Monday, August 25, 2014

Frozen in ice at WUWT

Sou | 6:41 PM Go to the first of 19 comments. Add a comment

A smidgen of snow on a mountain and we're heading for an ice age? What utter nutters!

Science deniers who congregate at blogs like WUWT are really, really odd creatures. I wonder what proportion of them also follow non-climate conspiracy theory blogs. Today I found on Anthony Watts reformatted blog, another article about ice (archived here). It's about a science trip on the highest mountain in the British Isles, Ben Nevis, probably the most famous mountain in Scotland. The team reported new finds of fauna as well as spots of "compacted, dense, ice hard snow call neve" on the the mountain's North Face, which I guess is the cold side of the mountain (seeing it's in the northern hemisphere).

Eric Worrall decided that this means an ice age cometh. He wrote:
This is how ice ages start – a buildup of snow which does not melt in the Summer, which leads to a positive feedback loop, as the growing ice sheet reflects more and more sunlight back into space.

Well, no. Not exactly. How an ice age starts is Earth starts to lose more heat than it gains from the sun.  A build up of snow and ice happens because it's colder. It's not colder because of the build up of snow and ice. One could argue that it's a chicken and egg thing but it's not. Not usually. Once the snow and ice builds up then that hastens the cooling, because the snow and ice surfaces tend to reflect more radiation back into space. What causes the snow and ice to build up is the earth getting colder. Most of the time. Sometimes it could be changes in ocean currents for one reason or other. The system is complicated.

Anyway, without getting too bogged down in details, the BBC had an article about the survey that's being done on Ben Nevis. There was no suggestion that what was being recorded and observed was anything new. It was just that some things hadn't been reported before. Like:
So far, many new populations of rare fauna [sic] such as highland saxifrage, tufted saxifrage and wavy meadow grass have been recorded.
Sou: fauna?
Lead survey botanist, Ian Strachan, said: "Many of the rare arctic-alpine species we are searching for are relics from soon after the last ice age.
"Ben Nevis and a few other peaks in the Scottish Highlands provide the most southerly refuge for some of these species which can only survive due to the altitude and presence of semi-permanent snow fields."
Cathy Mayne, of SNH, said work so far had exceeded the project team's expectations.
She said: "Not only have we gathered potentially ground-breaking geological data and significantly added to the known populations of arctic-alpine species, the team have also discovered alpine saxifrage, which has never been found on the mountain before."

You can read the article here on the BBC website.

From the WUWT comments

WUWT-ers must be bored. There were 132 comments, almost none of them having any value whatsoever. Many deniers are falling for the line that just because compacted snow is on cold Ben Nevis, it means an ice age cometh.

fenbeagleblog  August 24, 2014 at 4:07 am
I guess that doesn’t fit in terribly well with the narrative, does it……Another re-write needed.

johnmarshall  August 24, 2014 at 4:15 am
I am surprised that the BBC reported this sign of global cooling. Out of character.

David Johnson  August 24, 2014 at 4:30 am
I wonder how old these climbers and scientists were! I used to go rock climbing in Scotland quite a lot back in the 70s and 80s. It was nothing unusual to see patches of old hard snow that had survived the summer in North facing corries and gullies On one occasion, as late as August 1990, it was quite difficult to get to the start of my chosen climb on Ben Nevis because of a small bergschrund!

jdseanjd  August 24, 2014 at 4:42 am
Looks like the 1974 CIA report may be on right track.
How the Eugenicist 1%s who have birthed, marketed & profited from this deadly scam must be laughing.
They’ve been selling the World global warming caused by deadly plant food, while a very possible New Little Ice Age approaches.
Holdren & Ehrlich will also be pleased.


  1. " How an ice age starts is Earth starts to lose more heat than it gains from the sun."

    Ice ages depend on the way heat is distributed over Earth at different seasons. When Earth's axis tilts so that NH summers are cool and winters are mild, (more) snow remains during summers. Thereby glaciers start building up which in turn causes a cooling.

    1. I do not think anything Greig says about Sou is very likely.

      Greig - please show any reference to where Sou denies basic climate science, says Milkanovitch cycles do not exist or that there will never be another ice age. Put up or shut up.

    2. Greig
      If I now understand your point correctly. It is not funny. It is not illuminating. It is not accurate. It is not worth making.

    3. Greig

      Do not twist my words. I said it is your point that is not funny.

      Typical anti-science tactic.

    4. Greig
      Stunned amazement. You give that as a link to show your credentials?

      "any paleoclimatologist will inform you that we are about to go into another ice age"

      I think "about to go" implies fairly imminent on human timescales. But you then deny you put any timescale on it. Typical ant-science tactic.

    5. Meanwhile on apparently a different planet from where the wutters live:


    6. Sorry. I took my eye off the ball. Greig was banned long ago.

      BTW I started to write a longer bit about how ice ages start, looking at Milankovitch etc - the changes in what part of the earth is oriented to the sun, but decided to keep the article short and simple.

      Bottom line is that, as Lars said, at certain times more ice is tipped to face the sun, so more incoming radiation is reflected. That means the energy balance is pushed out of kilter, so the earth cools down. It's not ice itself as such that causes earth to cool, it's the fact that because the earth is facing a particular way, there is more energy going out from earth than is coming in from the sun (an increase via reflection/albedo plus the normal IR outgoing radiation). It all still comes down to energy balance. Otherwise, ice ages don't happen.

      A bit of snow on the north face of Ben Nevis in July or August will no more bring on an ice age than a bit of snow on Mount Bogong in December or January.

  2. Oh come on Sou. Admit it. You made that last WUWT comment up.

    1. The whole article is so stupid you'd think it must be made up to discredit WUWT and its numpty readers for all time. But I checked the archived version and found the comment by jdseanjd if that's the one you are referring to.

  3. A colleague and good friend of mine researches trends in Scottish snow cover, and when I saw the WUWT 'article', I tweeted Mike "Dare you to comment on this". His reply: "I can't compete with that level of pre/misconception" :-)

    Mike's blog is here, if anyone's interested: http://scottishsnow.wordpress.com/

    1. Essentially ice ages occur when the climate responds to changes in insolation forcing due to orbital variations.

    2. Only one example, I know, but when I walked to the top of Ben Nevis on a warm August day in 1995, there was some snow on the north side, nothing unusual. From Wikipedia,
      Snow can be found on the mountain almost all year round, particularly in the gullies of the north face – with the higher reaches of Observatory Gully holding snow until September most years and sometimes until the new snows of the following season.

  4. "Sou: fauna?"

    The only Flora in the highlands helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape after Culloden and later emigrated to America. So it must be fauna.

    1. But for a Wutter its probably Charles II she hid in a tree after the battle of Hastings.

  5. According to UKMO, mean winter (DJF) temperatures in 2013/14 were the 5th warmest on record for Scotland. At 4.2C the Scottish winter was a full 1.3C warmer than the 1981-2010 mean. Minimum temperatures where 1.6C above average. (UKMO Scotland temperature record starts in 1910.)

    Air frost was recorded on just 19.7 days in Scotland this winter, the second fewest of any winter on record. That's a full 18.6 days below the 1981-2010 average. (UKMO Scotland air frost record begins in 1961.)

    All the more surprising then to learn that a new ice age has begun on Ben Nevis this summer.


  6. Notice how the Wutters, when presented with this as news, simply assume that it is.

    1. If you read it at WUWT it must be true, especially if it contradicts anything you might read anywhere else. (Very few WUWT-ers bother to check sources. Many of them don't even read the WUWT article. They just use Anthony's blog as a virtual pin board for their various irrelevant gripes about sciency stuff and politics and whatever conspiracy theory is flavour of the day.)

    2. My favorite is the apparently massive conspiracy masterminded by the folks at CDIAC that he talks about in his latest article. It really is a doozy!

  7. Many may think that Mr Watts could really be frozen in ice that shut him up



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