Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Anthony Watts about those Glaciers on Kilimanjaro

This is the second installment in what might be a new series looking at Anthony Watts latest cynical lashing out at the National Geographic magazine in his continuing campaign of creating divisiveness and confusion in order to derail all attempts at a rational learning process aimed at confronting anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.  

Anthony always goes for the sensational, the polarizing, the fabricated scandals, misrepresenting clear evidence and facts, displaying a certitude about his opinions that indicates a faith-based attitude towards this planet and humanity's place in it - 

a mentality not in keeping with good faith learning, which is what the practice of science is all about.

Now Anthony's picking on Al Gore, with that Mt. Kilimanjaro canard, but I'll let Anthony speak for himself.  I'll follow him with a few links and quotes from informative articles that will help the interested student understand what kind of game is being played by the Wattzers.

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.
1. “The famed snows of Kilimanjaro have melted more than 80% since 1912.” P.14 
This might have been correct at the time of writing pre-2004, but by 2008 Ms Shamsa Mwangunga, the minister for Natural Resources and Tourism in Tanzania wrote ”contrary to reports that the ice caps were decreasing owing to effects of global warming, indications were that the snow cover on Africa’s highest mountain were now increasing”." 
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That is still correct.  80% of the glaciers have melted - no glacial mass has been added !

I've spent a bunch of time trying to get to the bottom of these claims about the return of snows to Kilimanjaro and yes, they have been experiencing heavier snows and rains, as documented at the website of the scientist Douglas Hardy  But it's going to take a lot more than a few years of heavy snows to resurrect the once grand glaciers on Kilimanjaro.  

Sadly, for all the nit picking science skeptics can toss at scientists, it's flabbergasting the many important details they steadfastly shut out.  For instance, the significant fact: there is a huge difference between glacial ice and fresh snow/ice.  Sure visit the place in April, May after heavy rain/snow storms and I bet it looks white and majestic, but just cause it's white doesn't make it a glacier.

For those that take this seriously, here's a study worth taking the time to read through, it demonstrates how serious scientists dedicated to learning approach a subject as complex as climate change and low latitude mountains.  
It also offers the type of information Anthony Watts regularly ignores.

Int. J. Climatol. 24: 329–339 (2004) Published online in Wiley InterScience. DOI: 10.1002/joc.1008 
Copyright © 2004 Royal Meteorological Society. 
ABSTRACTIn recent years, Kilimanjaro and its vanishing glaciers have become an ‘icon’ of global warming, attracting broad interest. In this paper, a synopsis of (a) field observations made by the authors and (b) climatic data as reported in the literature (proxy and long-term instrumental data) is presented to develop a new concept for investigating the retreat of Kilimanjaro’s glaciers, based on the physical understanding of glacier–climate interactions.  
The concept considers the peculiarities of the mountain and implies that climatological processes other than air temperature control the ice recession in a direct manner. A drastic drop in atmospheric moisture at the end of the 19th century and the ensuing drier climatic conditions are likely forcing glacier retreat on Kilimanjaro. Future investigations using the concept as a governing hypothesis will require research at different climatological scales. 
Copyright © 2004 Royal Meteorological Society. 
"Under present climate conditions, glaciers on Kibo continue to retreat, and it appears likely that by mid- century the plateau glaciers will disappear from the mountain for the first time in over 11000 years. Still, there are several open questions to be answered in future investigations. How and when has the glaciation reached a maximum extent, of which today’s remnants are the matter of both scientific and public concern? How did local convection on the mountain slopes and regional advection work, in order to allow sufficient moisture transport to the summit of Kibo for the formation of glaciers? How did the East African or even the large-scale vertical structure of the tropical troposphere differ? 
Has the Indian Ocean played a role different from today? How different was the atmospheric circulation over East Africa, and was this only a regional peculiarity? ... Such research is currently in progress as a collaborative effort between Innsbruck and Massachusetts universities, using the concept presented here as a working hypothesis. 
"Two studies within this collaborative project have been conducted in the meantime (Mölg et al., 2003b; Mölg and Hardy, 2004) and provide a first detailed support for the microscale part of the hypothesis derived in this article. Mölg et al. (2003b) illustrate that solar-radiation-driven melting controls vertical ice wall retreat, given the generally dry climate with a lack of accumulation on glaciers. 
Their results verify the concept for ice wall retreat depicted in Figure 4. Further, Mölg and Hardy (2004) show that mass loss on the summit horizontal glacier surfaces is mainly due to sublimation (i.e. turbulent latent heat flux) and is little affected by air temperature through the turbulent sensible heat flux — both aspects that support the interpretations made in the first item of Section 4.  
"However, validation and verification of the entire hypothesis presented in this paper will require additional meteorological measurements and experiments, and mesoscale modelling of atmospheric dynamics over Kilimanjaro." 
The full text is available:
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Douglas Hardy also blogs about his scientific work: 
News and notes on Kilimanjaro's summit glaciers and climate.
UMass Climate System Research Center studies on Kibo have been underway since February 2000, documenting and investigating the environmental changes underway. An overview of the work is here, and publications are available here.
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Fourteen years of climate & glacier research

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Anthony Watts | "By 2011 we can read “Unfortunately, we made the prediction. I wish we hadn’t,” says Douglas R. Hardy, geoscientist who was among 11 co-authors of the paper in the journal Science that sparked the pessimistic Kilimanjaro forecast. “None of us had much history working on that mountain, and we didn’t understand a lot of the complicated processes on the peak like we do now.”
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Since Anthony doesn't offer any substantive links to support his claims, I did some looking and the only place I see this claim echoed was among internet astro-turfing the same sentences, apparently copied and pasted from the opinions voiced by one Stan (I'm not a scientist) Freeman March 19, 2011 at

Then when I started looking at what I would call serious science sources I didn't finding any support for the echo-chamber's extreme claims.  Instead it seemed to be weather fluctuations which are rather minor compared to the greater scheme of the 'climate thing'.

A century of ice retreat on Kilimanjaro
The Cryosphere, 7, 419–431, 2013 
© Author(s) 2013. CC Attribution 3.0 License.
p.426 N. J. Cullen et al.: A century of ice retreat on Kilimanjaro

Fig. 2. Ice retreat over Kilimanjaro based on the revised areal extent for the following years: (a) 1912, (b) 1962, (c) 1975, (d) 1984, (e) 1992, (f) 2000, (g) 2003, and (h) 2011. An interactive 3-D illustration of the sequence can be sourced in the Supplement.The Cryosphere, 7, 419–431, 2013
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Jun 10, 2012

So, what do we really know about Kilimanjaro’s disappearing glaciers?
  1. Over 150 years ago Kilimanjaro was covered with a thick crust of ice. About 90% of this ice has since vanished. This loss of ice predates the start of human-caused climate change by several decades.
  1. According to scientific teams working on Kilimanjaro, the rate of shrinkage has doubled since the 1970’s, which is when human caused Climate Change kicked in. All over the world tropical glaciers are receding, as indeed most are in all latitudes.  The fact that these 11,700 year-old glaciers are on their way to completely vanishing within a few decades marks a significant change  in East Africa’s climate – as the Kilimanjaro researchers noted in a November 2009 article published in the scientific Journal, Nature.
  1. Technically, the glaciers are not melting. They are evaporating – turning directly from ice to vapor through a process known as sublimation. The air is below freezing at the summit, but the sun excites water molecules in a way similar to how dry ice evaporates at room temperature. The recent evidence of melting from the top down on some glaciers is something not found in the 11,700 year record until modern times.
  1. Increased dryness may be the key driver of glacier shrinkage. East Africa has been getting less and less moisture, so new snow is not replenishing the glacial ice lost to sublimation. A few seasons of new snow can in fact build back some of the ice, as the Turbo News  article reported in 2011. But if the drying trend lasts (together with the increased sunlight), the glaciers are still doomed.
  1. Increasing dryness in East Africa (the cause of droughts and famines in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Sudan) might be speeding up due to global Climate Change, especially by altering the movement of air movement over the Indian Oceans.  This is the hypothesis most the knowledgeable people I have spoken with or read think is the likely cause of Kilimanjaro’s dwindling glaciers. However much work still needs to be done to understand how this is happening.
There is a second driver of local Climate Change on Kilimanjaro – deforestation. But according to the most recent research this is only affecting lower elevations. While this is deadly serious – over a million people depend on the rainfall and rich vegetation on Kilimanjaro’s green slopes – scientists who are studying this effect have not found any evidence this is affecting the glaciers. The glaciers are at an altitude high above the cloud forests where these local changes are being seen and studied. More on that in a future blog post.

Tim Ward is the author of Zombies on Kilimanjaro: A Father-Son Journey Above the Clouds. The book includes a close discussion of Climate Change on the mountain, and some of the reasons why Climate Change is so difficult for scientists to communicate, and for humanity to respond to.

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Incidentally ;- )  Thursday, July 5, 2012
"Anthony Watts proves Mt. Kilimanjaro escapes global warming"

I wonder if any climate science skeptic can offer anything more substantive than another reporter's opinion, which was all I found in my web searches.  
Where's your papers, where's your numbers?

Then Anthony can't resist tossing another mud clod.

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Anthony Watts | In October 2007 Mr Justice Burton of the UK High Court ruled, for the purpose of teaching, against unqualified use of this passage summarised from the Gore book “An Inconvenient Truth”. Mr Gore’s assertion was that the disappearance of snow on Mount Kilimanjaro in East Africa was expressly attributable to global warming – the court heard the scientific consensus that it cannot be established that the snow recession is mainly attributable to human-induced climate change.
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Impossible expectations, ruthless exploitation of the minor errors of a politician trying to explain complex science to an apathetic audience.  But, notice never does Anthony try to understand the mistakes or focus on the substance of the issue and the lessons behind those mistakes.  

It is this argument by headlines and sound-bites that Anthony depends on - and that he's become so adept at.  Well that and ignoring all of his own errors - it all seems way more political then any effort at good faith learning.

As it happens I looked into the UK Trial and various claims made about it and posted about it August 24, 2010 

{#5} Lord Monckton about your claims regarding AIT and the UK Trial
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You can look at the decision for yourself:
Mr Justice Burton
Mr Paul Downes and Miss Emily Saunderson (instructed by Malletts) for the Claimant
Mr Martin Chamberlain (instructed by Treasury Solicitors) for the Defendant
Hearing dates: 27, 28 September, 1, 2 October 2007
Crown Copyright ©

34. I turn to AIT, the film. The following is clear:
35. ii) As Mr Chamberlain persuasively sets out at paragraph 11 of his skeleton:
"The Film advances four main scientific hypotheses, each of which is very well supported by research published in respected, peer-reviewed journals and accords with the latest conclusions of the IPCC:

(1) global average temperatures have been rising significantly over the past half century and are likely to continue to rise ("climate change");

(2) climate change is mainly attributable to man-made emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide ("greenhouse gases");

(3) climate change will, if unchecked, have significant adverse effects on the world and its populations; and
(4) there are measures which individuals and governments can take which will help to reduce climate change or mitigate its effects."

35, i) It is substantially founded upon scientific research and fact, albeit that the science is used, in the hands of a talented politician and communicator, to make a political statement and to support a political programme.”

Further down on #35: "The (courts) position is that the central scientific theme of Al Gore's Film is now accepted by the overwhelming majority of the world's scientific community."
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46. All these 9 'errors' that I now address are not put in the context of the evidence of Professor Carter and the Claimant's case, but by reference to the IPCC report and the evidence of Dr Stott.
{Think about the significants of that statement.  The judge explicitly rejected Prof Carter's line of pseudo-science and judges Gore's AIT on the merits of the science, not Carter's parroting of the deniosphere's confusing story line.  But, you'll not hear them mention it, so perhaps you should.}

47. The 'Errors'

1. 'Error' 11: Sea level rise of up to 20 feet (7 metres) will be caused by melting of either West Antarctica or Greenland in the near future.
2. 'Error' 12: Low lying inhabited Pacific atolls are being inundated because of anthropogenic global warming.
3. 'Error' 18: Shutting down of the "Ocean Conveyor."
4. 'Error' 3: Direct coincidence between rise in CO2 in the atmosphere and in temperature, by reference to two graphs.
5. 'Error' 14: The snows of Kilimanjaro.
6. 'Error' 16: Lake Chad etc
7. 'Error' 8: Hurricane Katrina.
8. 'Error' 15: Death of polar bears.
9. 'Error' 13: Coral reefs.
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Seems to me some of these items weren't presented as certitudes, but as probabilities and in fact there is plenty of evidence that everyone of those items remains an active issue of concern with global warming continuing it's relentless, if variable, impacts upon those respective items.

Too many projects, too little time,  though it would be interesting to gather up to date information on each of those 9 items and see where we stand in our understanding.  Unfortunately, that must be left to another interested, motivated student of Earth.

What are you doing in your spare time?
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