Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Canary Watch is born

Some might argue that cartoon characters Tweety and Yakky aren't appropriate to illustrate o post on a blog intended to document extreme and as yet unproven claims about "global warming" or "climate change" or the world's ecosystems, or a combination thereof. If I point out that they were, and still are, stars in the "Looney Tunes" series of Warner Bros. animated cartoon films, you might make the connection.

Why Canary Watch? We're informed, almost daily it seems, that some place, or country, some animal or plant or even some weather event is "the canary in the coal mine" - an indicator that something Real Bad is happening or has already happened, or will happen at sometime in the near future, or by the end of this century, or something. I intend to make an alphabetic list of these claims, to be added to as new claims are made, or references to old claims found. My inspiration came from number watch - check it out.

Also to be documented and listed on Canary Watch are claims that someplace is "warming faster than anywhere (or everywhere) else". In pride of place in both categories is of course the Arctic, which name has the advantage that it will head the alphabetical lists for a while. Until that is I document a possible threat to the Aardvark (I haven't found a reference, but don't hold you breath, I've barely started searching).

So I draw your attention back to the Arctic, where alarmed and near-tearful environmentalists take movies and snap photos of large chunks of ice crashing into the near-freezing sea and mentally assemble phrases to include on their blogs or Twitter or Facebook page, or to be given as emotional sound-bite quotes to journalists and broadcasters. "The Arctic is screaming" sounds good - wait, someone's already used that one. They seem oblivious to the fact that one glacier doth not an icecap make nor that the large chunks of ice don't actually demonstrate melting - in fact the reverse. What the large chunks of ice think about all the palaver is unknown and therefore undocumented. That the unknown is by definition undocumented doesn't deter the ice-ghouls at all, they just extrapolate what they can see to the whole island, or sub-continent or continent.

The exact meaning of the word "unprecedented" seems to be lost on some too. It doesn't mean "since I came here last summer" (they never visit in the winter - I wonder why). It doesn't mean "since satellites started photographing the area". It doesn't mean "since I read that James Balog article". It means "having no previous example", in other words it ain't happened before. They also forget that if they use the word they implicitly have to prove it; either empirically, or by reference to a reliable source (not James Balog).

I love ice and snow too - I often spend hours looking at them out of my window. However, I should glacially retreat to the matter at hand, and announce, as it has already been announced elsewhere (New paper finds only 1 weather station in the Arctic with warming that can't be explained by natural variation), that the Arctic canary may well be and likely is, a figment of the doom-sayers' imagination.

No-one is denying that the temperature records for the Arctic show warming over several decades; they do, though only after UHCN and GISS have wrought their magic on them. If those two bulk-manufactured corkscrews the consumption of wine would drop. No-one is denying that the sea-ice area reached a new minimum this year; claims that it's unprecedented should refer to my expanded definition of the word, above. What's demonstrated in the paper is that for temperature trends for Arctic stations, only one station exhibits "a warming trend which is significant against all three null models [models of natural climate change without human forcing]". "Null models" are those which are designed to display natural variation only. The claim has been that the Arctic is “the canary in the coal mine” and should show the strongest evidence of a human fingerprint on climate change, yet these observations in the Arctic show that only 1 out of 109 weather stations showed a warming trend that was not explained by the natural variations in the 3 null climate models.

I'll create two static pages for reference and display links in the sidebar on the right. Static blogger pages can't accept comments; readers can add suggestions for new entries here, or on any new posts (with appropriate links please) - I'll pick them up and verify the links, and add them to the lists. so if you come across (new) claims of "xxxxxxxx" is the canary in the coal mine" or "Eyjafjallajökull (I can pronounce it too) warming faster than anywhere on Earth" or "Coffee may be extinct by 2090" (that's a real one, I kid you not) drop in and post a comment. Your name or handle will be preserved for posterity.

UPDATE - the "Canaries in Coal Mines" page is now linked at the top of the sidebar. I had an issue with Blogger telling me the gadget was being displayed when it wasn't. Sometimes Blogger is like that.