Cambridge) site where we found "Inland thinning of Pine Island Glacier, West Antarctica, A.Shepherd, D.J. Wingham, J.A.D. Mansley, H.F.J. Corr, Science, February 2nd, 2001 see

Where we found a neat map showing the region, at the glacial mouth, where the rate of fastest flow was outlined and clearly stated as being only 200 metres per year. It stated that, "The trunk is bounded laterally by the 200 m yr-1 velocity contour, and streamwise by the grounding line (lower black line) located by Rignot (13) and the intersection of the easternmost tributaries, which coincides roughly with a deep bedrock trough (see Fig. 4A). The greatest elevation change is adjacent to the grounding line, and the thinning is concentrated over fast-flowing ice. Changes beyond the region of fast flow were much smaller".

Yes folks, the rate of flow in 2001 was 0.2km/year, not the 3.5km/year as reported by the poor old Beeb-bogans. And it is this flow that has "surged" by 7% to 0.214km/year. One explanation for this is that a classic bit of garbled reporting has taken place that the research team do not appear to have corrected. For when we multiply the 30km cross section by 0.5km depth and 0.214km/year speed we get a total of 3.21km3 of annual ice discharge. And when we divide their 100,000km3 of ice by this 3.21km3 of annual ice discharge we find that it will take 31,152 years for the glacier to depart this mortal coil (give or take an ice age).

And given that annual precipitation and ice deposition in Antarctica ranges from 200mm on the coast to 50mm in the interior, then new ice deposition on the glacier will be some where between 1.5km3 and 6km3 each year. If we use the most conservative figure of 1.5km3 we get a net annual loss of only 1.71km3 and a massive 58,479 years left in the glacier.

It is possible that Scott has rounded the original 3.21km3 up to state the rate of discharge as 3.5km, but meaning 3.5 cubic km, to which the reporter has assumed was the annual speed of discharge. But this slant on the situation would seem naive to experienced climate spin monitors. There is, for example, no evidence in any of the statements made by the team, of a serious commitment to providing verifiable factual information. There is, in contrast, a serious oversupply of speculative opinion and sensational extrapolation. A grumpy old climate sceptic might reflect that the credibility of this body of the teams opinions would not be well served by any exposure to the actual facts on the ground. Rather, those opinions are much better served by the absence of those facts in a context of vagueary. I leave that for others to judge.

But even more curious is the insight into the way the insidious cancer of apocalyptic speculation has taken root in the collective scientific mind. Note that this rapid surge in flow has been attributed to possible volcanic activity under the ice mass. We are informed that an eruption took place some 2,200 years ago so this has a ring of plausibility about it. But lets just hold on, now. This surge in glacial speed may be a product of volcanic lubrication but for the ice discharge to continue for the many, many decades needed to make any dint on the ice mass, it would also need the volcanic activity to continue for just as long. And for any molten lava to continue over a long duration, there must be a capacity for lava to move away from the vent, thus enabling more lava to escape. And once the outer layer of lava has been cooled by either ice or ice water, it solidifies and becomes much harder to move. Lava only moves rapidly when it is ultimately being discharged into freely flowing gas or liquid. But when that discharge is into a cold stream beneath an ice mass, it becomes its own impediment to further lava discharge at the vent. Thus blocking the source of heat, reducing the volume of basal melt water and returning glacial flows to normal.

And even if this was not the case, there are few natural phenomena that are more intermittent than major volcanic activity. Those that are continuous are generally of smaller scale with unimpeded venting. So why would otherwise intelligent people like the research team bother to assume that volcanic activity under the Pine Island Glacier would be persistent enough and large enough to produce a complete glacial collapse? It is the equivalent of extrapolating from the Mt St Helens eruption that Seattle and Vancouver will be buried under lava and ash by 2030. It is an extremely low probability event.

But if you still fear for your waterfront property then, please, give me a call. Maybe we could swap your block for this bridge I have to sell.

Ian Mott
27 Feb. 2008

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Labor's forgotten apology

Despite all the theatre, Labor still has some serious apologising to do to aborigines. Rudd has essentially apologised for past cases of what governments are still doing to this very day. Kids are still being removed from their parents when the lawful authorities deem a child is at risk. And these are the same legal principles that applied in the past. In fact, the apology for past lawful actions was just a smokescreen for a far more pressing obligation for an apology from the Labor leader for the unlawful acts of one of their own.

For it was the Labor Party in particular that spent two decades sending a clear but unofficial message to Northern Territorians that child sex offenders not only had friends in very high places, they actually held the position of Minister in the cabinet of Hawke and Keating.

The Coroners inquest into the death of former NT Senator Bob Collins made it clear that justice for a number of victims of child sex offences over 25 years has been cheated by suicide. No-one is saying that anyone in Cabinet knew of, or condoned, the actions of the man who sat amongst them. But it is highly probable that party members in the vicinity knew, or were aware of the possibility of offences, but took no action.

Readers may recall that ArchBishop Peter Hollingsworth was hounded from the position of Governor General for his past failure to respond in a way that is currently regarded as appropriate for dealing with a person in his organisation that had committed sex offences. But the left, and the same partisan media that took such an interest in Hollingsworth's propriety, has conspicuously failed to ask, who else in the Labor Party was aware of Collin's form? When did they find out? And was their response appropriate for a person in the position they now occupy?

Curiously, none of that same media pack has bothered to investigate the substantial role Collins must have played in shaping both policy and public perceptions of indigenous issues. He was after all, a Senior Minister, the Senator for the Northern Territory, was elected by a large indigenous vote, and he was related by marriage to the indigenous community. Who, in fact, could possibly NOT defer to his views in these circumstances?

It seems no minor coincidence that more than two decades of Labor led debate on indigenous issues could have an almost ritualistic focus on land rights and past lawful actions of lawful authorities while the far more immediate and pressing issues of health, alcohol and associated physical and sexual abuse rarely got a mention. What role did Collins play in downplaying the actual reasons why children were taken? Is this merely a case of serious policy neglect? Or has a powerful criminal been able to intervene to make it criminal neglect?

It is also worth noting the underlying ALP culture in which Collins was part. A large measure of the so-called "Larikin" appeal of then Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, was his drinking to excess and womanising. He deserves the greatest respect for the way he overcame the former once he took on the office of PM, but there is no denying that sex and alcohol was a central attribute of 1960s and 70s 'radical chic'. Former First Lady, Hazel, may have had a different perspective.

I can also recall being informed some time ago by very well placed Queensland ALP sources that almost everyone of any influence in the party at the time was painfully aware that they had a 'freak show' on their hands when Keith Wright was elected to Qld parliamentary leader. His form was obvious, and clearly accepted (albeit with reservations) long before he served time for sexual offences.

And the less said about the NSW Labor Party the better.

In the Northern Territory it is worth reflecting that this corporate culture was in a context where most aboriginal women above legal age were either having, or had already had, children. So at party time, they were generally distracted, to varying degrees, by sole parenting duties. And by default, sexually available women were, almost by definition, characterised by a higher proportion of under age girls.

In light of this, it can now be seen as entirely appropriate that the one Prime Minister, John Howard, who did not attend the recent parliamentary circus was the one under whose leadership the very issues that justified both the past and present removal of children from harm, were finally brought out into the open. He was the one former Prime Minister who had the least to apologise for.

In contrast, the very fact of Prime Minister Hawke's former excesses must have served as a significant brake on any public position, or campaign focus on alcohol and all the associated sexual and domestic abuse issues for the best part of two decades.

And in this context, there is no doubt that every picture, image or report involving Collins sent a separate, entirely sinister, message to his victims, their families, and anyone else who had heard the whispers, that his power was sufficient to negate their rights as victims. Every image of Collins with his cabinet colleagues, with his leaders, Hawke and Keating, and with the Chief Minister, local members and community leaders, reinforced the victim's perception of the extent of the perpetrator's power.

And like it or not, every one of the people seen with Collins has inadvertently contributed to the despair of the victims. They are not personally responsible for their actions that, after all, were done in utmost good faith. But each of them has a moral duty to convey their profoundest regrets to those who's suffering was exacerbated by the context of power that they provided to a criminal.

And like it or not, the people seen with Collins know that every other victim of abuse now knows there was an abuser in one of the most powerful positions in the land. And like it or not, every other sexual abuser now has an excuse to rationalise their actions as some “minor failing” of the mighty.

This obligation to apologise cannot be passed off to the parliament or the broader community. It belongs solely with the ALP. The positions, the power and the opportunities that Collins exploited for so long, were all provided by the Australian Labor Party.

So if there is to be an apology to Collin's victims and all the others, as there must, then it must come from the entire membership of the Australian Labor Party.

And if there is to be compensation to his victims, as there must, then it should rightfully come from the entire membership of the Australian Labor Party.

Anything less than a full commission of inquiry will not do. They cannot be allowed to let this slip away quietly as the sordid catch phrase of the sexual offender, "their little secret".

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Choking on Chinese emission projections

The Climate Cretins are whipping up a classic "scarenario" with projections of Chinese CO2 emissions over the next few decades. A number of articles on the same theme were referenced at

And it is important to note the common thread in this sorry sequence of beat-ups. There is a very pregnant "IF" at the start of each claim, as per Alexis Madrigal at Wired, 8 Feb 2008. He said;

"If China's carbon usage keeps pace with its economic growth, the country's carbon dioxide emissions will reach 8 gigatons a year by 2030, which is equal to the entire world's CO2 production today." and;

"If the Chinese economy steps into our (USA)carbon footprint, all other greenhouse gas reduction efforts will be for naught."

Yes, you are right, it is the same old exaggerated IPCC dogs vomit, served for your repeat consumption.

According to US emissions per capita are 19.48 tonnes CO2, while the highest amongst asian nations is Singapore with 13.813 tonnes, followed by Japan with only 9.612 tonnes. And given the cultural similarities and comparable population densities there is absolutely no excuse for trying to imply that China would ever reach the emission footprint of the USA.

These authors are seeking to imply that a US emissions footprint is some sort of natural or logical ideal at the top of a heirarchy of emission needs. As if all the rest of the world, with lower emissions, aspires to this mythical, gas guzzling, place in the sun. Well, perhaps they should tell that to the French (5.992t/capita), the Swiss (5.58t/capita) and the Swedes (5.4166t/capita).

The simple facts are that if China or India ever reach a highly developed economic level it will, at most, be on the Japanese model, not the USA model. And one must ask, "where, exactly, would one fit just one Los Angeles style, low density, mega urban sprawl between Hong Kong, Shanghai and Beijing, let alone the 50 odd that would be required to match a US emissions footprint?"

Note that current Chinese emissions are 2.66 tonnes per capita. So even if there was no technology based emission dividend for the Chinese from the 34 French nuclear reactors they have just signed up for, a trebling of their emissions would put them on 8 tonnes per capita, with a standard of living (averaged from the least developed regions to the cities) just above that currently enjoyed by the South Koreans @ 7.34 tonnes per capita.

But given the scope for China to learn from both Japanese and Korean experience, and their plans for so many nuclear power stations, it is entirely reasonable to conclude that China will achieve OECD level economic development under a French, Swiss or Swedish emissions footprint between 5.0-6.0t CO2/capita.

And when this footprint is loaded into the various IPCC scenarios that assumed a range of economic levels in developing countries over the next century, and add the critical fact that emission levels plateau once economies achieve developed status, the entire climate change "Bunyip" is exposed as nothing more than a tattered, moonlighting duck with a megaphone.

Meanwhile, in the totally improbable case of a continuous annual economic growth of 10% per annum, matched by a similar increase in emissions over the 23 years to 2030, as envisaged in these preposterous articles, Chinese emissions would rise to 23.8 tonnes per capita. That is, 22% ABOVE the current US footprint, 147% above the current Japanese footprint, and more than 300% above the Swiss footprint.

You would have to put every Chinese adult in a Hummer to get anywhere near that outcome.

Clearly, these projected emission scenarios are a demonstration of either the most extreme ignorance of the relationship between energy and economics, or it is deliberate deception of the very worst kind with a callous disregard for the truth.

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