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Monday, September 1, 2014

Deluded deniers: Will WUWT correct all its errors about National Geographic?

Sou | 3:54 PM Go to the first of 6 comments. Add a comment

This is an example of denier weirdness and denier obstinacy and deniers not keeping up. Anthony Watts wrote:

Geoff Sherrington writes: National Geographic Magazine had a Global Warming issue in September 2004. New instruments have given new data. By planning now, NatGeo can make a revised issue 10 years later, in September 2014.

Does Anthony ever write anything himself you might ask? Rarely. And when he does he gets is hilariously wrong, like:

The pot calling snow black 

WUWT continues to amaze. Being a site that specialises in disinformation and the stupid, how can anyone there have the cheek to ask someone else to correct something? It's not just pot and kettle. More often it's just pot, with the pot being WUWT. As often as not there is no kettle. When WUWT alleged someone else made a mistake, they are often (usually) wrong.

What Geoff Sherrington wants changed from 2004

Geoff Sherrington wants National Geographic to "correct" articles it published in its September 2004 issue on global warming. Yes, that's right. September 2004.

Let's go through all the hundreds and thousands of errors that Geoff Sherrington wants to "correct". Geoff has gone back to 2004. Why not 1934 or 1974 or 1994? You may well ask. I expect there are things written way back when that could be "corrected".

I'll leave you to wonder about that. In the meantime, let's get on with it. There aren't hundreds and thousands after all, there are only 22 phrases or sentences he wants to change. Geoff said:
The 2014 edition should aim to correct what is now known to be wrong or questionable in the 2004 edition. We can help. Here are some quotes that need attention. The first three have some commentary, as is suggested for the remainder.

Ummm - okay. Magazines should of course check every edition every ten years and publish errata editions. They would probably sell like hot cakes. But just how many "corrections" are needed? Hardly any, and most of those are about things that have got worse in the meantime. As usual Anthony Watts and his deluded deniers have the wrong end of the stick.

In 1912, the extent of glaciers on Kilimanjaro was 85% more than today

The first one Geoff agrees "might have been correct at the time of writing pre-2004":
1. “The famed snows of Kilimanjaro have melted more than 80% since 1912.” P.14

The only "correction" here would be upwards. If National Geographic were to update that sentence it can rewrite it as:

“The famed snows of Kilimanjaro have melted more than 80% 85% since 1912.”

Thing is, Geoff doesn't turn to the scientific literature for what he wants "corrected". Instead he writes unsourced quotes with no links at all. He could have made up his quotes for all anyone knows. His so-called evidence for whatever he wants corrected are two quotes (unsourced, linkless) and a judgement finding from the UK about "An Inconvenient Truth", saying that "the court heard the scientific consensus that it cannot be established that the snow recession is mainly attributable to human-induced climate change". Which is not what was stated in that edition of National Geographic anyway.

So what's been happening on Kilimanjaro? Well, the glaciers are disappearing. Here is a report from Cullen et al from last year. In it they describe their meticulous process for estimated current and past ice cover on the mountain and state (my bold italics):
Our calculation of the extent of the glaciers on Kilimanjaro at the end of October in 1912 is 11.40 km2 (Table 2), which is 85% more than what is observed on the mountain today.

So that sorts that out, but not in the way Geoff thought, or didn't think.

Not all Himalayan glaciers are the same

Geoff's second point one might think would be fair enough, but look again. It's about glaciers in the Himalayas. One only needs to read "Himalayan glaciers" and "2035" in the same sentence to recall the fuss deniers made when the IPCC corrected a sentence buried deep in the WG2 report from 2007 (not the physical science volume, WG1 or it would never have got through to the final version). Was that the same as what National Geographic wrote though? Did they say all Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035? No they didn't. The sentence referred only to central and eastern Himalayan glaciers, not all the glaciers in the Himalayas.

This is the sentence that Geoff picked out: "… researchers believe that most central and eastern Himalayan glaciers could virtually disappear by 2035.” P.14. 

Now I don't know whether all the glaciers in the central and eastern regions of the Himalayas will disappear by 2035, but they are melting, and some are melting quite rapidly, unlike those in the far Northwest and the Karakoram region.

Rapid melting in the Eastern and Central Himalayas: I did discover from the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative :
The most extreme melting has occurred in the eastern Himalayas, where the mean glacial thickness of Chinese glaciers decreased by nearly 11 meters from 1985-2005.
...Many glacial lakes have formed or expanded during the rapid melt process in the Eastern and Central Himalayas.  These have led to catastrophic floods — so-called glacial lake outbursts (GLOFs) — especially in Nepal and the Tibetan region. Other GLOFs have been narrowly averted there and in Bhutan by implementing measures such as siphoning off melt water, as occurred with Tsho Rolpa in Nepal (Liu et al. 2013).

On the other hand, in a different area of the Himalayas, I read that:
A more mixed pattern is evident in the far Northwest and the Karakoram region, which are further north, colder, and more remote from large human populations and from monsoon precipitation impacts, receiving greater humidity from the west and the winter monsoon season (UNEP-GRID 2012; Kaab 2012; Yao  et al. 2012).

And if you happen to have a third hand, you'll find that another recent paper (discussion) states in its conclusion about eastern Himalayan glaciers:

  • Glacier area change amounts to −0.24%±0.08%yr−1 from the 1960’s to the 2006’s, with a higher rate of retreat in the last decade (−0.43%yr−1 ±0.1% from 2000 to 2006) compared to the previous period (−0.2%yr−1 ±0.06% from 1962 to 2000);
  • Greater glacier area changes for small, steep glaciers with a smaller altitudinal range and less debris cover; the amount of glacier retreat is partly influenced by a glacier’s headwater elevation, glacier area, debris cover, aspect and precipitation;
  • Higher rates of retreat for clean glaciers (−34.6 %, or −0.7%yr−1) on a glacier-byglacier basis, compared to debris-covered glaciers (−14.3% or −0.3 yr−1) in the 5 last decades, as noted also in other studies elsewhere (Racoviteanu et al., 2008a; Basnett et al., 2013);
  • General trends of thinning of debris-covered tongues (−30.8m±39 m) on average over the last four decades), with thickening towards the terminus for some glaciers, and rapid growth of pro-glacier lakes for others.

The short answer, from my limited reading of recent literature, is that this is an area of active research with no solid answers yet on how quickly the glaciers in the eastern and central Himalayas will retreat. It could be affected by what happens to the monsoons over that region. It's fair to say that glaciers in that region are retreating more rapidly than they were in the past and more rapidly than elsewhere in the Himalayas.

Seas have risen by 19 cm plus, or 7.5 inches

Geoff takes issue with the statement from National Geographic:
3. “… raising average global sea level between four and eight inches in the past hundred years.” P.19 
Any correction would read as follows:

...raising average global sea level between four 6.7 and eight 8.3 inches in the past hundred years

Not, I suspect, a correction that Geoff Sherrington would want to see. His main comment was that:
As the NOAA figure shows, Jason 1 (data from 2002) and Jason 2 (2009) have complicated the story, with data showing ocean levels falling at times.
Yes they do. The fact that sea level can fluctuate from year to year doesn't mean that seas haven't risen over the medium term. This is from the IPCC AR5 WG1 report from last year (TS.2.6 Changes in Sea Level):
Based on proxy data, the magnitude of centennial-scale global mean sea level variations did not exceed 0.25 m over the past few millennia (medium confidence). The current rate of global mean sea level change, starting in the late 19th-early 20th century, is, with medium confidence, unusually high in the context of centennial-scale variations of the last two millennia. Tide gauge data also indicate a likely acceleration during the last two centuries. Based on proxy and instrumental data, it is virtually certain that the rate of global mean sea level rise has accelerated during the last two centuries, marking the transition from relatively low rates of change during the late Holocene (order tenths of mm yr–1) to modern rates (order mm yr–1). {3.7, 5.6.3, 13.2}
Global mean sea level has risen by 0.19 [0.17 to 0.21] m, estimated from a linear trend over the period 1901–2010, based on tide gauge records and additionally on satellite data since 1993.
That is, sea levels have increased 19 cm or more, which is 7.5 inches, with is at the upper end of the range quoted by National Geographic. 

It's happening faster than NatGeo thought

I won't go through all of the things that Geoff wants the National Geographic to correct. Here are a couple more of them with my suggested updates:

Update and expand. In some areas of the world, the frequency of fires is projected to increase by a lot more than double. 10. “Thick smoke towers over a forest near Fairbanks, one more sign that Alaska is getting hotter…. Computer models predict that CO2-induced warming could eventually raise the incidence of fires by more than a half.” P.25

Update, correct and expand. The ice sheet is already starting to break up. The estimate of sea level rise is the around four meters or so from the entire WAIS,  or around 13 feet. 11. “If the West Antarctic ice sheet were to break up, which scientists consider very unlikely this century, it alone contains enough ice to raise sea level by nearly 20 feet.” P.27

Most statements would stay the same

I don't know why Geoff is querying any of the following, which all look to be pretty well correct as they stand. I've left out some of the 22 items, which I've not had time to check or are "complicated". Just the same, here are

  • 4. “But the recent rate of global sea level rise has departed from the average rate of the past two to three thousand years and is rising much more rapidly – a continuation or acceleration of that trend has the potential to cause striking changes…” P.19
  • 5. “Even relatively small storm surges in the past two decades have overwhelmed the system of dikes, levees and pump stations … upgraded in the 1990s to forestall the Gulf of Mexico’s relentless creep.” P.19
  • 7. “The scenarios are disturbing even in wealthy countries like the Netherlands, with nearly half its landmass already at or below sea level.” P.19
  • 8. “The 20th Century has seen the greatest warming in at least a thousand years, and natural forces can’t account for it all.” P.20
  • 9. “Both greenhouse gases and temperature are expected to continue rising.” P.20
  • 12. “Ocean temperatures are rising in all ocean basins and at much deeper depths than previously thought (NOAA)” P.27
  • 13. “Oceans are important sinks …. and take up about a third of human-generated CO2.” P.28
  • 14. “ … three greenhouse gases … orchestrating an intricate dance between the radiation of heat from Earth back to space (cooling the planet) and the absorption of radiation in the atmosphere (trapping it near the surface and this warming the planet).” P.29
  • 15. (At Barrow) “There are no words, though, to describe how much and how fast the ice is changing.” P.33
  • 16. “Researchers long ago predicted that the most visible impacts from a globally warmer world would occur first at high latitudes: rising air and sea temperatures, earlier snowmelt, later ice freeze-up, reductions in sea ice, thawing permafrost, more erosion, increases in storm intensity. Now, all these impacts have been documented in Alaska.” P.33
  • 19. “This is the first instance in which humans appear to be accelerating the change, and warming could take place so quickly that species will not have the time to adapt and avoid extinction.” P.41
  • 20. “At some point, as temperatures continue to rise, species will have no more room to run”. P.41
  • 21. “Coral necropolis …. Increasingly the planet’s coral is in hot water, parboiled in periods of calm, sunny weather … In 1998 the world’s coral suffered its worst year on record, which left 16% bleached or dead.” P.41

If you wanted an example of denial, that article at WUWT is probably as good as any. Of the twenty two statements, my reading is that: 
  • at least 13 would not change today, 
  • at least four would be updated as "greater than" was known in 2004 or would have greater precision or would be expanded
  • one would be re-written as less certain and one would be corrected
  • I didn't investigate the other four, which could be accurate or worse than then thought, or better. 

(I think I've miscounted somewhere but can't be bothered going back over it all.)

From the WUWT comments

Lots of WUWT-ers didn't bother checking to see what was correct and what would be written differently were it reported today.

cnxtim is a regular denier at WUWT and wrote:
August 31, 2014 at 3:48 pmSo Nat Geo were batting 9 swings for 9 misses on the NPPA’s photographic standards.
A couple of mug galah actors pulled the same stunt on their TV ad using the long retired London power Station at Battersea as a backdrop..

Rich Lambert is an everyday denier without much between his ears:
August 31, 2014 at 4:07 pmThey will not admit their propagandizing or even being wrong. Crow is a very unappetizing dish and difficult for one to consider eating it.

tabnumlock rejects physics and is a greenhouse effect denier
August 31, 2014 at 3:42 pm
Reminder: The warmists aren’t wrong because it has failed to warm. After all, they could have guessed right. They are wrong because their premise is wrong, that minute charges in the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has detectable climate effects. They are also wrong that moderate warming would be bad, especially since we are still in an ice age and the ice sheets are due back. Lastly, they are negligent in not noticing that CO2 was at depletion levels until man started replenishing it.

rishrac is surprised that in the real world, outside the denier bubble, ordinary people accept climate science
August 31, 2014 at 2:18 pm (excerpt)
I watched a PBS show the other night about climate change. They still claim the models are correct and the world is still getting warmer.  

markstoval rejects climate science and wants everyone else to subscribe to his delusions
August 31, 2014 at 12:25 pm
I would be amazed if the National Geographic did revisit their “Warming Warning” of 10 years ago and corrected the record with current facts. Even with the dishonest “adjustments” to the temperature records we can see now that there has been ZERO warming since they published in September 2004.
It would be refreshing indeed to see some mainstream media outlet actually care about the truth of any story. Especially this one. They could become a trend setter.

GeeJam  is not at all sceptical of the rubbish he devours at WUWT
August 31, 2014 at 12:26 pm
Maybe National Gio will be the first in a long line of grovelling apologies from the media that say “we really screwed up with our global warming predictions”.

Cullen, N. J., P. Sirguey, T. Moelg, G. Kaser, M. Winkler, and S. J. Fitzsimons. "A century of ice retreat on Kilimanjaro: the mapping reloaded." The Cryosphere 7, no. 2 (2013): 419-431. doi:10.5194/tc-7-419-2013


  1. Another tedious bit of denier grandstanding. A moment's reflection would have told our Geoff that NatGeo would have its story publishing schedule locked in at least a year in advance. Does he think those articles of faraway expeditions, and seasonally-relevant stories aren't planned far in advance? Making his grand suggestion on the week the September 2014 issue actually hits the newsstands is a bit late.

  2. OK, so even I can't make a smart comment about this one, it is indeed a dumb post. However, and here you need to have actually read the comments I-beam, Geoff wrote this article a year ago. He also isn't really serious about Nat Geo publishing it you know. Gawd you guys are sooo literal.

    1. Is that it? You do realise that it was Watt who put up the article just yesterday don't you? A year old article by your reckoning. Really does show how desperate Watt is if he is having to dredge up such old material.

      Your irony meter must be broken.

      So you couldn't take down even one of Sou's comments, but had to resort to the old favourite, ad hom. You are right. You can't even make a smart comment, all that you could muster is a really dumb comment.

  3. Dave yes it was posted yesterday. But in the comments Geoff admits its an old piece, he wrote it a year ago. He has posted it as he believes the points he makes are even more valid today. I have no criticism of Sou's comments. I am simply observing the story is not meant literally regarding a nat geo september 2014 issue. Its just a device to highlight how poorly the 2004 article measures up against 2014 reality. As to how well it does that I will leave you to consider.

    1. Sou's considered reply can be seen above. We're not going to read all the comments; Sou does that for us, which is a service above and beyond, and much appreciated.

      AGW deniers have been claiming that predictions have failed since the whole program started. Having heard themselves say it way back when they will continue to believe themselves, whatever happens. Hence poor Geoffrey's delusions and the baying of Watts's claque.

  4. For what it's worth I've also done a review of this and collected appropriate links to studies and reports and other further information that demonstrates the lie to Anthony's antics - Information for the sharing

    Anthony Watts attacks National Geographic Magazine

    Anthony Watts about that Sea Level Rise
    Anthony Watts about those Glaciers on Kilimanjaro
    Anthony Watts about those Himalayan Glaciers


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