Scroll To Top

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Old and new warming in the Eurasian Arctic and denier weirdness at WUWT

Sou | 4:45 PM Go to the first of 8 comments. Add a comment

Anthony Watts seems to have put his foot in it again, but has pulled it out just a little (archived here - updated here).

Today he posted an article about a new paper with some analysis of an ice core from the Eurasian Arctic, in the vicinity of the Kara and Barents Seas. Going by his note at the bottom, perhaps Anthony originally tried to use the paper to "prove" something about Cowtan and Way - maybe that it was wrong.  His note reads:
[Note: this original post was written during my workday and making a comparison to the Cowtan and Way paper, and like sometimes happens during my day, I got interrupted, and then got off on a tangent that wasn't correct. To correct my mistake, I've republished this post sans that tangent. Later I'll get back to my original idea when I have more time.  - Anthony]

My guess is that we'll be waiting for about the same length of time for him to write about his "original idea" as we'll be waiting for his promised publication about "Watts et al 2012 draft paper", which has been slipping so far down the sidebar at WUWT that it's looking as if it's about to drop right off.

Resurrecting an old favourite

In honour of this new paper, Anthony resurrected an old favourite of the denialati:
The Arctic ocean is warming up, icebergs are growing scarcer and in some places the seals are finding the water too hot, according to a report to the Commerce Department yesterday from Consul Ifft, at Bergen, Norway.
Reports from fishermen, seal hunters and explorers, he declared, all point to a radical change in climate conditions and hitherto unheard-of temperatures in the Arctic zone. Exploration expeditions report that scarcely any ice has been met with as far north as 81 degrees 29 minutes. Soundings to a depth of 3,100 meters showed the gulf stream still very warm.
Great masses of ice have been replaced by moraines of earth and stones, the report continued, while at many points well known glaciers have entirely disappeared. Very few seals and no white fish are found in the eastern Arctic, while vast shoals of herring and smelts, which have never before ventured so far north, are being encountered in the old seal fishing grounds.
The above is from a newspaper article that's been circulating among the denialati for years.  You can read the full article here.  The article describes how the west coast of Spitzbergen right up to the north was significantly warmer than normal back in the early 1920s.

It may well have been the same factors operating in both locations in the early part of last century.  The Opel paper doesn't specifically mention Spitzbergen but it does discuss Arctic-wide changes.

Here is a map of the eastern portion of the Arctic region, showing the locations of the Akademii Nauk (AN) ice core and Spitzbergen (click for larger view):

Adapted from Google Earth

AN ice core may tell 3,000 years of climate history

Back to the paper itself, which is open access.  The paper is by Thomas Opel, D. Fritzsche, and H. Meyer and published in the journal Climate of the Past.  In it, they provide more climatic information about the region as derived from an ice core.  The conclusion of the paper is that the Akademii Nauk (AN) ice core has the potential to provide a 3,000 year or so high resolution record of the climate of the western Eurasian Arctic:
The results presented in this paper highlight the potential of the AN ice core as a high-resolution climate archive for the Late Holocene, i.e. about the last three millennia. Beside a long-term decrease due to climate cooling and ice-cap growth the AN 18O record shows evidence of major temperature changes over the last millennium that are representative at least of the western Eurasian Arctic, i.e. the Barents and Kara seas region. Of particular importance are several abrupt cooling and warming events leading e.g. to the absolute SAT minimum around 1800 and the absolute SAT maximum in the early 20th century, accompanied by significant changes in sodium concentrations. The ETCW exhibits a specific double-peaked shape typical of the Barents and Kara seas region. Abrupt changes in the last centuries might be caused by internal climate dynamics related to shifts of atmospheric circulation patterns and corresponding sea-ice feedbacks.

Anthony Watts confuses local with global

I think Anthony Watts was hoping for more, maybe even proof that global warming isn't happening.   Or maybe he was hoping it showed that the Arctic summer sea ice isn't really on a death spiral.  Or maybe that "it's natural" and "it's the sun" or "climate always changes".  In his article Anthony writes (my bold italics):
Of course, just like the surface temperature record, the long term trend is up, but clearly there is also a pause since the double peak, and that’s hard to explain in the face of a linear increase of (some claim exponential) GHG emissions.
Climate shifts in the past may be "hard to explain" but not in the way Anthony suggests.  Anthony is confusing local climate with global climate.  You would think he would have learnt by now that at the regional and local level, surface temperatures don't necessarily follow global temperature trends.  But even after all his years announcing weather followed by several years blogging about it, Anthony Watts still doesn't seem to know the first thing about weather and climate.

As an aside, you'll have noticed that Anthony Watts, despite claiming to keep a climate blog, isn't even clear about the single biggest factor affecting climate today - greenhouse gas emissions.  They are indeed still rising exponentially.  It's not been a linear rise.  There are already signs that 2013 will create a new record in greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate shifts in the Arctic - a see-saw effect?

The paper provides some explanation for climate shifts in the Eurasian Arctic.  In the body of the paper the authors expand on the following relevant part of their conclusion:
Abrupt changes in the last centuries might be caused by internal climate dynamics related to shifts of atmospheric circulation patterns and corresponding sea-ice feedbacks
They discuss a possible see-saw effect operating across the Arctic at certain times, for example:
Whereas our AN 18O and the Arctic-wide SAT records (Kaufman et al., 2009; PAGES 2k Consortium, 2013) display similar patterns in the 11th and 12th centuries, they show clearly contrary trends in the 15th and 16th centuries (Fig. 6). Abrupt cooling events in the Barents and Kara seas region are accompanied by warming events on the Arctic scale and vice versa. The causes of these differences may be similar to those already discussed for the periods around 1800 and in the early 20th century. This pattern might be interpreted as a kind of SAT see-saw on a predominantly spatial scale (Eurasian vs. North American Arctic) but may contain also, to a lesser extent, seasonal effects (annual vs. summer).

The modern record at the AN ice core site

In the comments, the arguably most respected layperson who watches the Arctic, Neven, pointed out that the paper reports temperatures only up to 1998, after which temperatures are likely to have gone up even further.  NevenA says:
November 19, 2013 at 12:51 pm
That graph unfortunately ends in 1998, whereas we can safely assume that Arctic amplification and surface air temperature rate acceleration kicked in after that.

Well, Anthony didn't like that one bit.  After all, he's busy trying to prove that "all the science is wrong" by referring to the science (yeah, illogical what?).  Anthony responds in-line writing:
REPLY: simply because you say it does? Show/prove it “Gunther” – Anthony

Zeke Hausfather provided some links to temperature data for the region, at greater or lesser distances from the AN ice core.  Here is the closest record I could find at Berkeley Earth.  It is located at 79.553N 90.596E, compared to the AN core which was from 80.52 N, 94.82E.

Source: Berkeley Earth

The above station is the one referenced by Opel et al (2009), which was also the reference cited in Opel13, the paper discussed in this article.  Opel09 stated:
After a SAT maximum in the 1950s, Golomyanny data show a cooler period until 1980 and a warming trend since 1990, though without reaching the values of the 1950s.

The records for that station only go back to the 1930s, not the 1920s.  Berkeley Earth record is a bit different from Opel09, suggesting that until the last few years, the highest temperature was in the early 1940s.  I'll leave it to the experts to sort that one out.  The above record also suggests hotter than ever temperatures now, since the 2009 paper was written.

"Isolated pockets of humanity require warmth"

Anthony swings into his "UHI disease" mode and disputes temperature records he doesn't like - even when they are supported by such obvious signs of warming as the huge drop in summer sea ice in the Arctic.  I guess he still thinks that you don't need warmth to melt the ice.  Anthony makes silly comments like:
"What may be happening is that the stations that are left have a warm bias."

Zeke Hausfather points out that the recent warming in the Arctic is "not particularly controversial" and that "pretty much anywhere you look in the arctic, the land warming post-2000 is pretty remarkable".  To which Anthony sullenly and obstinately replies:
REPLY: Still, I’d like to know what individual station records are active and which ones are not – and when. One thing I’ve noted studying Arctic stations is that they all tend to be isolated pockets of humanity, which require warmth. Warmth that of course becomes local waste heat. Do you have a mechanism to show what records make up your regionalized temperature potpourri and when they were made inactive? – Anthony

Who could forget this classic case of Anthony Watts and human warmth and ice, this time in Antarctica :)

Comparing millennial records across the Arctic

In any case, the paper is more about having a high resolution millenial record of the climate for the region, not about whether the temperature this year at the site has yet reached that of the 1920s maxima - for which there is not a single unbroken source of annual or seasonal data.  (Although it does look as if it's been as hot recently if not hotter.)

Here is the chart from the paper comparing the data from the AN ice core with that of other analyses going from 1998 and back as far as 1100 years in some cases.  The AN data is in light gray for each section.  Click for larger view:

Fig. 6. AN 18O record (including linear trends for 900–1760 and 1800–1998) compared to (from top to bottom) Austfonna and Lomonosovfonna-18O (Isaksson et al., 2005), Vetreniy ice-cap 18O (Henderson, 2002; data from Kinnard et al., 2011), Arctic summer SAT anomalies (Kaufman et al., 2009), Arctic annual SAT anomalies (PAGES 2k Consortium et al., 2013), AN sodium concentrations, and Arctic sea-ice extent (Kinnard et al., 2011) records. Displayed are 5 yrm values for AN 18O (thin line), 15 yrm values for AN 18O, Austfonna and Lomonosovfonna 18O, Vetreniy ice-cap 18O, Arctic annual SAT anomalies, AN sodium concentrations and Arctic sea ice (thick lines) as well as 10 yr means for Arctic summer SAT (thick line). For easier comparison, to each graph the AN 18O 15 yrm record is added in light grey in the same scale as above and adjusted for the best fit of the 20th century maximum (except for Arctic sea ice). Abrupt warming and cooling events exceeding the dominant variability of the AN 18O record are marked by a red asterisk. Note the different scale for the Lomonosovfonna 18O record.

No medieval climate anomaly at Akademii Nauk

I expect Anthony Watts is in a bit of a bind.  He wants to use Opel13 to "prove" something about global warming.  He's not sure what he wants to prove.  He seems to have settled on the fact that there was a warm period early last century.  But then if he accepts the paper, he may be forced to gloss over the fact that there was no evidence of a medieval climate anomaly or the little ice age at that particular location.
Neither a pronounced Medieval Climate Anomaly nor a Little Ice Age are detectable in the AN 18O record. In contrast, there is evidence of several abrupt warming and cooling events, such as in the 15th and 16th centuries, partly accompanied by corresponding changes in sodium concentrations. These abrupt changes are assumed to be related to sea-ice cover variability in the Barents and Kara seas region, which might be caused by shifts in atmospheric circulation patterns. Our results indicate a significant impact of internal climate variability on Arctic climate change in the last millennium.

People who follow climate science rather than climate disinformation won't have any problem with the above.  They know that there were some regions of the world where temperatures got quite warm during medieval times (eg Greenland) and many parts of the world where it got cold in the little ice age.  They know that different parts of the world can get cold while other parts get warm and vice versa.  (Anthony Watts and his crowd find all that a bit too complicated.)

From the WUWT comments

Here are some examples of denier weirdness from the comments (archived here).

philjourdan doesn't have a clue what was reported in the paper itself but he gaily says "it's devastating":
November 19, 2013 at 12:52 pm
This paper is devastating to the whole AGW issue. Instead of seeing a rise, we now have a 60+ year pause, at least in the Arctic which is supposed to be the canary in the AGW coal mine. The pause is easily twice as long as any increase that caused the kerfuffle in the first place. In simple terms, there is no there there. We have a planet ignoring the carbon based units that inhabit it.

Espen doesn't seem to realise that Arctic warmth in the early 20th century is not news to climate scientists and says:
November 19, 2013 at 1:35 pm
Zeke Hausfather, yeah, right, so probably the current warm period in the arctic is a little warmer than the one in the early 20th century. But that pesky early 20th century Arctic warming is nevertheless a huge problem for those that desperately want the Arctic to be the canary in the AGW mine. Like, for instance, Tamino, who got so p***ed that he black listed me permanently when I used that warm period to question his toying around with Bayes theorem here.

Crispin in Waterloo but really in Ulaanbaatar makes a very odd comment about the medieval climate anomaly being a "colder deviation" and says:
November 19, 2013 at 2:25 pm
...The Medieval climate anomaly was a strongly colder deviation from the 8000 year long term cooling trend so it is probably correct to call it anomalous. We are very lucky it didn’t stay down.

Rhoda R has made up her mind about past warming, its duration and probably its location. She doesn't give tuppence for science or data and says:
November 19, 2013 at 2:40 pm
Using the term “Medieval Climate Anomaly” is an attempt by the warmist crowd to belittle the impact of sever hundred years when the climate was warmer than it is today. Using the term “anomaly” implies a brief, transient event — something not really worth mentioning.

Truthseeker ignorantly says "who cares":
November 19, 2013 at 4:24 pm
Really why do we care what the artic does? It is mostly sea ice which will have little effect on sea levels regardless of the state it is in. With less ice, navigation will become easier and less risky. It really is not important enough to waste any time or resources on.

And finally, a gem from our old mate jim Steele who says (excerpt):
November 19, 2013 at 4:58 pm Not much observational data to support warming since the 50s!

Really, Jim?
Source: Polar Science Center, University of Washington

And if you don't like "models" how about this?

Opel, Thomas, et al. "Eurasian Arctic climate over the past millennium as recorded in the
Akademii Nauk ice core (Severnaya Zemlya)." Clim. Past, 9, 2379–2389, 2013 doi:10.5194/cp-9-2379-2013

Opel, Thomas, et al. "115 year ice-core data from Akademii Nauk ice cap, Severnaya Zemlya: high-resolution record of Eurasian Arctic climate change." Journal of Glaciology 55.189 (2009): 21-31.


  1. Watts doesn't seem to see the contradictory natures of his pet refrain that UHI is causing an increase in temperature observations and his other favourite refrain that there has been a pause in warming. Has the UHI phenomenon taken a holiday over the last 15 years?

    1. Oo, touché!

      Bernard J.

    2. Nope. UHI is the only thing keeping us from the imminent next Ice Age.


  2. From that 1922/3 news report...

    "Exploration expeditions report that scarcely any ice has been met with as far north as 81 degrees 29 minutes."

    So where is the ice edge today?

    More like 83°N, in mid November.


  3. It's a shame you didn't archive the WUWT thread a bit sooner, when objecting to the Cowtan and Way paper was really one of the core elements.

    Amusingly enough the first (of then 2) comment on that thread was, if I recall properly, from S. Mosher. Noting that the article under discussion was regional, utterly irrelevant to the Cowtan and Way global data set, and that Watts should have bloody well known that. Anthony replied with (gasp) snark, basically saying "bugger off".

    An hour later, Mosher's comment and Watts' reply had vanished without a trace, and the C&W complaints had been edited out in the update. I'm sorry I hadn't thought to webcite it. But I am glad that Watts pulled the bogus portions...


    1. I found a cached version of the original and.archived it. It didn't have the exchange with Steve Mosher though.

    2. Tony is such a dishonest, dumb creep. By that, I mean he is dishonest, he is dumb and he's a creep.

    3. Found it. Anthony wasn't being completely snarky as I remembered (perhaps I was thinking of some other reply he's made). It's just him thinking the C&W results are being "spun", rather than a fairly accurate reflection of the paper and its conclusions:

      "Steven Mosher says:
      November 19, 2013 at 11:26 am

      Cowan and Way address one issue. This paper is unrelated to that issue.

      The issue they address: Can we use sat data from 1979 on to inform an estimate of the pole.

      their issue is totally discconnected from this paper.

      not even close

      REPLY: I disagree, the spin surrounding C&W has been towards ‘warmest ever’ in the Arctic, meanwhile this new paper demonstrates a different take on the issue, showing that not to be the case.

      While I agree that the data set from this paper is far longer than C&W’s short term analysis, think in broader terms than just the C&W paper, but for what it is being used for.

      I’m addressing that spin issue.
      – Anthony"



Instead of commenting as "Anonymous", please comment using "Name/URL" and your name, initials or pseudonym or whatever. You can leave the "URL" box blank. This isn't mandatory. You can also sign in using your Google ID, Wordpress ID etc as indicated. NOTE: Some Wordpress users are having trouble signing in. If that's you, try signing in using Name/URL or OpenID. Details here.

Click here to read the HotWhopper comment policy.