Australia’s ABC says Heard Island is a “canary in a cage” for climate change – but investigation shows the claim is patently absurd

Australia’s ABC News and Marty McCarthy not only jumps the shark, but makes a mockery of science reporting.

Ross Hyland writes to Climate Depot (which was forwarded to me for analysis) about a claim about climate change on a tiny volcanic island called Heard Island, not far from Antarctica.

This article in Australia’s ABC has this to say about the McDonald Islands, which are actively volcanic, with Heard island having a very active volcano:

The “Big Ben” active volcano on Heard Island. At 2,745 meters, it is 517m taller than Mount Kosciuszko, giving it the little-known title of the tallest mountain in Australian-owned territory excluding Antarctica.

From the ABC article:

Even if you could get to Australia’s most remote island, chances are you still wouldn’t quite see it.

The little-known landmass, Heard Island, hides in dense cloud for around 360 days a year.

The rare few who do reach this distant wonder are more likely to hear the gurgle of molten rock bubbling up through the island’s violent core.

The active volcano on Heard Island, known as Big Ben, is adorned with vast glaciers stretching to the crashing waves of the ocean far below.

With cloud cover 360 days a year, that’s a far greater climate forcing than the “greenhouse effect” could ever be on the island. But, then there’s the volcano to consider.

PHOTO: A map showing the location of Heard Island and the McDonald Islands. (ABC: Kate Doyle)

Here’s the claim in the ABC article, bold mine:

Tiny Heard Island is technically part of Australia and has our tallest mountain ( little known fact).  It sits on a complex array of deep rooted volcanic activity (about halfway to the Earth’s core).  It’s a violent, dangerous place to visit. In 1996-97 the island doubled in size due to a huge eruption.

A land of ‘fire and ice” it has flowing lava and flowing glaciers.

Amazingly, climate change scientists are claiming this hellish place as a sort of sentinel or “canary in a cage” for their cause. They claim to know that  the average temperature on Heard Island has increased 1 degree C in summer and 0.8 degree C in winter. They study the movement of glaciers (presumably as they flow over lava fields) to see what man’s CO2 contribution has done to them.

Umm, right. Glaciers flowing over newly created lava fields, what could possibly happen there? But, let’s blame CO2 and the greenhouse effect and forget about that 360 days of cloud cover!

PHOTO: The McDonald Islands group has doubled in size over the past 30 years due to volcanic activity. (ABC: Kate Doyle)

Also amazingly, in their rush to pin it on the universal bogeyman known as climate change, they don’t seem to connect the dots between active volcanism and local temperature increases, or glacier retreat. Without even considering glaciers flowing over new hot lava fields as a contribution to retreat, with the island doubling in size and character due to eruptions, something as simple as a terrain change can affect local wind patterns and thus precipitation deposition on glaciers, and they then begin to sublimate. Al Gore made the same dumb mistake by claiming Mount Kilimanjaro’s glacier loss was due to climate change, when in fact it was a change in local terrain which affected precipitation patterns on the mountain, and the glaciers sublimated away.

Also oblivious is the Australian Government in their discussion of the issue on the web page they established for the island.

“Meteorological records at Heard Island are incomplete, but there is considerable evidence that the local climate is changing. Observations at Atlas Cove indicate an increase in average annual air temperature of almost 1°C between the periods 1948–1954 and 1997–2001. This mirrors similar changes interpreted from observations at nearby Îles Kerguelen and elsewhere in the southern Indian Ocean.”

Gosh. So let me get this straight. The [McDonald Island Group] doubles in size in 1997 due to a major volcanic eruption, [and Heard island has ongoing eruptions] which necessarily put out lots and lots of hot lava that can take years, even decades to cool:

Thick stacks of lava flows (30 m or 100 ft thick) can take years to cool completely.   An extreme example is a lava flow that was erupted in 1959 and partly filled a pit crater (Kilauea Iki). The “ponded” flow was about 85 meters thick (about 280 ft thick). It was drilled in 1988, and there was still some mushy, not-quite-solid stuff down near the bottom, 29 years after it erupted!

Source: http://volcano.oregonstate.edu/how-long-does-it-take-lava-cool

…and using a small fragment of climate weather data, these folks don’t think twice about it affecting local air temperature? What an abject failure of science and science reporting.

I’m guessing the volcanologists who study Heard Island put a meteorological station on the island to monitor what’s going on…and from that we get the 1997-2001 dataset (which is not public AFAIK). The volcanologists aren’t tracking climate change, but are more interested in winds and temperature for plume predictions and other terrestrial purposes. But like weather stations at airports, designed only to monitoring runway conditions, the data gets co-opted for climate pronouncements by the media that can’t tell the difference between good weather data and weather data not fit for climate purpose.

What is even more ridiculous in naming this island a “canary for climate change” is using two short data periods of 6 years ending in 1954 and 4 years ending in 2001 to deduce climate change on an active volcanic island. That is patently absurd.

This nearby island they mention in the ABC article, about 300 miles away from Heard Island, Kereguelen, has a GHCN climate station at Port Aux-France:

It also has incomplete climate records, but far more complete that Heard Island. The data according to NASA GISS:

Source: https://data.giss.nasa.gov/cgi-bin/gistemp/stdata_show.cgi?id=143619980000&dt=1&ds=5

Data here: https://data.giss.nasa.gov/tmp/gistemp/STATIONS/tmp_143619980000_5_0_1/station.txt

I don’t see any big climate change there. There’s some trend from about 1965 to 1987 then a break, followed by another in what appears to be a relative flat period of normal temperature fluctuations. I’m guessing a station move occurred, so who knows if that data even is valid? For all we know,it might be right next to the diesel generator that powers the village. Note the bank of fuel tanks in the left hand side of this image from the Wikipedia article:

Port-aux-Français, Island of Kerguelen. Image: Wikipedia

What’s certain is that pocket of humanity needs heat to stay alive in the winter, and waste heat UHI in polar climate outposts/towns is a real thing, which is documented in Barrow Alaska, not that dissimilar from Port Aux-France. For all we know, that up-slope of temperature from about 1965 to 1987 may have been due to expansion of the community using more fuel and generating more waste heat. You just can’t be sure because you can’t disentangle it from the data.

Plus there are studies that show shifts in ocean currents around Antarctica have been responsible for what some rush to blame on “climate change”. But, telling us an active volcanic islands brief fragments of temperature records represent “climate change”, especially after a massive eruption doubled the size of the island with hot lava that can take years to cool is an epic distortion of science.

ABC should retract this story, and admonish the writer Marty McCarthy for failure to check basic facts. At the very least, put a note about the claim about this island being a canary for climate change as being unsupportable and absurd in the story.

UPDATE: I’ve clarified and added [in brackets] my language about the McDonald Island Group and Heard island volcanic eruptions.

70 thoughts on “Australia’s ABC says Heard Island is a “canary in a cage” for climate change – but investigation shows the claim is patently absurd

  1. People make just about any assertion they want these days, as long as it agrees with their narrative. Facts are not important, truth is not important, objectivity is not important, open-mindedness is not important . . . . and many of the people call themselves “scientists”.

    I think we’ve seen the last rational generation. Now it’s all about advocacy—and anything read on the Internet is obviously truth.

    • Because if their snouts are not already in the 2 trillion a year troff they want them to be. Follow the money. Also it is the Emperors Clothes. Only clever people can really see what is going on and they compete with eachother to see who can be more “clever”.

  2. Heard Island is more like a Shag on a Rock than a Canary in the Coal Mine. The article reveals how much the ABC News and the ABC ‘science show’ has deteriorated over the last 50 years, ably assisted by people like Marty McCarthy. We have not yet forgotten the 100 metre sea rise peddled by Robyn Williams yet either.

      • It is about as good as the rest of the no existent data, so a perfect place for the CAGW to claim climate change is at it’s fullest.

    • But they only said “canary in a cage”, no mention of a coal mine. So even their metaphor is wrong.

      • Actually, that’s the words of the tipster. I liked it better, something different. They did in fact use that horribly overused and stupid “canary in a coal mine” meme. See the link at the top.

  3. Their ABC listens to only one “scientist”.
    Known as the Flim Flan man, his science expertise comes from a degree in English Lit.
    He has single handledly, through bogus predictions, done more to destroy the Australian economy than any other idiot.

  4. The other remote southern island, Macquarie Island, has shown no significant warming or cooling in Tmax or Tmin for the last 50 years.
    Sometimes I feel that Australian officials, like the BOM, should be noting this and generally be making more rebutals of suspect announcements within it’s scope. Geoff

  5. Well, since that old canary – summer Arctic sea ice extent (higher in 2018 than in 2007) – is still chirping. We need a new canary, and preferably one that’s so remote that we can make up as much s— as we please.

  6. Marty McCarthy is an incompetent journalist.
    It is a classic example of the ABC’s ideological bias.
    A decent editor would have pulled out the stupidity before it got published.
    But this article should not be withdrawn.
    It should be preserved as an exhibit of how the ABC stuffs things up.

    • “A decent editor would have pulled out the stupidity before it got published.” Who’s the bigger idiot, the journalist, the editor or the credulous fool?

      • This is the ABC we are talking about.

        The biggest idiot is the mug tax payer who is forced to pay for it.

        Remember it is only Moderates who want it de-funded. Not personally being a Moderate I tend to use the phrases ‘Raised to the Ground’ and ‘Salt the Earth’ when discussing the problem.

    • The article is mostly sensible and informative. The climate change story seems to originate with UNESCO. The prominent ‘canary in a coal mine’ heading could be the responsibility of the editor.
      Note that the article does state that the retreat of the glaciers is providing an environment in which wildlife can thrive – something which usually doesn’t get a mention.

        • David……to allay your fears……..the wild-life are NOT that stupid !
          They use the COOLER parts of the island to ‘haul out onto ‘ or ;nest’.

  7. Everyone knows that to get their research or theory noticed all they have to do is mention climate change and voila’. Anything and everything to keep the narrative in front of the people and alive is fair game for the propagandists.

  8. Why just the other day they ran a story linking obesity to climate change so there is nothing they won’t print or run if it starts with climate change .

  9. How can they believe that crap? Here’s a link to a wonderful New Yorker article on our supposed rationality. What passes for rationality is more about social cohesion and winning arguments than it is about searching for the truth.

    The more I think about it, the more I am astounded that we survived coming down out of the trees. link

  10. “ABC should retract this story, and admonish the writer Marty McCarthy for failure to check basic facts. At the very least, put a note about the claim about this island being a canary for climate change as being unsupportable and absurd in the story …”.
    ==========================================
    Thanks Anthony, I needed a good belly laugh.

  11. Facts don’t matter in the Age of Alarmism.
    The facts surrounding the volcanology of Heard Island don’t matter when your objective to convince people about the catastrophic nature of Climate Change.
    The fact that the climate models are complete junk science for predictions also doesn’t matter.

    It’s simply propaganda 24/7/365 with regards to climate change.

  12. so in 20 years it added vast glaciers all the way to the sea…..

    that canary must be freezing it’s talk feathers off

  13. A good example of the ABC strong bias in favour of their very Green thinking is the climate or perhaps I should say weather of the N/E of Australia.

    After a long and normal dry spell, lots of footage showing parched soil and cattle looking unhappy, we now have the usual Moonsoon n up North. So lots and lots of rain, so of course some river s flood.

    Another big thing for the ABC properganda machine. In NSW we have a algie bloom, and a lot of fish dying as a loss of Oxygen. Big coverage every day showing dead fish floating.

    No mention that its a case of waiting for some rain to wash away the Algie and then for the same type of fish upstream to breed and soon move down to this part of the river.

    But no, big worry, and we now have both the Federal and State government saying something must be done.

    Of course both governments are facing a election, so one has to accept this electioneering.

    MJE

    • “35,000 lakes” sounds like a lot, but there are 450,000 in Norway,100,000 in Sweden, 200,000 in Finland, 2,750,000 in Russia, 3,000,000 in Alaska, 125,000 in the contiguous 48 and 2,000,000 in Canada.

      I’ve seen no figures for the Baltic States, Poland, White Russia, Kazakhstan or Greenland but the total number of lakes with winter ice in the Northern Hemisphere must be close to 10,000,000. Among that lot 35,000 more or less is probably undetectable.

  14. Don’t forget that the ABC’s science expert ???? told Andrew Bolt that SLs could rise 100 meters by 2100.
    Boy those sea levels have some catching up to do since he made his dumb prediction about 9 years ago. But I don’t think it worries the ABC or Robyn Williams at all.
    Unbelievable but true and the lefty loonies just lap it up.

    • To be fair to Robyn Williams, he later “defended” his claim … thus: SLs have risen by that much in the past.

      What he failed to point out is that they rose by that much 1. when the planet was coming out of the depths on an Ice Age, and so 2. not over a time frame of less than 100 years.

      • To be unfair to Robyn Williams, Bolt offered him on numerous occasions the chance to clarify if he was being literal in his claim or simply using the number as a general metaphor for society altering change in general and Williams stood by the literal number.

        To later re-con his (repeatily reinforced) claim into actually meaning something different is both dishonest, wimpy and, using the example given, rather stupid. Airliners commonly climb 30,000 feet. This does not mean they can go on to climb another 30,000 feet just because they successfully did so earlier in the flight.

        Your words were WRONG, Robyn Williams. You should have at least had the personal courage to own them.

    • There isn’t that much water in the World. Not even if all ice in the Arctic and the Antarctic melts.

      Not even if you also empty every lake and river and drains all groundwater down to sea-level.

  15. Old rule: stop reading article about climate change at “model”.

    New rule: stop reading article about glaciers at “volcano”.

    • Tony Heller has a new one. Beware any article that begins with ‘scientists say’. 🙂

      • Indeed. Just this week I posted an example:

        1) CNN had as its headline something like “Climate change will affect gender”.
        2) The first paragraph used the word “might” affect gender – bit of a step down, no?
        3) The actual “scientific” paper said “we found this stuff, don’t know why, need more money to study”.

        So, yeah, not a scam for rent-seekers at all.

  16. Heard Island is found in the GHCNM v4 monthly database and also in GHCND daily. I don’t calculate annual temperatures for years with less than nine months and didn’t remove the months marked as errors.

    Source:ghcnm.tavg.v4.0.0.20181221.qcu.dat Dirty
    Station:ASM00094997 -53.1 73.717 12 HEARD_ISLAND_THE_SPIT 1997 2015 19 200

    2000-2015 Trend 2.74/Century
    2000-2015 mean 2.50
    Year Mean Data Records Source_flags QC_flags
    1997 -9999 1 1 °°°°°°S°°°°°
    1998 -9999 8 1 °°S°S°SSSSSS
    1999 -9999 8 1 SSSSS°°°SSS°
    2000 2.12 9 1 S°SSSSSSSS°°
    2001 2.49 12 1 SSSSSSSSSSSS
    2002 2.34 12 1 SSSSSSSSSSSS
    2003 2.71 12 1 SSSSSSSSSSSS
    2004 2.54 11 1 SSSSSS°SSSSS
    2005 2.68 9 1 SSSS°°°SSSSS
    2006 2.33 12 1 SSSSSSSSSSSS
    2007 2.05 12 1 SSSSSSSSSSSS
    2008 2.69 12 1 SSSSSSSSSSSS
    2009 2.07 12 1 SSSSSSSSSSSS
    2010 2.47 12 1 SSSSSSSSSSSS
    2011 2.25 12 1 SSSSSSSSSSSS
    2012 2.54 12 1 SSSSSSSSSSSS
    2013 3.24 12 1 SSSSSSSSSSSS °°OS°°°°°°°°
    2014 2.03 12 1 SSSSSSSSSSSS
    2015 3.41 10 1 SSSSS|||||°° °°°°°°°°°O°°

    • P.S.
      Monthly data source S = Global Summary of the Day (NCDC DSI-9618)
      Monthly data source | = climat-uk

  17. “With cloud cover 360 days a year, that’s a far greater climate forcing than the “greenhouse effect” could ever be on the island. But, then there’s the volcano to consider.”

    Are they saying water vapour (Clouds) is a far greater climate forcing that the “GHE”?

  18. Anthony wrote: “Gosh. So let me get this straight. The island doubles in size in 1997 due to a major volcanic eruption”

    Which is in fact false. If you read the article it is discussing two different islands. Heard island is where the weather station is and has not doubled in size. The nearby McDonald Island doubled in size due to a volcanic eruption in 1997. Perhaps you should try reading the actual article rather than someone’s biased summary of it.

  19. “I’m guessing the volcanologists who study Heard Island put a meteorological station on the island to monitor what’s going on…and from that we get the 1997-2001 dataset (which is not public AFAIK).”

    No they make periodic visits to a cove and make measurements while there. So one visit
    between 1948 and 54.. they most likely set up camp on hot lava, pictures below.

    here they are walking on scalding hot lava

    http://heardisland.antarctica.gov.au/__data/assets/image/0014/141350/varieties/antarctic-sml.jpg

    here they are camping on scalding hot lava

    http://heardisland.antarctica.gov.au/__data/assets/image/0018/141318/varieties/antarctic-sml.jpg

    So yes, when they make these periodic Visits there is no doubt they set up camp on hot lava

  20. Here is the record for that other isolated southern island, Macquarie Island, for the last 50 years.
    Macquarie Island invites a comparison with Heard Island.
    Why did the authors not make the comparison with an island with much higher data quality? And no active volcano? And no canary?
    Geoff.
    http://www.geoffstuff.com/macquarie_gw.jpg

  21. Yes, McDonald Island – correctly captioned above – has grown. However, Heard Island’s active volcano, Big Ben or Mawson Peak has had multiple eruptions over the period mentioned in the post:

    2016, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2006-08, 2003-04, 2000-01, 1993, 1992, 1985-87, 1954, 1953, 1950-52, 1910, 1881

    “On 2 February 2001, observations from Atlas Cove, 15 km NW of Mawson Peak, showed plumes up to 1 km high over the volcano. – Wikipedia ”

    The 2016 eruption, was also filmed by scientists who happened to be in the area on an expedition. They comment about lava flows and glacial ice here: https://www.bbc.com/news/av/world-australia-35468579/scientists-film-big-ben-sub-antarctic-volcano-eruption

  22. Just to futher sell the ABC as a establishment of quality it should probably be pointed out that great parts of that article are insults to the English language.

    “… a sort of sentinel or “canary in a cage”…”

    Sentinel? A form of guard or protector? Heard Island is a guard against climate change?

    ‘Canary in a cage’? So… a house pet? If it was a canary in a coal mine the sentence may make more sense, instead it is a canary in a cage. Heard Island is a suitable house pet?

    (this is even before we discuss the point that the canary was in industry used because it was considered expendable.)

    Marty McCarthy doesn’t just need to take a course in basic science. Marty McCarthy needs to go back to basics and learn to write good like.

    Raze the ABC

    • Again — read the actual article not the biased summary that Ross wrote and sent to WUWT.
      The phrase “canary in a cage” is Ross’s words not the ABC. The article itself uses the phrase
      “canary in a coal mine”. The issue is that Anthony cannot tell the difference between what was
      in the original article and Ross’s biased summary of it.

      • Yes I read the original article, and it is linked at the very beginning of my article. Graphics and photos I used are from the original article, so your claims of “not reading the article” are in fact, wrong.

        The “canary in the coal mine” meme is just so overused and stupid, I refuse to use it anymore. I made a choice to use the words of Ross. After all, it is he who tipped me off. Something a little different often piques interest in headlines.

        Tough noogies if you don’t like my editorial choices, then again you don’t like anything here. It’s your M.O. to complain about minutiae. Meanwhile you ignore the fact that article is in fact, a pack of bogosity. Do I care? No.

        • Anthony,
          You constantly confuse what is in the ABC’s article and what is in Ross’s post. For example when you state “Here’s the claim in the ABC article, bold mine:” none of the subsequent sentences are in the ABC’s article and certainly not the bold phrases that you complained about.

          If you want to claim that you changed the “canary in the coal mine” to a phrase used by Ross that is fine but then you cannot claim that it is a claim in the ABC article.

          Looking at the article the majority of it is not concerned with climate change and at most there is about one paragraph that says that it is warming and a “canary in a coal mine”. You might dispute that assertion based on incomplete records but the entire article is not a “pack of bogoisty” (whatever that means) — rather it is more of a travel piece about a remote island that almost no-one has visited.

  23. I have too much time on my hands. Articles like this at WUWT lead me to do a deep dive into obscure subjects, like Australian External Territories. If the wiki pages can be believed (they appear pretty straightforward), the Heard Island and McDonald Islands (HIMI) External Territory is no different than the Australian Antarctic Territory (AAT). In which case, the article’s claim that the volcano on Heard Island, Mawson Peak, is the highest point in Australia is also incorrect. That honour would belong to Mt. McClintock in the AAT. If there are any geo-political experts from Oz reading this, feel free to jump in and set me straight if the above is oversimplified.

    An oddly placed island at 53S latitude with an active volcano and 41 glaciers just seems like a poor choice to obtain a meaningful “canary” signal. Lots of neat geology at work, though.

    • Windsong — if you have so much time on your hands perhaps you should try reading the actual article. It clear states that Big Ben “at a soaring 2,745 metres, it is 517m taller than Mount Kosciuszko, giving it the little-known title of the tallest mountain in Australian-owned territory excluding Antarctica.” So the article is correct but you just need to read it.

      • Percy, I stand corrected. The hotlink for the ABC article does not work for me. I saw the height reference in the boxed portion of the quoted article. Once I slowly reread everything above, the caption on the photo covers that reference to height.

        Slow is smooth, smooth is fast.

  24. “Also amazingly, in their rush to pin it on the universal bogeyman known as climate change, they don’t seem to connect the dots between active volcanism and local temperature increases, or glacier retreat. Without even considering glaciers flowing over new hot lava fields as a contribution to retreat, with the island doubling in size and character due to eruptions, something as simple as a terrain change can affect local wind patterns and thus precipitation deposition on glaciers, and they then begin to sublimate. Al Gore made the same dumb mistake by claiming Mount Kilimanjaro’s glacier loss was due to climate change, when in fact it was a change in local terrain which affected precipitation patterns on the mountain, and the glaciers sublimated away.”

    An oft repeated pattern in climate alarms about Antarctica

    https://tambonthongchai.com/2018/06/09/history-of-the-global-warming-scare-chapter-5-2000-2005/

  25. something as simple as a terrain change

    Mt. Rainier in Washington State has had flows out over glacial ice.
    The results are not exactly simple, but the terrain sure is interesting.

  26. ” … ABC should retract this story, and admonish the writer Marty McCarthy for failure to check basic facts. …”

    He’ll get a science journalism award for that. The more perverse, inaccurate and lazy a report is the more ABC likes it.

  27. “For all we know,it might be right next to the diesel generator that powers the village. Note the bank of fuel tanks in the left hand side of this image from the Wikipedia article:”

    This site gives rather precise coordinates 49°21’06″S, lon : 70°14’36″E. On Google Maps it appears as an isolated location, 3-4 km from the settlement, and has what look like reasonably sited equipment.

  28. An island that small set in the roaring forties of the southern ocean has its climate tempered/tied to the SST of the ocean immediately upwind of said roaring forties.
    There will be next to zero GHE warming subjected to thermometers there (other than that transferred to the ocean surface).
    There needs to be radiation conditions on a regular basis (clear skies, light winds overnight) for that to make a sig contribution to any warming.
    The upwind sea-surface temp will entirely swamp that due the wind strength/moisture content.
    The average wind strength there is ….

    “The winds at Heard Island are predominantly westerly and persistently strong. At Atlas Cove, monthly average wind speeds range between around 26 to 33.5 kilometres per hour. A maximum daily wind gust of greater than 180 kilometres per hour has been recorded on several occasions.”

    http://heardisland.antarctica.gov.au/about/climate-and-weather

    Atlas Cove also seems particularly exposed to the prevailing W’ly winds, whereas the sheltering effect of being on the east side is seem here ….

    “Air temperatures at Spit Bay, only 25 km to the east can be remarkably different, with monthly mean temperatures being as much as 1.3°C higher.”

  29. “…The rare few who do reach this distant wonder are more likely to hear the gurgle of molten rock bubbling up through the island’s violent core…”

    Bubbling up thrugh the core?
    What a time to be alive…

  30. This was not “a scientific and reporting failure”.

    It was scientific fraud and socialist journalist propaganda.

  31. “Meteorological records at Heard Island are incomplete…”

    Somewhat of an understatement.
    Atlas Cove weather station operated Feb 1948 to Dec 1954 with a few odd observations after that
    The Spit weather station operated April 1992 to March 1993

    To make any sort of claim about weather trends/changing climate based on the utterly sketchy record from Heard Island is utterly ludicrous.

    There’s a more complete weather record from Australia’s sub-Antarctic weather station at Macquarie Island which is just a hop, a skip and a jump [and 5000km] away

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