Before I write about the article at WUWT (archived here), here is the weekly address from President Obama, which he made just before his recent visit to Alaska. Susan Gardner has already written about this at Daily Kos.
The President discusses the rapid warming, shoreline erosion, storm surges and even the approval of Shell exploration. There is nothing in his speech that pops out as being "wrong", except for his decision to allow Arctic exploration.
At WUWT, there is a very strange article about Obama's Alaskan visit. It's as if the author doesn't understand what he's written.
The author is some denier blogger called Larry Kummer. Near the top of his article he posted a chart of Alaskan surface temperature. I'll post the same, but from the source - the Alaska Climate Research Center. Look at the bar on the right hand side!
|Source: Alaska Climate Research Center|
So does Larry explain how President Obama's message was correct? Nope. Larry can't read his own chart, I'd say. Instead he wrote how journalists should have talked with scientists at the Alaska Climate Research Centre:
We see that last factor at work [ignoring the host of research facilities] in journalists’ reporting about Obama’s climate campaign tour of Alaska. Google News shows no stories in the mainstream news mentioning the findings of the Alaska Climate Research Center.
After reading that you'd think that there was a difference between what was reported about the changing Alaskan climate during the President's visit, and what the scientists at the Alaska Climate Research Centre have found.
But there isn't.
Not even in the WUWT article.
(I did notice something strange, however. On the website of the Alaska Climate Research Center the table under the above chart showed that the average annual temperature has only a average change of -0.1°F over the period from 1979 to 2014, whereas in the above chart it's very clear that last year was far hotter than any preceding year.)
Larry copied slabs of text from the Center's website. The gist of it was about how the temperature in Alaska is strongly influenced by the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) as well as global warming. That is, the temperature isn't increasing steadily over time. Instead it's going up in steps, jumping up to a new level when the PDO is in its warm phase, then steadying when it's in the cool phase. The 2014 jump could be another sign that the PDO has indeed shifted back to a warm phase.
Again, none of that is particularly contentious. It doesn't conflict with anything the President said.
Larry also referred to a 2012 paper, which described the cooling during the cool phase of the PDO, which was especially marked in winter. (See the chart above). The paper was published in a journal called "The Open Atmospheric Science Journal", (which is not to be confused with the as yet unpublished journal of Anthony Watts' own Open Atmospheric Society, and which should be announcing a newly elected board any day now). Here is the abstract (my emphasis):
During the first decade of the 21st century most of Alaska experienced a cooling shift, modifying the long-term warming trend, which has been about twice the global change up to this time. All of Alaska cooled with the exception of Northern Regions. This trend was caused by a change in sign of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), which became dominantly negative, weakening the Aleutian Low. This weakening results in less relatively warm air being advected from the Northern Pacific. This transport is especially important in winter when the solar radiation is weak. It is during this period that the strongest cooling was observed. In addition, the cooling was especially pronounced in Western Alaska, closest to the area of the center of the Aleutian Low. The changes seen in the reanalyzed data were confirmed from surface observations, both in the decrease of the North-South atmospheric pressure gradient, as well as the decrease in the mean wind speeds for stations located in the Bering Sea area.As you can see, it's all consistent. There is a long term warming trend, which was punctuated by a "cool" (which wasn't actually cold compared to earlier decades, as you can see), when the PDO entered a cool phase.
Below is a chart showing the phases of the PDO, for comparison. It also shows global surface temperature changes, and ENSO events. I've suggested that there may have been a phase shift to warm starting last year - but don't hold me to that. As you can see, the phases aren't regular. Some are shorter and some last for longer.
A joke with no punch line
Anyway, I kept reading the WUWT article, waiting for the punch line. But I waited in vain. I got to the very end of the article and all I found was this:
The price paid for this sloppy or biased reporting
Journalists pay for this in lost credulity. Publishers of the news pay in lost credibility. We all pay, as these repeated cries of “wolf“ diminish our ability to respond to serious warnings.
But Larry didn't cite any sloppy reporting. He didn't write one word of what he thinks is "sloppy" or with lost credulity. All he did was demonstrate how Alaska has been warming, rather a lot, with hints that it could get a whole lot hotter in the next few years, if the PDO has entered a warm phase, which it may well have done. (Scientists usually wait a bit before declaring a phase change of the PDO. The PDO index has been positive the past few months, but scientists don't make hasty judgements about whether it will last or not.)
From the WUWT comments
From the mixed "thoughts" expressed under Larry's article, a lot of readers were as perplexed as I was. They didn't know what to make of Larry's article. And I don't blame them.
Aran summarised what the scientists were saying in their 2012 paper:
September 13, 2015 at 6:08 pm
Based on the abstract I would say the authors are reporting a long term warming modulated by PDO oscillations. This is in agreement with the first graph where the temperatures were mostly above average in the first decade, despite the reported negative phase of the PDO.
Brett Keane doesn't think the PDO has shifted. He claims the cool phase has barely started. Does he know that it started around 1999, about sixteen years ago? He's betting on it lasting another fifteen years I suppose. Perhaps he thinks that 2014 was just a random blip, which it might have been. Time will tell. However I won't be surprised if 2015 is also a big blip.
September 13, 2015 at 6:34 pm
Aran, the scientists are trying to tell you something, and it is worth remembering that multi-decadal averages, used as anomalies, change as a regime shift continues. The negative PDO has barely begun, and it is a 32yr phase, on average.
I can see Nick Stokes scratching his head over Larry's article, too. He remarked on the fact that much of the text that Larry copied and pasted was from 2010. Five year old articles and three year old papers are not usually called "news".
September 13, 2015 at 6:39 pm
“This post gives you the rest of the news.”
Well, it’s not really news. The text on the page referenced does not seem to have changed since June 9 2010. And the paper referenced (available here) was published in 2012, reviewed by WUWT here in early 2013, and uses data to 2010.
Editor of the Fabius Maximus website (aka the article's author, Larry Kummer) is amazed. I'm amazed that he's amazed. All he did was muddy the waters more. He cleared up nothing at all. I wonder what he thinks he wrote? Perhaps he left out a big chunk of the article by accident. Or maybe he really does think he's made some important statement, only he forgot to write it down.
September 13, 2015 at 10:36 pm
This is evidence from relevant scientists pertinent to the President’s statements during his recent publicity tour.
That is what makes it news.
I am amazed I had to point this out to you.
Speaking of news, Matthew Morse wonders why Larry didn't mention a more recent article by the same authors of the 2012 paper. Being published last year, it has a greater claim to the label "news" than the older paper does.
September 13, 2015 at 7:26 pm
Curious about why you didn’t cite Strong Temperature Increase and Shrinking Sea Ice in Arctic Alaska by G. Wendler, B. Moore, and K. Galloway (at the Alaska Climate Research Center), published in The Open Atmospheric Science Journal in 2014.
Same authors, more recent pub. date. Seems relevant. It even cites the paper you refer to.
Here's the abstract from that more recent paper, showing there is lots of climate change happening up in northern Alaska (my emphasis):
Barrow, the most northerly community in Alaska, observed a warming of 1.51°C for the time period of 1921- 2012. This represents about twice the global value, and is in agreement with the well-known polar amplification. For the time period of 1979-2012, high quality sea ice data are available, showing a strong decrease in sea ice concentrations of 14% and 16% for the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, respectively, the two marginal seas bordering Northern Alaska. For the same time period a mean annual temperature increase of 2.7°C is found, an accelerated increase of warming over the prior decades. Looking at the annual course of change in sea ice concentrations, there is little change observed in winter and spring, but in summer and especially autumn large changes were observed. October displayed the greatest change; the amount of open water increased by 44% and 46% for the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, respectively. The large amount of open water off the northern coast of Alaska in autumn was accompanied by an increase of the October temperature at Barrow by a very substantial 7.2°C over the 34 year time period. Over the same time period, Barrow’s precipitation increased, the frequency of the surface inversion decreased, the wind speed increased slightly and the atmospheric pressure decreased somewhat.
Anthony Watts decides two things. It looks as if he disagrees with Larry Kummer's view that the scientists from the Alaska Climate Research Center have something to offer. Anthony reckons that as scientists, they don't know nuffin'. He pays more heed to scientists in Cincinnati, and Missoula and Newark than the local Alaskan scientists. He also seems to think that it was urban heat that melted all the sea ice in the Beaufort and Chuckchi Seas between 1979 and 2012. He based all that on a paper published in 2003, writing:
September 13, 2015 at 10:05 pm
Oh Nick, as you know Barrow has a famous UHI problem, 3C mostly in Tmin so you can’t really trust its data to be representative of the climate in the region.
But I’m sure you’ll argue for it anyway, since bad data never seems to phase you.
I'm not disputing an urban heat island effect at Barrow. I'm suggesting that it didn't cause the sea ice to melt. And I'm also suggesting that the scientists at the Alaska Climate Research Center know about it. I'll go further and suggest that Barrow and regions have been warming up in recent years, along with quite a few other places in the Arctic. I'll go even further and state that while the 2003 paper documented a difference in temperature between central Barrow and surrounds, on calm days in winter, it didn't say anything much about the trend of temperature change over time. In other words, it's likely that UHI didn't cause the rise in temperature in recent years in northern Alaska. The temperature in the village rose, and so did that of the surrounds. It's another case of Anthony tripping over his anomalies and baselines.
Once again I see that Nick Stokes was thinking along the same lines. He pointed out that the temperature of places outside the village of Barrow got even hotter, and wrote (quoting Anthony), with uncharacteristic if warranted sarcasm:
September 13, 2015 at 10:24 pm
“since bad data never seems to phase you”
How quickly things change! This is the data of “Alaska’s climate scientists” who brought the good news of this article. Their 2014 paper (the “blatant cherry pack”) used 5 N Coast stations – and said:
“The 5 stations, which have a long enough observational period for establishing a 30 year climatology, are all within a 1°C deviation from Barrows (-11.2°C) mean annual temperature with the exception of Wainwright. This latter station is situated at the Chukchi Sea coast, which is having a slightly lower ice concentration than the Beaufort Sea, and is somewhat warmer with a deviation of +1.2°C from Barrow. “
richardscourtney piped up saying that if you remove all the warming from the Alaskan temperature record then you'll be left with no warming. Huh? Same would apply if you took out all the warming from the global surface temperature - there'd be no warming. Duh!
September 13, 2015 at 11:14 pm (excerpt)
...As the above graph shows, if you “take out” the PDO shift in 1976 then there is almost no global warming in Alaska since 1949 and none if you also exclude the single year of 1914. A single year does not a true trend make.
I'll finish with another thought from Aran, (who I don't recall seeing at WUWT before today).
September 13, 2015 at 9:30 pm
This is a very strange article. The author claims to give the “news” that has not been reported by journalists during Obama’s visit to Alaska, yet the data and the article he cites fit perfectly with the predictions of global warming and polar amplification which cannot be explained by UHI or solar activity. So if anything this post provides support for Obama’s stance.
References and further reading
Wendler, G., L. Chen, and B. Moore. "The first decade of the new century: a cooling trend for most of Alaska." Open Atmospheric Science Journal 6 (2012): 111-116. (open access)
Wendler, Gerd, Blake Moore, and Kevin Galloway. "Strong temperature increase and shrinking sea ice in arctic Alaska." The Open Atmospheric Science Journal 8 (2014): 7-15. (open access)
Hinkel, Kenneth M., Frederick E. Nelson, Anna E. Klene, and Julianne H. Bell. "The urban heat island in winter at Barrow, Alaska." International Journal of Climatology 23, no. 15 (2003): 1889-1905. DOI: 10.1002/joc.971 (open access)