Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Anthony Watts about those Himalayan Glaciers

A character I'm familiar with dropped in for a moment to brag about Anthony Watts attacking the National Geographic magazine yet again with his August 31, 2014 blog post "National Geographic's Warming Warning - 10 Years Later".

Anthony's has a big list claiming National Geographic failed miserably in projecting into the future, but even a first reading indicates a few games of misrepresentation being played.  Weirdest was when Anthony was tossing down the gauntlet: "To the Editor of National Geographic, we are a third of that way to that very different world and many can’t pick the difference yet." Anthony apparently doesn't notice any changes in the world around him, an incomprehensible statement that can only be made by someone deliberately ignoring Earth observations and other global news.

For starters I wanted to look at this Himalayan glacier mistake, since the echo-chamber has been bouncing around the news that Himalayan glacier melt rate seems to be reduced recently - as though a reduction in melt rate means global warming is not happening.

This post is for those who want more information at hand when confronting the crazy-makers like Anthony Watts so I'll be sharing links to a few informative reports examining this question of IPCC's 2035/2350 error and various aspects of how a warming world has impacted the Himalayan Mountain region.  

National Geographic’s Warming Warning – 10 Years Later
Anthony Watts / August 31, 2014
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.

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.
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2. “… researchers believe that most central and eastern Himalayan glaciers could virtually disappear by 2035.” P.14 
This arose from a brochure from India to the World Wide Fund for Nature, not peer reviewed, which eventuated in year 2350 being replaced by 2035 in the IPCC 2007 report – and missed by the peer-review process. The correction process by the IPCC was tortuous and lamentably acrimonious when a single direct statement should have sufficed."

OK, the IPCC made a big mistake, one that needed to be examined, explained and avoided in the future.  Still, I wish there was more awareness that the mistake was made by social scientists in Working Group 2, Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability - 

Not by the Earth and climate scientists of Working Group 1, the ones who study and explain the science of climate change, or global warming if you will!

No serious errors have been found in Working Group 1's section on glaciers and the state of that geophysical science.   Below are some papers and articles relating to the 2035/2350 mistake, but more importantly I conclude with other articles that are looking at new studies, including "State and Fate of Himalayan Glaciers" which some tout as if it were another 'nail in the coffin' of global warming, though it's no such thing, just another piece of the learning process
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I'll begin with, IPCC's admittedly inadequate public statement:  

IPCC statement on the melting of Himalayan glaciers
Geneva, 20 January 2010

The Synthesis Report, the concluding document of the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (page 49) stated: “Climate change is expected to exacerbate current stresses on water resources from population growth and economic and land-use change, including urbanisation. On a regional scale, mountain snow pack, glaciers and small ice caps play a crucial role in freshwater availability. Widespread mass losses from glaciers and reductions in snow cover over recent decades are projected to accelerate throughout the 21century, reducing water availability, hydropower potential, and changing seasonality of flows in regions supplied by meltwater from major mountain ranges (e.g. Hindu-Kush, Himalaya, Andes), where more than one-sixth of the world population currently lives.” 
This conclusion is robust, appropriate, and entirely consistent with the underlying science and the broader IPCC assessment. 
It has, however, recently come to our attention that a paragraph in the 938-page Working Group II contribution to the underlying assessment refers to poorly substantiated estimates of rate of recession and date for the disappearance of Himalayan glaciers. In drafting the paragraph in question, the clear and well-established standards of evidence, required by the IPCC procedures, were not applied properly. 
The Chair, Vice-Chairs, and Co-chairs of the IPCC regret the poor application of well-established IPCC procedures in this instance. This episode demonstrates that the quality of the assessment depends on absolute adherence to the IPCC standards, including thorough review of “the quality and validity of each source before incorporating results from the source into an IPCC Report”. We reaffirm our strong commitment to ensuring this level of performance.
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This left plenty of room for the malicious to concoct whatever stories they wanted such as this shocking, considering who printed it, broadcasting of an unsubstantiated tabloid writer's smear story.

IPCC's Himalayan glacier 'mistake' not an accident

Newspaper reports that unsubstantiated numbers were used intentionally
SCIENCE & THE PUBLIC  |  by Janet (shame on her!) Raloff  |  JANUARY 24, 2010

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But then someone decided to call Dr Lai and ask him if it was true, it was not.  Just more horse poop from that serial liar David Rose the tabloid writer.

EXCLUSIVE: UN scientist refutes Daily Mail claim he said Himalayan glacier error was politically motivated


"“We reported the facts about science as we knew them…. We were not trying to oversell the science…. The fact is the IPCC has been very conservative.” 
MEMO TO MEDIA:  Please start doing some damn journalism — like placing a simple phone call to a primary source.   A great many “newspapers” like the Daily Mail are no more reliable than the websites of the anti-science disinformers, like the thoroughly discredited ClimateDepot of Marc Morano. 
In an exclusive interview  — “exclusive” in the sense that many of the people smearing Dr. Murari Lal haven’t bothered to ask him whether the original story was accurate — Dr. Lal asserts that the “most vilest allegations” in the Daily Mail story are utterly false. ..."
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Banerjee and Collins at Yale Climate Connections, did an admirable job of trying to sort it out. 

Undoing 'The Curse' of a Chain of Errors
Anatomy of IPCC’s Mistake on Himalayan Glaciers and Year 2035
Bidisha Banerjee and George Collins —  February 4, 2010

On the heels of the Copenhagen climate talks – whose scant accomplishments reveal that climate change science may be no match for international politics – the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) finds itself in a scientific controversy of its own making. 
The IPCC Fourth Assessment Report’s malformed paragraph on Himalayan glacier melt has prompted intense, and warranted, criticism of the IPCC review process. This criticism has come not only from climate science skeptics or contrarians. It’s generally clear that the ungrammatical, internally contradictory two sentences – which reproduce errors found in improperly cited sources – shouldn’t have made it into the first draft of the report, much less the final. 
The IPCC now has recanted the paragraph in question. Though the widely quoted claims were in print for nearly three years, the IPCC’s admission does indicate that scientific errors can be publicly identified and corrected. 
But the errors don’t end – or begin – with the IPCC report. A careful look shows a complex set of conflations and misquotations begun by some science journalists more than a decade ago, transmitted and compounded by members of the IPCC Working Group II writing team, and hopelessly muddled by hasty, confused press coverage. 
As Though A Pervasive Curse Haunts Accurate Coverage 
Dozens of articles and analyses of this situation, whether dashed-off blog posts or New York Times coverage, exhibit a curious consistency. Not a single article or analysis appears to include all relevant issues without introducing at least one substantial error. It’s as though the original documents contained a curse which has spread to infect every commentator and reporter. The curse seems to stem from not reading sources carefully (or at all), which, ironically, was the IPCC Working Group II’s central failing, and also a major issue in the documents that were the basis of the defective paragraph. 
For a good, brief, but cursed summary of these events, see Canadian geographer Graham Cogley’s letter to Science. ...
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As does SkepticalScience.com

The IPCC's 2035 prediction about Himalayan glaciers
SkepticalScience.com | 21 January 2010 by John Cook

"... The moral of the story seems clear - stick to the peer reviewed scientific literature. This is not to say peer review is infallible. But as a source for climate science, there is no higher standard than rigorous research based on empirical data, conducted by scientific experts and reviewed by other experts in the field. 
This leads to an important question: what does the peer reviewed science say about Himalayan glaciers? The ice mass over the Himalayas is the third-largest on earth, after the Arctic/Greenland and Antarctic regions (Barnett 2005). There are approximately 15,000 glaciers in the Himalayas. Each summer, these glaciers release meltwater into the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra Rivers. 
Approximately 500 million people depend upon water from these three rivers (Kehrwald 2008). In China, 23% of the population lives in the western regions, where glacial melt is the principal water source during dry season (Barnett 2005). 
On-site measurement of glacier terminus position and ice core records have found many glaciers on the south slope of the central Himalaya have been retreating at an accelerating rate (Ren 2006). Similarly, ice cores amd accumulation stakes on the Naimona'nyi Glacier have observed it's losing mass, a surprising result due to its high altitude (it is now the highest glacier in the world losing mass) (Kehrwald 2008). 
While on-site measurements cover only a small range of the Himalayas..."
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Meanwhile, back in the mountains, scientific observations continue and as so often happens with science, deeper investigation leads to surprises that must be studied and understood.  It's how science grows.  One new study has been embraced by Wattzer's because it has convenient words that they can deliberately misconstrue.

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The State and Fate of Himalayan Glaciers

ABSTRACT:   Himalayan glaciers are a focus of public and scientific debate. Prevailing uncertainties are of major concern because some projections of their future have serious implications for water resources. Most Himalayan glaciers are losing mass at rates similar to glaciers elsewhere, except for emerging indications of stability or mass gain in the Karakoram. A poor understanding of the processes affecting them, combined with the diversity of climatic conditions and the extremes of topographical relief within the region, makes projections speculative. Nevertheless, it is unlikely that dramatic changes in total runoff will occur soon, although continuing shrinkage outside the Karakoram will increase the seasonality of runoff, affect irrigation and hydropower, and alter hazards.
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As reported by Science Daily:
State of Himalayan glaciers less alarming than feared

April 19, 2012 | University of Zurich

Several hundreds of millions of people in Southeast Asia depend, to varying degrees, on the freshwater reservoirs of the Himalayan glaciers. Consequently, it is important to detect the potential impact of climate changes on the Himalayan glaciers at an early stage. Glaciologists now reveal that the glaciers in the Himalayas are declining less rapidly than was previously thought. However, the scientists see major hazard potential from outbursts of glacial lakes. 
Glacier area 20 percent smaller than assumed . . . 
While some of the measurement series on length changes date back to 1840, measurements of glacier mass budget that instantaneously reflect the climate signal are rare. In addition, continuous measurement series do not stretch back any further than ten years. The researchers recorded average length decreases of 15 to 20 metres and area decreases of 0.1 to 0.6 percent per year in recent decades. Furthermore, the glacier surfaces lowered by around 40 centimetres a year. "The detected length changes and area and volume losses correspond to the global average," explains Bolch, summarizing the new results. "The majority of the Himalayan glaciers are shrinking, but much less rapidly than predicted earlier." . . .  
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Greater variability and menacing flooding of glacial lakes 
Despite the partial all-clear for the Himalayan glaciers, however, Bolch advises caution: "Due to the expected shrinkage of the glaciers, in the medium term we can expect a greater variability in the seasonal water drainage. Individual valleys could dry up seasonally." 
Bolch and his colleagues also see a very serious threat to the local population in newly formed or rapidly growing glacial lakes. The deluge of water and debris from potential outbursts of these lakes could have devastating consequences for low-lying regions. According to the scientists, increased efforts are urgently needed to monitor the lakes as well as changes in the glaciers and the climate in the Himalayas. 
The study was conducted as part of the EU project High Noon and the European Space Agency project Glaciers_cci.
Journal Reference:
  1. T. Bolch, A. Kulkarni, A. Kaab, C. Huggel, F. Paul, J. G. Cogley, H. Frey, J. S. Kargel, K. Fujita, M. Scheel, S. Bajracharya, M. Stoffel. The State and Fate of Himalayan Glaciers. Science, 2012; 336 (6079): 310 DOI: 10.1126/science.1215828
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David Biello added yet more fascinating information about this cynical game that's being played with our future world.

Deny This: Contested Himalayan Glaciers Really Are Melting, and Doing So at a Rapid Pace–Kind of Like Climate Change

By David Biello | July 27, 2012

It’s all unfolding pretty much as predicted by climate scientists in the 1980s.What’s also unfolding pretty much as demanded by climate contrarians is a dearth of efforts to address the problem, maybe because we’re all in denial. 
Global emissions of the greenhouse gases responsible for all this continue to grow, after taking a brief dip due to the Great Recession. Political and policy efforts to address the climate crisis, whether at the national or international level, seem spent (although there is some hope in efforts to buy time to combat climate change by cutting back on soot). Witness the climate talks in Durban, Cancun or Copenhagen. In the U.S. about the only leader still advocating for action to halt climate change is Bill McKibben, who has become somewhat of a climate Quixote, tilting for windmills and against the fossil fuel industry. 
That industry, particularly titans such as ExxonMobil, has expressly achieved the goals laid out in an American Petroleum Institute memo from the 1990s recently reproduced in Steve Coll’s book Private Empire: 
- Average citizen “understands” (recognizes) uncertainties in climate science– Recognition of uncertainties becomes part of the “conventional wisdom”– Media “understands” (recognizes) uncertainties in climate science– Media coverage reflects balance on climate science and recognition of the validity of viewpoints challenging current “conventional wisdom”– Those promoting the Kyoto treaty [a global effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions] on the basis of extant science appear to be out of touch with reality. 
All five of those items on the list can be checked off. That’s a big part of the reason why climate change has not featured as an issue in this year’s U.S. presidential election.
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Speaking of denying this, here is a sampling of observational information to various aspects of global warming's impact upon the Himalayan glaciers that a billion people depend on.  All of it consistent with what climatologists have been explaining to us about a warming global heat distribution engine, you know, our global climate system.

The Melting Himalayas: Cascading Effects of Climate Change on Water, Biodiversity, and Livelihoods

15 MAY 2009 | DOI: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2009.01237.x

Conservation Biology
Volume 23, Issue 3, pages 520–530, June 2009

Abstract: The Greater Himalayas hold the largest mass of ice outside polar regions and are the source of the 10 largest rivers in Asia. Rapid reduction in the volume of Himalayan glaciers due to climate change is occurring. 
The cascading effects of rising temperatures and loss of ice and snow in the region are affecting, for example, water availability (amounts, seasonality), biodiversity (endemic species, predator–prey relations), ecosystem boundary shifts (tree-line movements, high-elevation ecosystem changes), and global feedbacks (monsoonal shifts, loss of soil carbon).  
Climate change will also have environmental and social impacts that will likely increase uncertainty in water supplies and agricultural production for human populations across Asia. A common understanding of climate change needs to be developed through regional and local-scale research so that mitigation and adaptation strategies can be identified and implemented.  
The challenges brought about by climate change in the Greater Himalayas can only be addressed through increased regional collaboration in scientific research and policy making."
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Black soot and the survival of Tibetan glaciers

vol. 106 no. 52 > Baiqing Xu,  22114–22118, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0910444106
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA

Abstract"We find evidence that black soot aerosols deposited on Tibetan glaciers have been a significant contributing factor to observed rapid glacier retreat. Reduced black soot emissions, in addition to reduced greenhouse gases, may be required to avoid demise of Himalayan glaciers and retain the benefits of glaciers for seasonal fresh water supplies."
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Different glacier status with atmospheric circulations in Tibetan Plateau and surroundings

Tandong Yao, Lonnie Thompson, Wei Yang, Wusheng Yu, Yang Gao, Xuejun Guo, Xiaoxin Yang, Keqin Duan, Huabiao Zhao, Baiqing Xu, Jiancheng Pu, Anxin Lu, Yang Xiang, Dambaru B. Kattel & Daniel Joswiak

Nature Climate Change | Letter,  2, 663–667 (2012) doi:10.1038/nclimate1580
Received 21 November 2011 Accepted 14 May 2012 Published online 15 July 2012

"The Tibetan Plateau and surroundings contain the largest number of glaciers outside the polar regions (1). These glaciers are at the headwaters of many prominent Asian rivers and are largely experiencing shrinkage (2), which affects the water discharge of large rivers such as the Indus (3, 4).  
The resulting potential geohazards (5, 6) merit a comprehensive study of glacier status in the Tibetan Plateau and surroundings. Here we report on the glacier status over the past 30 years by investigating the glacial retreat of 82 glaciers, area reduction of 7,090 glaciers and mass-balance change of 15 glaciers. 
Systematic differences in glacier status are apparent from region to region, with the most intensive shrinkage in the Himalayas (excluding the Karakorum) characterized by the greatest reduction in glacial length and area and the most negative mass balance.  
The shrinkage generally decreases from the Himalayas to the continental interior and is the least in the eastern Pamir, characterized by the least glacial retreat, area reduction and positive mass balance.  
In addition to rising temperature, decreased precipitation in the Himalayas and increasing precipitation in the eastern Pamir accompanied by different atmospheric circulation patterns is probably driving these systematic differences."
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Rising river flows throughout the twenty-first century in two Himalayan glacierized watersheds

W. W. Immerzeel, F. Pellicciotti & M. F. P. Bierkens

Nature Geoscience | Letter 6, 742–745 (2013) doi:10.1038/
Received 01 March 2013 Accepted 25 June 2013 Published online 04 August 2013

"Greater Himalayan glaciers are retreating and losing mass at rates comparable to glaciers in other regions of the world (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). Assessments of future changes and their associated hydrological impacts are scarce, oversimplify glacier dynamics or include a limited number of climate models (6, 7, 8, 9).  
Here, we use results from the latest ensemble of climate models in combination with a high-resolution glacio-hydrological model to assess the hydrological impact of climate change on two climatically contrasting watersheds in the Greater Himalaya, the Baltoro and Langtang watersheds that drain into the Indus and Ganges rivers, respectively. We show that the largest uncertainty in future runoff is a result of variations in projected precipitation between climate models.  
In both watersheds, strong, but highly variable, increases in future runoff are projected and, despite the different characteristics of the watersheds, their responses are surprisingly similar. In both cases, glaciers will recede but net glacier melt runoff is on a rising limb at least until 2050. In combination with a positive change in precipitation, water availability during this century is not likely to decline.  
We conclude that river basins that depend on monsoon rains and glacier melt will continue to sustain the increasing water demands expected in these areas (10)."
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