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Leo Hickman on peace talks

Leo Hickman in the Guardian muses about the possibility of peace talks to end the climate wars. Yours truly is mentioned:

I admit that I sometimes find it hard to detect the signal from all the noise when observing climate sceptics, but the most positive contribution the more moderate climate sceptics (or "luke-warmers", as they are sometimes described) such as McIntyre and Andrew Montford have brought to the debate is their dogged insistence that climate science must be transparent, open, fair and free from influence. I don't think anyone could argue that this is not a worthy goal and, even if you disagree with their motivations, tone and methodologies, we will come to thank climate sceptics in years to come for forcing these obvious improvements. So, would a "meeting of the moderate minds" within this debate be productive?

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Reader Comments (233)

BBD, by definition, a null hypothesis cannot be disproven. Which is why Trenberth wishes to make CAGW the null hypothesis. Which is a neat and totally dishonest switch of the pea which you have very obviously missed.
I am not any kind of scientist but this argument has nothing to do with science and everything to do with semantics.
To expand, Trenberth is using a semantic fraud to fool the semantically naiive.

Jun 23, 2011 at 10:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

BBD said:

"In 2003 the melt revealed Neolithic remains protected by the ice for 5ky. It's evidence for extremely unusual melting not previously seen since somewhat after the Holocene Thermal Maximum ca 5kya."

Ice / glaciers flow.

If these guys died and were covered with mini avalanches that could have been enought to permanently freeze them. The slow flow of the encapsulating could have slowly brought them to the surface 5K years later.



Jun 23, 2011 at 10:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterNial

Brent Hargreaves and others

When you look at the ebb and flow of the glaciers in Grosjean et al, do you not see what I see - namely that the current extent is within historical range?

I appreciate that by no means everyone has the time or inclination to wade through paleoclimate/archaeology papers, so here's a lengthy extract that hopefully summarises the conclusion and answers the question above (emphasis added):

This [...] points to an interesting feature of Schnidejoch as a palaeoclimatic archive different from timberline changes or glacier tongue fluctuations, Schnidejoch is a binary and non-continuous archive (‘open or closed’). It operates at a precisely defined and constant threshold (Equilibrium Line Altitude (ELA) at 2750 m) and responds immediately and most sensitively to small perturbations if climatology fluctuates around that threshold value.


The critical point in the context of this paper is that leather requires permanent embedding in ice in order to stay preserved and, as it is observed today, deteriorates very quickly if exposed at the surface. In consequence, the finds at Schnidejoch suggest permanent ice cover at that site for the last 5000 years, more specifically from ca. 3000 BC until AD 2003. At first glance our conclusion differs from the conclusions drawn from exposed trees in the forefields of melting glacier tongues (Jo¨rin et al., 2006). However, the conclusions by Jo¨rin et al. (2006; see also by Hormes et al., 2006) refer to the AD 1985 level: ‘glaciers in the Grimsel [and Alpine] area were smaller than at 1985 AD during several times for the last 5000 years’; while our conclusion reads: ‘in the year of 2003 AD, the ice field at Schnidejoch has reached the smallest extent since the last 5000 years’.

This is not a contradiction. We argue that this difference is explained by the dissimilar response lags of the two types of archives compared: ice mass balance near the ELA (Schnidejoch) responds immediately to sub-decadal climate variations, while Alpine glacier tongues respond with a multi-decadal lag to climatology (20–60 years (Jo¨ rin et al., 2006); importantly this fact also applies to the study by Hormes et al. (2006)). Differences between the equilibrium states of fast and slowly responding climate archives are typically large during phases of rapid changes. Indeed while the ice field at Schnidejoch is in equilibrium with the state of the atmosphere of the most recent years, the glacier tongues have not yet
fully responded to the excessively warm years of the last 15 years, when (1) solar radiation at the Earth’s surface has increased owing to brightening of the atmosphere (globally 6.6Wm-2 10 yr-1 between 1992 and 2002, Swiss Plateau 7.2Wm-2 10 yr-1; Wild et al., 2005), (2) anthropogenic greenhouse forcing with related strong water vapour feedback enhanced the downward longwave radiation in Europe (þ1.18Wm-1 yr-1, data 1995–2002; Philipona et al., 2005) which increased temperatures, and (3) negative trends in the specific mass balance of Alpine glaciers accelerated (Zemp,2006).

Obviously the underlying mechanisms for the current ice retreat are very different from those during the mid-Holocene (6 kyr BP), when Milankovich forcing at 47 N alone accounted for +25Wm-2 (summer) and -15Wm-2 (winter; Berger, 1978) compared with today (Fig. 3(D)). Also the role of solar irradiance may have played a role (Holzhauser et al., 2005, and references therein).

[This was riddled with formatting errors when pasted from the original pdf. Apologies for those I may have missed when cleaning up].

Anyone whose attention was caught by the reference to Wild (2005) and global brightening might want to follow up with this review paper which incorporates that and more recent studies:

Wild, M. (2009), Global dimming and brightening: A review, J. Geophys. Res., 114, D00D16, doi:10.1029/2008JD011470. (1.4Mb pdf).

An interesting read.

Jun 23, 2011 at 10:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Alexander K

I've had a long and careful think about this. I knew from the outset that Trenberth was being rather naughty and Fischer must be spinning in his grave, but I took the view that what matters is whether it clarifies or muddies the process of understanding.

Obviously Trenberth is seeking 'clarity', but his version: AGW is correct; the various sceptical hypotheses fail and should be rejected.

My original view was that by forcing the core question, Trenberth was actually providing a useful test of the robustness of the AGW hypothesis. Fischer might hit 3600rpm in his casket, but at least we get to see if anything broke.

Remember that just as Trenberth traduces formalism, so can the sceptics: you do not have to worry about niceties like being 'unable to falsify the null'.

In light of the comments here and elsewhere, I suspect that Trenberth's proposal has in fact done more harm than good, and once again, over-zealous activism has damaged the credibility of climate science in the eyes of many sceptics.

Jun 23, 2011 at 11:06 AM | Unregistered CommenterBBD


What can I say? In the spirit of Occam, I prefer to stick to economy of explanation where possible.

The Eemian interglacial bears some similarities to the Holocene. It was a period of relative climate stability following the warming initiated by the major 100ky Milankovitch cycle.

But the Holocene does seem to be going on and on...

I am not familiar with Otto Muck so I'm not in a position to dismiss his work as crap. For all I know, he could be right, but I'm surprised that the geologists and oceanographers aren't all over this. The evidence that tectonic change impacts ocean currents and atmospheric teleconnections and so climate is very strong, but obviously this operates over My. The evidence that rapid freshening of the N Atlantic affects climate by shutting down the THC is also very strong. So a major geological event as proposed could have helped stabilise the Holocene - but I would have expected to hear more about it in the mainstream.

Can I leave it at that? I really don't feel comfortable going any further.

Jun 23, 2011 at 11:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterBBD


I should add that I'm unpersuaded by the Ruddiman hypothesis.

Jun 23, 2011 at 11:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

BBD, I wonder What Occam would have made of Climate Science then.

Probably said something silly like "er... maybe something to do with the sun?"

Jun 23, 2011 at 12:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterJosh


I wouldn't care to put words in the mouth of the likes of William of Ockham ;-)

Jun 23, 2011 at 1:09 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Burning those black rocks will change the climate? What druid told you that?

Jun 23, 2011 at 1:59 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

BBD, my old Dad was a brilliant bloke whose teachers wanted my grandad to send him to university. When step-grandma got wind of this, she saw the household funds, which were in perilously short supply, under threat from 'this education nonsense'. So she placed him in an office, which he hated. At fourteen years of age. So he ran away from home and, in time, signed up for WWI as an underage soldier. He spent his sixteenth birthday as a mounted trooper on the back of a horse somewhere in Flanders, survived the depression and then WWII as a private soldier and eventually did OK for himself through sheer hard work and died comfortably off. During my teenage years, whenever I tried to expound to him some wild flash of what I saw as my own brilliance, always expressed in too many words, he would fix me with a look and remind me of William of Okham.
When I eventually got to university, long after his death and after my own kids were fully grown, a lecturer accused me of always taking the shortest route from a to b when writing essays and also insisted I suffered from being a divergent thinker.
I have a lot to thank William of Okham for. He has saved me much time and ink.

Jun 23, 2011 at 2:01 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlexander K

Alexander K

I am younger than you, so it was my paternal grandfather who had the hair-raising life story. My father just grew up with a father who had been severely injured in war. In comparison, my life has been one of considerable privilege.

However, my father, like yours, would refer me to William of Ockham's advice concerning unnecessary complexity on a regular basis. Like you, I have much to thank him for.

Jun 23, 2011 at 2:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD


Some of us put real effort into the exchanges here. We read stuff, construct arguments, stay up late when we could be doing other things... you get the picture.

Some of you haiku are okay. Some of your comments can be amusing. And some are basically pointless, as per the one above.

Jun 23, 2011 at 2:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Give up on the moralizing, dude. Everything will be fine.

Jun 23, 2011 at 3:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub


Next time you start telling me what to do, I am going to cease being polite. I've had about enough of you.

Jun 23, 2011 at 3:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Instead of nitpicking, how about a substantive response to the 5ky cryosphere problem? One which is clear, logical, devoid of obfuscatory tricksiness and above all, honest.

Think you could manage that?

Jun 23, 2011 at 4:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Let's all calm down shall we?

Jun 23, 2011 at 4:15 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill


Sorry. Twitchy on too much coffee and not enough sleep. And I should be celebrating. In fact will be, in about 45 minutes time ;-)

Jun 23, 2011 at 6:16 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

"Where are the Scottish ones?" you may ask. Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond maintains that there is 'no chance' of new nuclear power stations being built in Scotland, as it's going to be windmills all the way.

Jun 23, 2011 at 7:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

Read Jonathan Swift
For insight into black rocks.
Blast from the past.

Jun 23, 2011 at 8:52 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Post sense
Not non sense
Words for the wise

Jun 23, 2011 at 11:31 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD


Give it time. Reality trumps BS in the long game.

Jun 23, 2011 at 11:47 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

And as an end note, Scotland did give the world single malt, so all is (at least tonight) forgiven.

Jun 23, 2011 at 11:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD


Read Daniel Defoe
For insight into black rocks.
A blast from the past.

H/t BBD, who should not be so foolish as to enter into 'A tour thro' the whole island of Great Britain'.

Jun 24, 2011 at 1:52 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim


I haven't read that in almost 30 years. And I really should read it again. And his Journal of the Plague Year.

I read Pepys' diaries about a decade ago (the abridged-for-lightweights version, I shamefully admit) and enjoyed the time-travel experience hugely.

Good thought. Thanks.

Jun 24, 2011 at 8:49 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD


Jun 25, 2011 at 3:29 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

Patrick O'Brian had the time machine. Too bad we don't have Aubrey & Maturin to consider climate. Oh well, we've got McIntyre and Mosher.

Jun 25, 2011 at 5:36 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim


Strongly agree re O'Brian. You are a discerning reader ;-)

Jun 25, 2011 at 7:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Herrings and black rocks,
Concatenation de luxe.
The salt of this earth.

Jun 26, 2011 at 1:20 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

It's John Harrison I wish we had to consider climate. Oh, well, we have Erl Happ.

Jun 26, 2011 at 1:21 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

It is wrong to lust after material possessions I know, but I would do bad things to get hold of a Harrison chronometer.

Not sure I'd kill for EH though ;-) His ideas are always interesting, but I gather also highly controversial.

Jun 26, 2011 at 11:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

Heh, John Harrison could imagine more factors involved in the measurement of time and compensate for them mechanically than any other human alive, but he couldn't account for bad.

Jun 27, 2011 at 9:58 PM | Unregistered Commenterkim


Oho. Very fine ;-)

Thanks for the civilised coda. You set a good example.

Jun 28, 2011 at 12:11 AM | Unregistered CommenterBBD

You are welcome, BBD, and so is shub and the bish. I am happy about this duet, too.

Hi Leo. Come on in, the waters fine.

We've all gone down to the sea
For all the fun that there be.
But, Oh! How wet we'll get.

Jun 28, 2011 at 2:57 AM | Unregistered Commenterkim

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