A few months back, I posted a critique titled: Gavin Schmidt’s new climate picture book: Anti-Science?
I found it ironic that Dr. Schmidt used photos to depict climate change, while at the same time promoting open criticism of my surfacestations.org project on realclimate.org. That project also uses photography, combined with measurements and a NOAA sanctioned rating system, to gauge thermometer siting issues. Oddly, there seems to be no complaints from the usual suspects when Dr. Schmidt uses artistic composition photography to illustrate climate change issues.
It is only fair then that since Dr. Schmidt has responded to the original author of that critical piece, Harold Ambler, that I repost Dr. Schmidt’s response here. Harold has invited me to republish that piece here.
A note to readers, Harold is going through a rough patch financially while waiting for his new book, Don’t Sell Your Coat, is to be published in November 2009. Royalties from it won’t come in until mid-2010. So if anyone is so inclined, please visit his web page and give him a boost in the tip jar. – Anthony
Guest post by Harold Ambler
As most of my readers know, I posted a critique of Gavin Schmidt’s book, Climate Change: Picturing the Science, not quite three months ago. Dr. Schmidt has responded in the last few days:
The point of a photo is always the context in which it’s seen. Lake Powell is a long way below it’s 1990’s peak, and that is due to a combination of reductions in rainfall upstream and additional demands on it’s water downstream. The last two years have seen a small rise in water level, and as you state correctly, it is important not to read too much into a short term record.
However, the real point of the photo (and as we discuss in the chapter that uses it), is that climate change is really only an issue because of the impacts – whether on human society or ecosystems. Areas that are already under water stress, such as the American South West are very vulnerable to changes in rainfall regime. And in fact, there is some evidence that long-term trends in precipitation in this region are already being affected by ongoing changes.
We have a long discussion in the book about being careful with the problem of attribution in imagery and we try to make that clear in the captions.”
The science concurs:
“Last week, Dr. Barnett published additional work in the journal Science attributing 60 percent of the reduction in snowpack, rising temperatures, and reduced river flows over the past 50 years to global warming.
The latest work “not only shows that climate change is a real problem. It also shows it has direct implications for humans – and not just in the third world,” says Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute in Oakland, Calif.”
So yes, it’s a combination of things, as stated in the book (if you bother to read past the cover photo) and in the scientific literature.
My Response to Dr. Schmidt (Plus a Note to Readers):
I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and lived through a few droughts, including the very serious one of 1976 to 1978. Again and again, my family and I saw water levels in the local reservoirs (and others in the state) decline to worrisome levels before they were, thankfully, replenished. One perspective on the phenomenon of alternating drought and wet in the West is that it is terrifying, and should be brought to as many people’s consciousness as possible as a new menace, part of global warming, etc. Another, more like my own, would point out that the astonishing agricultural productivity and explosion of population throughout the Southwest are proofs of humanity’s ability to adapt to its natural surroundings in very effective ways.
Please read the remainder of the story at Talking About the Weather and don’t forget the tip jar 😉 – Anthony