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« Scientists at RealClimate busted for twisting data | Main | First, global government, then personal ID numbers »


David Wratt

Ian: Regarding your comment that you are "still waiting for answers" - I have a pretty busy life, and while I had scheduled time for oral answers during the briefing session yesterday I've not had time (except for late yesterday evening) to produce extra written responses. I'm aiming to get something back to this blog within the next few days, as time permits.

Regards - David Wratt

Ian Wishart

Thanks Tim, glad to see the blogsite has allowed you in, sorry I could not post your request earlier as I was travelling.

Point one. Yes, I'm aware that melting sea ice does not add to sea levels, but sea ice that melted enough to send the seal colonies much further south presumably indicated either some serious atmospheric warmth, and given that they lasted for hundreds of years until the end of the Medieval Warm Period it indicates Antarctica survived OK, regardless of sea ice disappearing to a large extent.

Presumably that sea ice was not critical to the survival of the ice shelves, and if the ice shelves melted at the edges they obviously did not melt enough to seriously affect sea levels.

Which begs the question, why should it be any different now?

You made the point yesterday, as I have in Air Con, that the Antarctic is too cold to actually "melt" due to atmospheric conditions (excepting the peninsula which has a climate of its own because of its contact with the remnants of sub tropical ocean currents)

The fastest moving glacier in Antarctica just happens to be sitting atop an active volcanic field, so I'm not sure one can use Pine Island as a canary in the mineshaft for AGW.

Your valuable study on the history of West Antarctic ice sheet underlines the fact that the region has frequently melted for natural reasons. The issue is whether current activity is largely natural or largely AGW. You know my position on AGW.

You say:

"Certainly ice core and tree ring temperature records do not show any significant global temperature increase during this time, that could cause major changes to the polar ice sheets capable of meters of sea-level rise."

Let's look at that. Khim et al (2002) state:

"The late Holocene records clearly identify Neoglacial events of the Little Ice Age (LIA) and Medieval Warm Period (MWP). Other unexplained climatic events comparable in duration and amplitude to the LIA and MWP events also appear in the MS record, suggesting intrinsically unstable climatic conditions during the late Holocene in the Bransfield Basin of Antarctic Peninsula."

Noon et al (2003) determined the MWP temperatures in Antarctica were substantially warmer than current modern warming.

Hall et al (2007) state the Medieval Warm Period is clear in records from the south Shetland Islands and they say:

""information on times in the past when climate in the South Shetland Islands must have been as warm as or warmer than today,"

Hemer and Harris (2003) studying changes in the Amery ice shelf conclude that the MWP was likely warmer than our modern warm period.

The common thread in all of this: According to these scientists temperatures in Antarctica in the MWP were likely warmer than they are now. And they did not cause catastrophe, as you have confirmed because we both know there was no 7 metre sea level increase.

You would agree, I suspect as it is not controversial, that ocean heat transfer can take centuries. We know Antarctica and the Arctic have been hit by warmer currents. You cannot rule out a natural oceanic origin for current activity.

Ian Wishart

David, re timing, noted.

If I understand you correctly, the new situation is this:

Up until recently the phrase "residence time" referred to the time a given CO2 molecule remained in the atmosphere. That is the context in which the phrase is used in the papers I've read, and indeed in IPCC TAR.

Now it appears Archer and others are re-defining the phrase to mean the length of time it will take for the surplus of CO2 to return to what you regard as safe levels.

Your evidence for this is not empirical data, as I understand it, but computer modelling based on presumed or known parameters used by the IPCC.

And those models are telling you it will take at least a thousand years or more to clear.

But that is only presuming your assumptions are right. Knorr's study appears to shoot holes in the assumptions, which is probably why he himself called it "controversial". Nonetheless, if CO2 is being reabsorbed much faster, then the IPCC's redefinition of "residence time" is meaningless.

The only hard evidence we have of residence time is the unit you now call "exchange time", and which the peer reviewed papers all tend to indicate is less than 10 years.

Your thoughts on this?


Tim Naish
" ....+2degrees C warmer than the present day (the temperatures we will be facing very soon)"
You better send me that crystal ball you've got there Tim; I've got a few bets on up in Ellerslie.

Ian Wishart

Gotta say, Ian, the willingness of both David and Tim to actively come here to participate does undermine your conspiracy theory about them not wanting debate.

Their willingness to show up here is commendable.

As a former ministerial press sec myself, however, I can assure you that whilst Messrs Wratt and Naish would deny it unless you tortured them, that the last thing the organisers of the climate briefing wanted was curly questions in front of two dozen journalists.

Such a spectacle would not have achieved the aims of the spinmeisters and may even have caused credibility damage to the carefully airbrushed message.

If you listen to their tape, I was actually cut off mid sentence in the second question.

Ian Wishart

This discovery, using actual real measurements instead of garbage in/garbage out models, that CO2 exchange has grown happily to accomodate the extra CO2, is crucial, because so many definitive alarmist statements rest on it.

Take this one from Eric Steig at RealClimate:

"In the absence of human intervention CO2 does rise and fall over time, due to exchanges of carbon among the biosphere, atmosphere, and ocean and, on the very longest timescales, the lithosphere (i.e. rocks, oil reservoirs, coal, carbonate rocks). The rates of those exchanges are now being completely overwhelmed by the rate at which we are extracting carbon from the latter set of reservoirs and converting it to atmospheric CO2. No discovery made with ice cores is going to change those basic facts."

To which we can all now say: Rubbish.


"Tim Naish
" ....+2degrees C warmer than the present day (the temperatures we will be facing very soon)"
You better send me that crystal ball you've got there Tim; I've got a few bets on up in Ellerslie. "


This is what a lot of us are indeed trying to get at.

IMO: It is sheer arrogance thinking you can control the temperature by 2C, etc anyway.

Crystal Ball Gazing. Claiming this is going to happen by 2060-2100 or whatever is next to useless. When the short term NIWA And Met Service Predictions can be next to useless as it is.

No wonder a number of my business aquaintances in the Agricultural and Horticultural industries no longer 'rely on' their services because they often get it wrong!


Acid, weather and climate are not the same thing.

Thomas Everth

Reg CO2 life time:

What matters is not the average fate of a single CO2 molecule but the time it takes for the entire system of the atmosphere to return to equilibrium after it was disturbed by a large anomaly such as entry of excess CO2 to human activities.

The Archer paper:

makes predictions of that nature.


"Acid, weather and climate are not the same thing"


This is an interaction.

Anyway. Even the Short term region Climate reports, etc. Can turn out to be just as inaccurate!

Ian Wishart

Thomas, yes I know that's what Archer says. For reasons now blindingly obvious, I think he got it wrong because his assumptions about the amount and timing of interchange appear to be wrong.

Thomas Everth

"For reasons now blindingly obvious...." Sorry Ian, but that is simply rubbish. Its these comments that are designed to convert the spin that you are putting on everything into "truisms" in the mind of your fellowship of GW skeptics.
There is no blindingly obvious or proven fact here to support such statement.

Thomas Everth

This graphic here summarizes the current state of thinking in these matters and there is no paper to-date that invalidates these results:

Of cause, its from the ipcc papers and henceforth Ian will not want to even look at it I suppose....

Ian Wishart

Seen it Thomas, and it changes nothing. Andy Reisinger and Howard Larsen both claimed they'd never seen a peer reviewed study showing CO2 had a residence time of only 10 years.

We now know they were embarrassingly wrong. And the IPCC reports have only just begun to reinvent the term.

Your IPCC graph is based on the same presumptions that Archer has about how long it will take the biosphere to reabsorb the CO2.

Now I'm not sure what part of the Knorr study you are failing to comprehend, but it very clearly shows the biosphere absorbing vastly more CO2 than the IPCC and Archer had given it credit for.

More importantly, Knorr's study was based on empirical measurements, not dodgy computer models.

You can keep quoting Archer and the IPCC till the cows come home, but it appears to me and others that their modelling research has just been invalidated by real data.

Yet another failed IPCC projection.


Tim Naish(et al)
About that crystal ball you've been gazing through...I've been thinking you probably don't need it anyway.
That's because we all know the global temperature will rise by 2degreesC in the future in compliance with government policy; won't it Tim.
After all you know which side your bread is buttered on ,eh.


Yeah they're going to be real interested in taking part in a discussion with you Mack.
9/11 and the moon landings were setups too you know.

Thomas Everth

Ian, Knorr is really an old hat. Even the Wikipedia on Greenhouse gases sports the same graph (just until the year 2000 from which that graph seems to be)

Knorr and this old graph makes one thing totally clear: Fossil fuel burning is the culprit behind the CO2 net flux into the atmosphere. Its obvious isn't it?

The extra uptake (mostly oceans) is busily working against us:
1) Warmer oceans take up less CO2
2) More acidic oceans reduce plankton growth
3) Once the north pole is gone in summer you won't get any increase in uptake form that ocean surface area increase anymore.

The fact that Knorr can not see it in his data yet is giving us some hope that it is not to late to act.

The question Ian is not what would happen if we suddenly today stopped emitting CO2. Nobody suggests that. Certainly not you. So the question of how fast the excess CO2 would disappear is moot.
What counts is the percentage of today's flux from fossil fuel burning that continues to accumulate in the atmosphere.

So the question is what will happen if we continue to do nothing and allow the net flux of CO2 into the atmosphere to grow exponentially further - or perhaps at which level could we stabilize the CO2 so that there is no further increase (i.e. net flux = zero).
At the moment there is no comfort in the fact that nature appears to scupper 40% of our total flux. The remaining 60% represent a massive net flux enlarging total CO2 each year. We are already at CO2 levels far in excess on anything seen in the past hundreds of thousands of years.
And in all likelihood we will carry on pumping the stuff out.
Now you know from the Paleo Climate Record that at times when CO2 was significantly higher than today (> 500ppm) Earth was mostly in a stable state at about 12Deg warmer than today.
The system Earth appears to have a sweet stable spot at that higher temperature. And it is very plausible indeed that once pushed that way, that's where we might go to again. At such a temperature however you can kiss the human endeavor good-bye.


" 9/11 and the moonlandings were setups too you know"
Really! Well aren't you just a right real looney one then.

Jason Brown

. . .

Ba bla de bla bla.

Another sound might be ba baa baaaa of the Kiwi sheep mentality, lambs off to slaughter.

As the 10 metre hurricane waves crash through my front door, I am far less interested in their origin than what I should actually do to not drown.

Divide and conquer tactics over climate change need to give way, urgently, to an agreed set of facts on what can be done to save our species.

If climate change is a natural part of planetary patterns, then would it not seem common sense to not accelerate the process by spewing billions of tons of carbon into the atmosphere?

Enough with the scientific dick waving and back to the number 8 issues, fellas.

. . .

Ian Wishart

Jason, me old china.

I agree with your sentiment, and make a similar point in Air Con. If global warming is natural, then it is unavoidable and best to start planning now rather than sticking fingers in imaginary dykes hoping we can hold back nature.

Earth began coming out of the Little Ice Age in the early 1800s, thanks to solar forcing, and that rising temperature trend has continued since then.

The previous big warm spell, the Medieval Warm Period, lasted around 400 years, and we are only 160 or so years into this one.

However, and this is the rub that this entire debate hinges on, even though MWP appears to have been a couple of degrees warmer than now according to numerous studies from around the world, we did not suffer catastrophic effects.

Organisms adapted rapidly, as we now know they can, and humans adapted as well. The Little Ice Age that followed killed far more people and animals than the MWP.

Allowing for short term accelerations and decelerations caused by climate 'noise' or weather incidents, the oceans do not appear to be rising much more than 2-3 mm a year (some studies suggest they are still only tracking at 1.5 mm a year.

Pacific islands are not suffering rising sea levels from man made global warming, but often from a combination of natural erosion (see the life cycle of coral atolls) or human stupidity, such as dynamite fishing in the coral lagoons a few decades ago that seemed like a great idea at the time but which killed coral and destabilised the protective reef structures, allowing tidal surges to hit the fragile islands.

You mention hurricanes linked to global warming, and the latest peer reviewed studies suggest they have little to do with CO2 and everything to do with how much sun hits the ocean any given year.

If I genuinely believed reducing CO2 emissions was going to make a dent in climate change, I would support it, but even Gore is now conceding CO2 is responsible for less than half the effect that he previously said it was.

Solutions? Build new subdivisions higher or reclaim more foreshore as a buffer to minor sea level rise. Introduce more efficient agriculture worldwide so less land and resource is required to adequately feed the world - latest studies suggest only 30% of the land currently used is actually required to feed every person on the planet well, if farmed properly.

Where do you want to spend your trillions? On smart tech and agriculture, or on punishing carbon trading that makes the global elite richer and doesn't make a blind bit of difference to climate?

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