Arctic sea ice III: it’s not through melting

NSIDC arctic sea ice extent graph for September 18, 2010

NSIDC Arctic sea ice extent graph for September 18, 2010

On September 15 the US National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) announced a provisional Arctic sea ice minimum extent of 4.76 million square kilometers, for September 10, based on the five-day-average calculation it uses for that purpose.   However it appears that while sea ice is beginning to grow in the East Siberian Sea, just about everywhere else the ice is still melting or consolidating.  This has led to a “double dip” in the past few days, which is currently visible in the NSIDC’s chart.

At this point we don’t know what will happen to the sea ice extent. Of course it’s bound to grow back rapidly pretty soon because so much of it melted during the summer season and there’s nothing much left that is likely to melt or consolidate. This is bringing the 2010 melt season to an interesting close.

Arctic sea ice II: thousands of walruses beached off the Chukchi sea (updated)

[Update September 26: See this video from the ever-excellent greenman3610 which gives a good overview of the topic]

The Associated Press reported on Monday that thousands of walrus cows have beached in North West Alaska because of the rapid loss of ice this summer in the Chukchi Sea. This is a very rare event but it has been recorded twice before, in 2007 and 2009. Beaching has also been reported on the Siberian side of the sea.

Joseph Romm has a more in-depth posting about this in which he discusses the implications for the regional walrus populations.  Of particular concern is the fate of walrus pups, which rely on their mothers’ milk for the first two years of life and cannot fend for themselves.  There are reliable reports of pups being stranded in open water where they could not possibly survive, after being separated from their mothers during the rapid thaw.

The walrus populations are also potentially endangered by oil exploration in the area, and the US government is considering adding the walrus to the endangered species list. The USGS maintains a web page where you can find out about the Alaska Science Center’s work on tracking the walrus populations.

Arctic sea ice I

I’m on a sea ice binge, and here’s what I’ve found.  I’ll probably follow this up at least once as the melt season closes and the figures are added up, so I’ve named it “Arctic sea ice I”.

Joe Romm is crowing over the collapse of yet more Watts/Goddard nonsense about the “rebound” of arctic sea ice and even says

My big $1000 bet with James Annan, William Connolley, and Brian Schmidt still looks pretty good, which is to say I would definitely not switch sides.

Bold, considering what he’s betting against:

“At no time between now and the end of the year 2020 will the minimum total Arctic Sea ice extent be less than 10% of the 1979-2000 average minimum annual Arctic Sea ice extent, as measured by NSIDC data or any other measurement mutually agreed-upon; provided, however, that if two or more volcanic eruptions with the energy level equal to or greater than the 1991 Mount Pinatubo shall occur between now and the end of 2020, then all bets are voided.”

As Joe Romm is quick to admit, William M. Connolley and James Annan are published climate scientists (Connolley was, I should say.  He now works in software engineering.)  Joe is betting against some pretty clever money.

Joe Romm in a December, 2007 posting makes it plain that he’s betting on accelerating sea ice summer melt rates. Intuitively I’d say that seems reasonable, though Joe’s timescale still seems implausibly ambitious. Of course, unlike William Connolley, I haven’t done any modeling, and I certainly don’t have a sophisticated understanding of arctic sea ice dynamics. At best my hunches (and that’s all they are) are simplistic extrapolations of what happens when I defrost my freezer. When the surface area to volume ratio increases the ice melts faster. This is true whether the overall volume decreases or the volume remains the same and I smash the ice up into smaller pieces. A lot more is going on in the arctic during the melt season, of course.

By way of data, NSIDC gives the following figures for September average sea ice extent in millions of square kilometres. Links are to the standard NSIDC sea ice minimum press release for each year.

Or you can see them all collected together in a table where they are also conveniently expressed as sea ice anomaly (baseline 1979-2000). The table also shows the quite noticeable apparent acceleration in the annual and decadal trend that has taken place in the past seven or eight years.  At  -7.3 million square kilometres per decade in 2002, it has risen year on year and after the 2009 season it stood at -11.2.  I’ll be interested to see if the trend drops back in the next few years; that’s to be expected if 2007 was simply an outlier on a linear trend.

Matthias Rath–the missing chapter of “Bad Science” by Ben Goldacre

This is a copy of “Matthias Rath – steal this chapter” by Ben Goldacre, reproduced under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works licence.

This chapter was omitted from the first edition because Ben was being sued by the subject of the chapter, Matthias Rath, at the time.  The suit failed and costs were awarded against Rath.

I have reset the text for readability but have not changed anything else.  The work you are about to read is the copyright of Ben Goldacre.  I did not write any of it.  Please disseminate this document as publicly and widely as you see fit under the terms of the licence..  Please buy a copy of Ben’s excellent book, of which this is only one of over a dozen fascinating chapters.

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JREF has been suspended from Youtube

Please read this posting by PZ Myers about the suspension of the James Randi Educational Foundation’s Youtube account, pass it on and do what you can to make sure the suspension is reversed.

UPDATE: please read this notice by Phil Plait, President of the James Randi Educational Foundation..

The creationist loonies have lost in Texas

Phil Plait reports that the creationist loonies trying to sabotage the science curriculum in Texas have only managed to scrape a 7-7 tie on a vote to incorporate a bogus “strengths and weaknesses” clause into the State’s science teaching standards.  Without a vote to carry the amendment, it fails.

Science has scored the narrowest of victories over the most blatant ignorance and stupidity.

They always lose, but they never give up.  The battle against this avoidable and self-inflicted damage goes on.

How to spot a hidden religious agenda

I, Tony Sidaway, didn’t write this piece.  I’ve put it up because it was removed from the New Scientist site.  It seems quite harmless to me, and useful.

Amanda Gefter

New Scientist

Sat, 28 Feb 2009 22:35 UTC

As a book reviews editor at New Scientist, I often come across so-called science books which after a few pages reveal themselves to be harbouring ulterior motives. I have learned to recognise clues that the author is pushing a religious agenda. As creationists in the US continue to lose court battles over attempts to have intelligent design taught as science in federally funded schools, their strategy has been forced to… well, evolve. That means ensuring that references to pseudoscientific concepts like ID are more heavily veiled. So I thought I’d share a few tips for spotting what may be religion in science’s clothing.

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US to lift federal embryonic stem cell funding ban?

Welcome news from Reuters: the White House has announced that the US President is to sign an executive order on Monday on the subject of stem cell research.

In view of Mr Obama’s stated opinions on the matter, most sources are speculating that he is to lift the federal ban on funding of embryonic stem cell research on new lines, which was imposed by President George W. Bush.

On this assumption, Bloomberg reports that scientists and health advocates are excited and predicting that the action will accelerate the pace of essential medical research.

I’d prefer to wait until Monday before I start celebrating, but the ban on funding is an international disgrace and it is imperative that it be lifted, and obviously the Obama administration is painfully aware of the years wasted by the previous science-hating administration.

Taking a punt

I’m going to take a great big punt on “Conservative” Republican ambitions:

  • go hell for leather on opposition to abortion
  • pretend that spending won’t end the depression
  • deny, deny, deny again, global warming

It isn’t going to work. An administration promised good times for eight year and delivered ashes.  Global warming is now universally recognised as a problem and only die-hards deny it.  Abortion is about the contents of your womb, not the opinion of some godbotherer.

The Republicans must find new ambitions.  These ones got old and died

Galaxy Quest

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey has imaged nearly a quarter of a million galaxies, the vast majority of them never known to astronomy before.  The task of cataloguing them is beyond the capability of current computer technology, and there aren’t enough astronomers to do the job.

Can you help?  If you can examine photographs and answer simple questions about them, yes you can.  This brief tutorial at the Galaxy Zoo website explains exactly what you need to do.  If you need more help, there’s a FAQ, a forum and a blog, and they’re on twitter.