UPDATE 1/25: Mr. Hays has has provided a follow up letter, posted at the bottom of this article. – Anthony
This letter below, reprinted with permission, is from Ross Hays. Ross was a CNN meteorologist for many years. He works for NASA at the Columbia Balloon Facility.
In that capacity he has spent much time in Antarctica. He obviously can’t speak for his agency but can have an opinion which he shared with several people. It is printed below in entirety, exactly as he sent it to Eric Steig today, the lead author of the University of Washington paper highlighted in a press release yesterday that claims there is a warming in Antarctica. There were some of the pronouncements made in the media, particularly to the Associated Press by Dr. Michael Mann, that marry that paper with “global warming”, even though no such claim was made in the press release about the scientific paper itself.
I agree with Ross Hays. In my opinion, this press release and subsequent media interviews were done for media attention. The timing is suspicious, with the upcoming Al Gore’s address to congress, he can now say: “We’ve now learned Antarctica is warming”. A Google News search shows about 530 articles on the UW press release in various media.
I ask my readers that share this opinion to consider writing factual letters to the editor (in your own words) or make online comments if any of these media outlets are near you. – Anthony
letter dated 1/22/09
Let me first say that this is my own opinion and does not represent the agency I work for. I feel your study is absolutely wrong.
There are very few stations in Antarctica to begin with and only a hand full with 50 years of data. Satellite data is just approaching thirty years of available information. In my experience as a day to day forecaster that has to travel and do field work in Antarctica the summer seasons have been getting colder. In the late 1980s helicopters were used to take our personnel to Williams Field from McMurdo Station due to the annual receding of the Ross Ice Shelf, but in the past few years the thaw has been limited and vehicles can continue to make the transition and drive on the ice. One climate note to pass along is December 2006 was the coldest December ever for McMurdo Station. In a synoptic perspective the cooler sea surface temperatures have kept the maritime storms farther offshore in the summer season and the colder more dense air has rolled from the South Pole to the ice shelf.
There was a paper presented at the AMS Conference in New Orleans last year noting over 70% of the continent was cooling due to the ozone hole. We launch balloons into the stratosphere and the anticyclone that develops over the South Pole has been displaced and slow to establish itself over the past five seasons. The pattern in the troposphere has reflected this trend with more maritime (warmer) air around the Antarctic Peninsula which is also where most of the automated weather stations are located for West Antarctica which will give you the average warmer readings and skew the data for all of West Antarctica.
With statistics you can make numbers go to almost any conclusion you want. It saddens me to see members of the scientific community do this for media coverage.
Follow up letter, sent 1/24 and posted on 1/25 with permission:
A prerequisite to going to work for the Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility was to pass an Antarctic physical. During the southern summer each year CSBF launches large (up to 40 million cubic feet) scientific balloons that orbit Antarctica for up to 42 days with scientific experiments. Most of the payloads are astrophysics, but scientific balloons discovered the ozone hole over Antarctica.
The meteorologist job is to do daily forecasts for our launch site at Williams Field near McMurodo Station on Ross Island. When campaigns are going on daily briefings are provided to personnel and a written summary is provided for daily situation reports sent to the Balloon Program Office at Goddard Space Center. We also monitor the stratospheric winds while the payloads are being readied to launch and to make sure the winds are in the correct direction and the balloon will stay over the continent. We also forecast payload termination and impact areas.
I have only done two tours on the Ice but have provided forecasts from Palestine, Texas on the years between after the balloon launches we take over forecasts for the payload and handle termination from our command center. I will be returning to the Ice in November.
My main problem with the study is the data sets. I know of only 4 stations for all of Antarctica that have fifty complete years of data. I am trying to find the exact number now. Most stations have been on and off in operation for a few seasons during field experiments. One of our retired meteorologists, Glenn Rosenberger was a US Navy meteorologist that did tours in Antarctica. He helped install the first automated weather stations on the continent: In conjunction with Stanford University, believe it was in 1978-1979 that 4 were put on the ice. One was on Minna Bluff, one on the Plateau, one on the slope of Eribus. They were powered by the RTG (radiological thermoelectric generators) and the I was the Radiological Officer for the command. There is just not enough data to support the results in my opinion.
The discussion about the warming in West Antarctica is also questionable to me since the majority of stations with several years of data are on the Antarctic Peninsula, which is surround by warmer maritime air, and doesn’t give a good balance over the interior.
I hope this gives you some idea about me.