Friday, April 22, 2016

Day 32 and the pond dallies with some world-class climate science ...

It's no doubt serendipity that David Pope should have led with this cartoon ... and more Pope here ... because the world of the BOMsters has been agog with talk of temperature records, and extreme weather events, and charts and graphs and studies ...

Like this one ...

But the pond pays no heed to this sort of nonsense, because when in doubt it always turns to the world's greatest climate scientist ... well, second only to Maurice of course ...

Now the Bolter has been offering his usual insightful commentaries and mounting a most successful crusade for the return of Malware's government ...

Well you know where that link leads us, to the reptiles of Oz, already featured on these pages, and is's passing strange, because the pond thought former chairman Tony was channeling former chairman Rudd - after all he's here to help - but these sorts of distractions shouldn't take away attention from more important issues:

Indeed, indeed. And naturally that speculation - if global warmists are capable of this dodgy stuff, what else are they saying that's false? - could only be matched by other speculations - if the Bolter is routinely stupid on one day, is he demonstrably stupid every other day?

But that's the sort of rigorous scientific enquiry that the pond loves.

Now it would be remiss of the pond not to provide a link to Don Atkin's excellent piece here, with his talk of closed minds, quasi-religious beliefs and scares and intellectually lost souls, because that's exactly the kind of rigorous scientific language that the pond misses, having mistakenly headed off into the y'artz when a career in science beckoned ....

And it would be remiss of the pond not to provide a gloss of Atkins' most excellent scientific record, as he outlines here.

Atkins first studied history at the UNE, and then he became a professor of politics, and then he became a vice chancellor, and along the way, he became involved in science, research and higher education policy, and then on retirement, he kept up an interest in research policy, and then he became interested in the ACT’s cultural facilities and in road safety, and in music, and as an academic in the social sciences and humanities, he’s done a lot of writing for newspapers and such like and appeared as a talking head on the goggle box …

And so on.

The pond couldn’t possibly imagine a career more perfectly placed to provide deep insights into climate science … as opposed to those quasi-religious frauds who work at BOM and such like places and are out in the field and doing and observing things.

Why his qualifications are almost as exceptional as the Bolters’, though perhaps he lacks the Bolters’ fine awareness of art and opera.

Some on the other hand, perverse and disagreeable souls, like to head off to read actual reports from actual people who have spent time on the ground observing actual events, as the pond did in a moment of distraction, when it read Dexter Filkins' The End of Ice in The New Yorker ... which happily for the moment is outside the paywall.

Filkins' story looks at the Himalayan glaciers on the Indian side, and the gist is that they're melting at a remarkable rate, though the research tools deployed are primitive, because few in India care and there's not much money for the research (the pond has compressed the paragraphing):

Standing at Stake 12, Azam measured how much of the stick was poking above the snow: about thirty inches. Then he used the G.P.S. device to determine the stick’s precise location. He was hoping to learn two things. The first was how much snow had been lost since 2013, when he was last on Chhota Shigri. It’s a simple calculation: if there’s more snow against the stakes than there was in 2013, then the glacier grew; if not, it shrank. “This seems like a normal amount of melt, but I won’t know until I get back to the lab,” he said. The second measurement was the glacier’s thickness. On a previous visit, Azam’s colleagues, using ground-penetrating radar, had charted the base of the glacier, where the ice meets the earth. Now, by measuring the elevation at various points, he could calculate the glacier’s thickness. The data from this trip would take Azam months to sort out. But in previous years the patterns were clear. In 2009, the ice near Stake 12 was four hundred and twenty feet thick. In 2013, it had thinned to three hundred and ninety feet. Ranjan was far behind us now, moving slowly but waving every so often to signal that he was O.K. At Ablation Stake 11, Azam took another measurement, gauging how much the stake had moved down the glacier. When snow accumulates on the surface of a glacier, its weight pushes the ice forward and down. Using the G.P.S. beacon, Azam calculated the location; since 2013, Stake 11 had moved about a hundred feet down the glacier. “All these measurements show us that the glacier is shrinking,” he said. Indeed, most of the other omens were not good: the Indian monsoon season in 2015 was among the driest in decades, and Chhota Shigri appears to have received less snow. The center line of the glacier, known as the medial moraine, was strewn with boulders that had tumbled and drifted down from the peak. Around many of them, the snow had melted away, leaving them perched like giant mushrooms on stems of snow. Stopping at one boulder, marked with red paint, Azam lay the G.P.S. device on top and calculated its location and elevation to find the speed of the glacier’s flow. As we trudged up the glacier, Azam stopped using his instruments and simply looked around, searching for clues to how Chhota Shigri was changing. His vision was uncanny; he spotted a pile of boulders that appeared to be of a different mineral than the ones around them. “You see those? They are not from here,” Azam said. They had originated high up on the glacier and moved all the way down. At one point, we stopped, and Azam gestured to where one of the glacier’s main tributaries jutted off. “It seems to be detaching itself from the main glacier,” he said. “That’s because the glacier is thinning.” 

How did the story end? (Spoiler alert):

The day before, I had stood with Azam as he prepared for another ascent. Tethered to a lone porter, he planned to climb to seventeen thousand feet and examine the ablation stakes planted there. In the coming year, Azam and other scientists plan to publish a number of papers based on research performed in the region, in the hope of filling the gap in knowledge. 
There is still little money in India for this kind of work, but the government seems to be slowly coming to appreciate its importance. In the weeks before the recent climate talks in Paris, some Indian politicians insisted that they should not have to restrict their country’s energy consumption to fix a problem that was mostly not of their making. 
Ahead of the conference, though, India agreed to significant reforms, including greater efforts in the Himalayas, and afterward the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, announced that “climate justice has won.” 
I asked Azam what he thought would happen to Chhota Shigri, whether it could survive global warming. “I am not going to save this glacier,” he said. “I am just going to find out what is happening.” He turned and looked up at the peak in front of him. 
“Once I do that, the next step will be to decide what has to be done. But these things don’t depend on science. They depend on politics.”

Now you can multiply these field observations by the hundreds from all over the place, and throw in heaps of data, and all you'll get back is talk closed minds, quasi-religious beliefs and scares.

Never mind, guided by Atkins and the Bolter, the pond knew at once what needed to be done to secure the future.

Burn more coal! Ship more coal to India! Mine more coal. Do it now!

It was the only way ahead that guaranteed the future of the Himalayan glaciers and the Great Barrier Reef ... and we could all feel at one with teh Donald, another incredible climate scientist.

Oh yes, and by the way, the pond also has a degree the y'artz from UNE.

How ironic and post-reflexive is that?

Strangely, it was supposed to train the pond to spot humbug, and simplistic arguments by people who really didn't have much of a clue but stick to their cluelessness with a religious fervour. It seems Atkins and the Bolter were absent from class that day ...

And so to a nice little drawing a kindly reader sent to the pond. See if you can spot the Bolter in it ...


  1. I'm sorry that Don Aitkin has entered the climate science debate. Azam is right that effective action will have to come in politics. Don is originally from that world but seems to have taken the wrong line in his research.

    As an oldie, I'd like to report my admiration of him, going back to the days of the National Times. I found his ideas fairly good back then but that is going back 30-40 years. As, like you, another UNE alumni, I always remember one kind piece he wrote (possibly for the UNE magazine). Since I was a mature-age external student graduate his praise fell on welcoming ears.

    Long before he became an academic, he'd come through the NSW teacher training system and later did his degree externally while employed as a teacher. He said then (as a longtime ANU professor) that he regarded a UNE degree done externally through UNE as the "hardest earned degree" there was.

    Although I'd been working at managerial level well before taking on my degree (and indeed only doing it at all because I'd wanted to "prove myself" and Gough and Malcolm had made tertiary free). I think I still had a small sense of inferiority not least because the sandstone universities had looked down a bit on newcomers like UNE.

    It meant a lot to me at the time. So I hope he hasn't wandered too far down the path of anti-science.

    1. Sorry GD, but if you read his rant, you'll see he hasn't just wandered off the path, he's off in the swamp with other angry old men shouting at clouds ... and if someone gets quoted approvingly by the Bolter on climate science, they really should check the tattered garments they've donned ...

    2. It's always a little concerning when 'good men go wrong', GD, but maybe Aitkin has just reached the manologue stage of his lifetime:

      Then again, there's quite a few things I thought were ok 30 - 40 years ago that I now recognize are not so wonderful.

    3. Yes, so sad. A risk of growing old, I suppose, which I may have to face.

    4. Well the risk of growing old, so they assured me GD, is a lot better than the alternative(s).

      But I did have to quietly chortle when Nick Gruen (an entertaining, if not very bright, front pager of Club Troppo) had to confess that he was no longer the dedicated "neoliberal" he'd once been:

      It kinda reminded me of a story about a once upon a time hobby of mine, chess. An older player and a very young player were engaged in a game in which the young'un moved very quickly, but the oldun took quite a bit of time to select and make his move.
      "Hurry up, you're holding up the game," jeered the young'un.
      "That's all right for you," responded the oldun, "you're just too inexperienced to have any idea of what's going on."

      Getting a few ideas as to what's actually going on eventually comes to us all, GD. Even Nick Gruen (but maybe not Sophie Mirabella).

  2. The Dolter's so George Gershwin cool. "summertime and the living is easy".. Indian water trains dispatched, come along for the rides.. there's riots to watch, and the 3500 thirsty farmer suicides..

    Acid test next..

    "It’s a 1-2 punch that represents a mass extinction threat for corals this Century. And we’re starting to see the severe impacts ramp up now."

  3. Well without wishing to rely too strongly on Wikipedia, they do have a good article on the retreat of glaciers.

    Also worth noting that the only tropical glaciers in our neck of the woods (New Guinea) have all but disappeared.

    "Research presented in 2004 of IKONOS satellite imagery of the New Guinean glaciers indicated that in the two years from 2000 to 2002, the Carstensz Glacier had lost a further 6.8% of its surface area. An expedition to the remaining glaciers on Puncak Jaya in 2010 discovered that the ice on the glaciers there is about 32 metres (105 ft) thick and thinning at a rate of 7 metres (23 ft) annually. At that rate, the remaining glaciers in the immediate region near Puncak Jaya are expected to last only to the year 2015"

  4. Nash and Brandis have now embraced a new definition of gravity as 'intelligent falling', which has actually been seriously espoused by that eminent scientific mind, Jack Chick.

  5. Here's a song from Sophie which seems particularly appropriate.


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