DeConto and Pollard – An Antarctic Science (Fiction?) Disaster

Readers may recall the announcement of the PR for the recent paper claiming Sea-Level rise from Antarctic ice sheet could double in WUWT. In a tongue and cheek way, I prefaced it with “Oh Noes!” due to the ridiculous claims being made from model output. I wasn’t the only one seeing this paper as flawed. It’s actually worse than we thought.

Antarctic-NYT-pollard

Guest essay by Patrick J. Michaels and  Paul C. “Chip” Knappenberger, Center for the Study of Science, Cato Institute

There’s one thing that climate scientists of all stripes and flavors agree would be an unmitigated disaster: A sudden and dramatic melting of land ice, raising sea levels ten feet or so in a century.

Three years ago, it appeared that this monster had been put to bed by Denmark’s Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, when her team drilled all the way down through the ice to Greenland’s bedrock, providing the first reliable data from there concerning the warmest period in recent geological history, known as the Eemian. She found that for six thousand years (roughly from 122,000 to 128,000 years ago) summer temperatures in Northwest Greenland, where her ice core was extracted, averaged a whopping 11°F warmer than the 20th century average.

Remarkably, she estimated that Greenland only lost 30 per cent of its ice after six millennia. The integrated heat added to the ice over that span was roughly twenty times as much heat as humans could unload on it from greenhouse gases in 500 years, so the Greenland-driven apocalypse just isn’t going to happen.

Dahl-Jensen did note a curious mystery her work had uncovered. It’s well-known, from a number of independent sources, that Eemian sea levels were around twenty feet higher than the current era. Her ice-loss data suggested Greenland could only raise sea levels about one-third of that. The rest of the water had to come from the only other possible source, Antarctica.

The notion of an alarming rise in the ocean coming from there anytime soon has always been difficult to entertain. It is really cold down there and any melting should take a very long time—thousands of years—to do very much.

That just changed. Or at least it just changed in a complex and touchy simulation by Robert DeConto (University of Massachusetts) and David Pollard (Penn State) that made it above-the-fold on the front page of the March 31 New York Times. It seems that they shrunk the time for Antarctica to raise sea levels over ten feet a century from roughly the 50th century, to the 22nd (!).

Before the world gets all On The Beach-y about this, maybe there are devils hiding in the paper’s details. Indeed, there’s a forest of horns hidden in the dense but precise prose published in Nature.

For every predicted climate disaster, there has to be some type of climate model to project future temperatures. The authors used two (one for the ocean and the other for land). The first is a commonly employed general circulation model (GCM) from the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. The second is a less-common, smaller-scale “Regional Climate Model” (RCM) applied over the continent. These were then input into models of ice dynamics, including a new one that took rainfall (it really doesn’t rain in Antarctica now) and sloshed it into the continent’s huge glaciers, creating gigantic crevasses that crack truly ginormous hunks of ice off into the ocean. The new ice dynamics model is extremely sensitive to the settings of its large variety of handles and knobs—the settings of which can only be guessed at as the physics that the model is built upon is not well developed.

And a predicted disaster is only as reliable as the models that go into it.

The ice dynamics model is in its infancy, and the climate models used to generate temperatures around Antarctica are hot. Way too hot.

According to Andrew Monaghan (Ohio State), writing in Geophysical Research Letters: “20th century (1880–1999) annual Antarctic near-surface air temperature trends in the GCMs are about 2.5-to-5 times larger-than-observed.” Monaghan added this warming: “Until these issues are resolved, IPCC projections for 21st century Antarctic temperature should be regarded with caution.” We’re not sure the press got that memo.

Buried near the bottom of the supplementary material supplied to Nature, we can see that the climate model overproduction of warming infects the DeConto and Pollard paper as well. According to the authors, large areas of the continent (not just the well-known warming of the tiny Antarctic Peninsula that points towards South America) should have warmed some 7-15°F by now (Figure 1, left).

They didn’t. According to Ryan O’Donnell and others writing in the Journal of Climate in 2010, summer temperatures have risen since reliable records begin with the 1957 International Geophysical Year, but only about 5-10 per cent of what the RCM says should have been happening in many spots (Figure 1, right).

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Figure 1. (left) Total temperature change between pre-industrial condition and the present produced by the DeConto and Pollard climate model; (right) observed trend (˚C/decade) in temperature from 1957-2006 determined by O’Donnell and colleagues (2011). Multiple the latter by five to get an idea of the total temperature change since 1957.

A good climate disaster also requires some guesstimates of how much carbon dioxide is going to increase in the future. The juiciest ones in the new paper assume atmospheric concentrations that even the United Nations’ has acknowledged as substantial outliers. And the paper lets it increase to eight times over the 19th century background, something no one we know has ever entertained as a basis for future climate scenarios. (We’re currently around four-tenths of the way to a doubling.)

There’s also a scenario where the increase in carbon dioxide is slower and more realistic, and—you guessed it—the end of the world is delayed by several centuries.

Anyway, hit the “send” button and throw all of these models into the computer, and compare to what (we think) happened in the Eemian. It’s there for all to see in the paper’s Figure 3a (our Figure 2): The concatenated models’ gargantuan increases in sea level take place about 1,000 years before they were actually observed.

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So there it is. As University of Colorado’s Roger Pielke, Sr., tweeted in response to the paper:

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Maybe this is what happens when hypersensitive models are fed unrealistic data.

References:

DeConto, R.M., and D. Pollard. 2016. Contribution of Antarctica to past and future sea-level rise. Nature, 531, 591-597, doi:10.1038/nature17145. http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v531/n7596/full/nature17145.html

Monaghan, A. J., D. H. Bromwich, and David P. Schneider, 2008. Twentieth century Antarctic air temperature and snowfall simulations by IPCC climate models. Geophysical Research Letters, 35, L07502, doi:10.1029/2007GL032630.

O’Donnell, R., N. Lewis, S. McIntyre, and J. Condon, 2011. Improved Methods for PCA-Based Reconstructions: Case Study Using the Steig et al. (2009) Antarctic Temperature Reconstruction. Journal of Climate, 24, 2099-2115.

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57 thoughts on “DeConto and Pollard – An Antarctic Science (Fiction?) Disaster

    • The whole point is to keep “alarming” people. Sea rise, ZIKA bug, zombie apocalypse, it hardly matters because all it’s there for is to jerk the reptilian brain long enough to keep the targets in front of the ads. The Mad Men figured out long ago that “stressed” people who believe they have no future are more inclined to buy a lot of crap they don’t need here and now. Not to mention booze and prescription pills.

      • “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

        – Henry Louis Mencken

      • You think;this is evil capitalism at work?
        There are two dynamics in play here. Dumb down the populace and then whip them into a state of fear and guilt. The “Dumbing down” dynamic is brought to you courtesy of the federal and state government controlled and directed public school systems. Systems that graduated kids from high school with 8th grade reading proficiency and 4th grade math skills. The fear and guilt dynamic is brought to you courtesy of the primary media outlets with a big helping hand from those same said schools systems.
        If you believe this is the fault of capitalism you stand as living testimony to the success of the governments “dumbing down” process.

  1. Sounds like the subject paper is incomplete – i see no mention of any consultation with the Emperor Penguin population in Antarctica. If anyone should be concerned it would be them! It’d be a live changing experience for them. Does PETA know anything about this oversight? [tongue-in-cheek]

    • Soon to be covered in George (the Greek) Miller’s Happy Feet 3, where the Emperor Penguins take their Climate Change Case to the Emperor Pope at the Vatican.

  2. This incident clearly highlights the two-faced bias so prevalent in science journals.

    Catastrophic nonsense gets easy reviews, compliant editors, and trouble-free publication. Sober criticism of the prevailing AGW narrative gets angry rejectionist reviews, editorial flight, and rejection.

    • We are all very hard on MSM and for very good reasons as far as we are concerned. But recall that they are competing for the “green stuff” that pays the bills. I am not defending them in any way, but you can’t get people with a 10 second span of attention to “read” something unless you raise their anxiety about it. The “alarmist” publication will get read because it is “scary,” and it might be necessary to know what is there to survive, thus the media involved gets “the green stuff” to stay alive. If you publish something that doesn’t scare them, the 10 second limit is there. You can scan that amount of time without buying it, and if you aren’t puckering your butt by then, you put it down and look for something that will. Sadly, if you want to stay in business, you have to come up with what keeps people reading or sitting in front of the tube, because without that, you are going to go bankrupt. Those of us that can stand to at least skim through an article that is 1500 words or more in length for its content are far rarer than some of us tend to believe. so yes, we can rightfully knock the media for not telling the truth, but if the truth sold, they might very well be doing that now.

  3. This was my take on this in an email sent 7 hours ago to a few of my “believer” friends:

    A bit disappointing to see you jumping aboard the Chicken LIttle bandwagon. By my precise count, this is the 10,000th end-of-the-world scare story that newspapers love to print.

    I did look at the article, stopping reading at this point:

    “To simulate Pliocene and LIG ice sheets, we couple the ice model to
    a high-resolution, atmospheric regional climate model (RCM) adapted
    to Antarctica and nested within a global climate model (GCM; see
    Methods).”

    In other words, the study is a pure model, based on one model based on another model based on a third model.

    The RCMs were tested against observations by the IPCC in a 2012 paper (SREX) and found to be unsuitable for purpose–none provided short-term predictions matching observations.

    https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/special-reports/srex/SREX_Full_Report.pdf

    The GCMs have also been tested against observations in recent years (the CMIP5 series ot model runs) and are running hot. (See the figure provided by John Christy from the NASA-supported satellite studies at the recent Congressional hearings on climate change.)

    So both of the models on which this model is based are untrustworthy.

    The paper concludes that sea level may rise by one meter by 2100. A linear extrapolation of the observed rise over the last 78 years suggests a rise of a foot. The Dutch dealt quite successfully with sea level rises of that speed.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flood_control_in_the_Netherlands

      • I am of the firm opinion that you can take your tongue out of your cheek, because it actually is models all the way down. THAT is not the problem.

        The problems is they contradict one another!

    • Even worse, the global climate models is based on emissions model, which is itself based on an economic model. The latter economic model has countries like North Korea having twice the GDP per capita of the US, by 2100. The reason for this, is the economic model uses MER exchange rates for calculations, instead of the much more widely accepted PPP exchange rates. The only UN body to use MER? The IPCC.

      Let us summarize, to show the folly involved

      The end result is an Ice model output, which uses data from a regional climate model (that has absolutely no skill, as even the IPCC states). The RCM gets it inputs from a global climate model. The GCM gets its inputs from an emissions scenario, based itself on an economics model. The economics model uses a discredited exchange rate, and it can be seen the output of the economics model is highly flawed.

      It really is models all the way down. And flawed models to boot.

    • I did look at the article, stopping reading at this point:

      You are a better man than I. I stopped at “Climate Models Predict…”

  4. If any of these models and so-called “scientists” had even half the competence they claim, they would all be hired away by Wall Street. The fact they are all still sucking at the government teat tells me they aren’t even half competent.

  5. ” Indeed, there’s a forest of horns hidden in the dense but precise prose published in Nature.” should that be THORNS ??

  6. Gotta squelch this article before it cuts into my gunwale-raising business. I’m starting to get a healthy backlog of suckers customers.

    • When sea level rise is a problem for your boat, raising the gunwales is at best a temporary solution. Back when I was club racing on a sailboat, we had a saying to remind the crew to stay alert and pay attention.

      On Any Given Day

      On any given day
      any given skipper
      can sink any given boat
      On any given day

      (with apologies to pro football)

  7. You mean I can have a beer before we go? Nice to know. I might even stretch out on the beach and get a tan, maybe read a book or three. Ahh, I’m-a-geddon used to this idea. (Oops! Sorry!)

    • They’re right about sea levels possibly rising 5′ or 1525mm in a century if the science in the rocks at Hallet Cove are a guide-

      “During the Recent ice age about 20 000 years ago,
      sea level was about 130 metres lower than today
      and South Australia’s coastline was about 150
      kilometres south of where Victor Harbor now is.
      The ice cap started to melt about 15 000 years ago.
      Sea level began to rise and reached its present level
      about 6000–7000 years ago.”
      http://www.sa.gsa.org.au/Brochures/HallettCoveBrochure.pdf

      So that could be an average yearly rise of 16.25mm/yr over 8000 years or 1625mm in a century. However Neptune himself is going to have to get a move on since the Oz CSIRO calculated global sea level only rose 1.6mm/yr over the last century or 160 mm in total. All that 20th century man made CO2 increase could only produce a tenth of the rate that Mother Nature could for around 8000 years and yet still they come up with these dire model forecasts.

      It’s in the rocks in the ground not the rocks in your heads stoopids, unless you’re all denying the science.

    • “We have used a combination of historical tide-gauge data and satellite-altimeter data to estimate global averaged sea level change from 1880 to 2014. During this period, global-averaged sea level rose about 23 cm, with an average rate of rise of about 1.6 mm/yr over the 20th Century. The sea level record indicates a statistically significant increase in the rate of rise from 1880 to 2014.”
      Deny the science deniers-
      http://www.cmar.csiro.au/sealevel/sl_hist_few_hundred.html

  8. In the text: Monaghan added this warming:

    I usually don’t bother with typos but here the wanted word is “warning” — n, not m

  9. So they took one source of hopeless predictive error, and added it to another source of hopeless GIGO error, that also doesn’t work, and ended up with an even greater error and biased model that works even worse?

    Seems political … … it’s certainly got nothing to do with science.

  10. I thought this deserved a wider post. It is based on comments by Lance Wallace and others, further up.

    Its worse than we thought!

    The global climate models is based on an emissions model, which is itself based on an economic model. The latter economic model has countries like North Korea having twice the GDP per capita of the US, by 2100. The reason for this, is the economic model uses MER exchange rates for calculations, instead of the much more widely accepted PPP exchange rates. The only UN body to use MER? The IPCC.

    Let us summarize, to show the folly involved

    The end result is an Ice model output, which uses data from a regional climate model (that has absolutely no skill, as even the IPCC states). The RCM gets it inputs from a global climate model. The GCM gets its inputs from an emissions scenario, based itself on an economics model. The economics model uses a discredited exchange rate, and it can be seen the output of the economics model is highly flawed.

    It really is models all the way down. And flawed models to boot.

    • Well, my male modelling career didn’t take off as I expected. I mean, even thought I could be Danny Devito’s body double, I had inputted all the compliments I got from my mother about how handsome I was, yet somehow, the phone didn’t ring.

  11. As far as I can see in the paper they use the GCM model CCSM4. When comparing it with the real world in the Antarctic according to http://elib.suub.uni-bremen.de/edocs/00104190-1.pdf (p. 74) (Schmidthuesen et.a. 2015) it gives over the whole year an average of 6W/m² too much forcing. From Schmidthuesen: “Furthermore, the above tendencies of the CMIP5 long-wave fluxes hint towards a potential overestimation of the instantaneous radiative forcing induced by rising CO2 concentration in central Antarctica.”
    It’s no use to calculate SLR due to Antarctica-melting from an oversensitive model.

  12. It’s a bit hard to do an april fool on this topic – things you just couldn’t believe have a habit of becoming real…

  13. Anyway, it worked.
    The end result was that viewers of BBC news were exposed to a continuously repeating message in the ticker at the bottom of the screen, which read (approximately):
    Antarctic melting to double sea level rise, say scientists.

    And that’s it. That’s what this garbage was ultimately converted into.
    The job is done.
    Whereas the last Zwally NASA paper didn’t get a mention from the same “unbiased” media channel.
    Nor do they ever mention the record sea ice extent.
    Nor do they allow any contribution from any known critic of alarmism or renewable madness.
    They are far too busy being “unbiased”, and busy publicizing this shit and anything vaguely like it.
    No wonder the British have all gone quietly mad.

  14. Sea level rise is easy to solve.
    Couple big tunnel machines and suddenly we have the opportunity for the Death Valley and Dead Sea yacht clubs, complete with marinas and “beach side” mansions.
    Fit the tunnels with turbines and you can even generate power without the need to burn coal or gas.

    This is part of my nefarious plan to get the greens arguing with each other about whether or not it is good for the environment. :D

    • I’m thinking more like: take 1% of the trillions of dollars we will spend on “green” crap, develop desalination plants, and draw off the ocean water to replace diminishing freshwater.

  15. Think about it. We have ice cores from all over Antarctica, many of which are in fairly costal locations. And all of them display at least four ice age cycles and some and many as eight ice age cycles, at roughly 100 kyr per cycle. And many of these cycles had peak interglacial temperatures that were warmer than the recent Holocene. And the interglacial 400 kyr ago was of the same extended duration as the Holocene.

    If the Antarctic ice sheet withstood these past ice age cycles, without significant flow deformation of the lower ice layers, it is obviously pretty stable. So any claim to its instant demise over the next century, by any imaginable means, is obviously a scare story. So why do they get away with this? When banks in the UK were found to be misselling their products (for cash) they were forced to repay all their ill-gotten gains. The same should apply to scientists who misell their products for grants.

    R

    • It seems that modelers rarely, if ever,do a sanity check on the predictions of their models. If their models said that rising temperatures would increase the surface tension of the ocean water, thus allowing people to walk on water, they probably wouldn’t blink, and publish their results.

  16. I made a sea level model from balsa wood,
    it indicates climate modelers have a greater density than water.

  17. Maybe I’ve become too cynical but as soon as I see the words “Penn State” I know it’s going to be a crock of excrement.

  18. ‘raising sea levels ten feet or so in a century’

    About 1.2 inches a year. MY GOD, HOW WILL MAN EVER GET OUT OF THE WAY IN TIME ?!?!

  19. I like this bit
    “The new ice dynamics model is extremely sensitive to the settings of its large variety of handles and knobs—the settings of which can only be guessed at as the physics that the model is built upon is not well developed.”

    roflmao

  20. “And the paper lets it increase to eight times over the 19th century background, something no one we know has ever entertained as a basis for future climate scenarios.”

    NASA GISS did and settled the science in Science back in 1971-

    “It is found that even an increase by a factor of 8 in the amount of CO2, which is highly unlikely in the next several thousand years, will produce an increase in the surface temperature of less than 2 degrees K.”

    Schneider, S. H., and Rasool, S. I., “Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide and Aerosols: Effects of Large Increases on Global Climate,” Science, Vol. 173, 9 July 1971, pp 138 – 141.

  21. I submitted the following comment . We’ll see if NYT lets it thru :

    I did 20 years in Lower Manhattan before exchanging my view of the Fish Market and the Brooklyn Bridge for Pikes Peak where it was 6f when I got up this morning . There is no more innumerate scientifically uneducated blog community than the NYT’s .

    The claim that the source of carbon to carbon based life is doing anything other than visibly greening the planet is anti-science fraud which , when foisted by government employees amounts to criminal malfeasance . The individuals guilty of RICO activity are those who despite the lack of either the quantitative equations or experimental demonstration of the asserted GHG “trapping” of energy by spectral effects one expects and finds in any other branch of applied physics , persecute and propose to prosecute those who supply the energy to keep us warm and grow our food and bring it to market .

    If anything demonstrates the inherent criminality of the “progressive” leftist statist , it is this absolutely totally empirically and theoretically demolished falsehood .

  22. “It’s well-known, from a number of independent sources, that Eemian sea levels were around twenty feet higher than the current era.”

    No it is not. This is a factoid, i e something that has been reported so often that everybody thinks it is true but which is actually extremely dubious. It goes back to Veeh (1960) who found that last interglacial corals throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans were found consistently between +2 m and +10 m and selected 6 meters as an average.

    Actually studies of tectonically stable, undeformed last interglacial shorelines far enough from icecaps to be unaffected by isostatic effects (e g Eyre Peninsula or West Australia) suggest that 2-3 meters is a more likely figure, i e more or less what you might expect from a partial melting of Greenland plus some termosteric rise.

    And incidentally there is not a shred of actual evidence that the WAIS melted durin the last Interglacial, but a greeat deal of evidence that it didn’t..

    • Thanks a bunch. Very interesting because this would mean Dahl-Jensen explained all the rise with Greenland. Like I said, it’s very hard to melt much of Antarctica until you go to the millenial scale. And even the it’s difficult

  23. On April 1-st The New York Times printed an editorial called “The Danger of Runaway Antarctica” that was based on the DeConto and Pollard article in Nature. They also complain about sea level ruse and Hansen’s new allegations. Icould not let that stand so I sent the following letter to the editor of the New YorkTimes:

    “To the Editor:
    Your editorial today of a “Runaway Antarctica” based on the article by DeConto and Pollard in Nature, 531, 591-597, is asking us to believe in the dubious science of Climate Apocalypse they espouse. When you look at their paper you notice that their conclusions derive entirely from use of climate models. They use two in this case, one GCM (General Circulation Model) and one RCM (Regional Circulation Model). Before you place your trust in such models you should know that they have been in use by climate scientists since 1988 when James Hansen first introduced them. You would think from this that since they have been in continuous use for 27 years they should be a trustworthy tool for climate scientists to use. Unfortunately that is not the case. Every computer model there is, starting with the first one that Hansen used, has been giving wrong predictions about the coming global temperature. We know this because during 27 years there have been numerous opportunities to compare predictions with reality. All model predictions have been wrong, every single one of them. The usual errors have been overestimate of warming to be expected. The models used by DeConto and Pollard don’t disappoint us here and run true to form. GCM overestimates warming. The RCM actually surprises us by predicting rainfall (which does not exist in Antarctica) that sloshes into the continent’s huge glaciers, creating gigantic crevasses that crack truly enormous hunks of ice off into the ocean. I have said this before and I will say this again: time to close down the entire climate modeling operation and save money on supercomputers they use to create this trash. As to your other concerns, sea level rise is globally 2.46 millimeters per year (Chao, Yu & Li, Science, April 11, 2008). Anything more is local. Land could even rise locally as it does in Scandinavia. As to that paper by Hansen et al., just ignore him. His “climate science” has been proven erroneous repeatedly.”

    Note: two typos in the original were corrected

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