Antarctic Warming Claims Greeted with Skepticism

Published March 1, 2009

A controversial article in the science magazine Nature, which claims Antarctica is warming despite data showing the continent is cooling, has attracted the attention of scientists and policy analysts openly skeptical about claims of manmade global warming.

No Data, No Validation

The article, coauthored by global warming alarmist Michael Mann and published in the January 22 issue, claims computer simulations and data “smoothing” show increasing temperatures in the Antarctic.

“One must be very cautious with such results because they have no real way to be validated,” cautioned John Christy, Ph.D., distinguished professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, who oversees NASA satellite temperature data. Christy told USA Today for a January 21 report, “In other words, we will never know what the temperature was over the very large missing areas that this technique attempts to fill in so that it can be tested back through time.”

“The article appears to argue that due to incredibly bad luck, many temperature stations scattered throughout the continent are located in random, isolated pockets of cooling that defy the overall warming trend,” said James M. Taylor, senior fellow for environment policy at The Heartland Institute and managing editor of Environment & Climate News.

“The odds of this being the case are quite remote, and the theory is notably short on reliable evidence. Adding to the dubious nature of the study’s conclusion is the authors’ self-interest in silencing an embarrassing mountain of raw temperature data that contradict their global warming theory,” Taylor added.

Best Instruments Ignored

“What’s strange is that [the authors] used a satellite that was not specifically designed to measure temperature,” said Patrick Michaels, research professor of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia and former Virginia state climatologist.

Michaels suggested the authors sought to confirm a global warming hypothesis, not discover the truth about the Antarctic temperature record. “They could have used the Spencer/Christy MSU data, but that wouldn’t have given the desired result, even though it is the remote-sensing reference standard, but that wouldn’t have told the proper story,” he said.

Models vs. Real Data

Mann and his colleagues contend decades of raw temperature data show a false cooling trend in Antarctica, because measuring stations don’t record temperatures between the stations, where, the authors claim, significant warming is taking place.

“Our reconstructions show more significant temperature change in Antarctica, and a different pattern for that change than reported in some previous reconstructions,” the article claims.

Media Jumps Aboard

The news media treated the article as a groundbreaking revelation that eradicates the embarrassment of a long-term Antarctic cooling trend.

“Antarctic Warming Detected by Scientists Dashes Crichton Theory,” Bloomberg reported.

“It’s Getting Warmer in Antarctica,” reported the Christian Science Monitor.

“For a long time now, Antarctic cooling has been a stone in the shoe of global warming alarmists. Now, conveniently, alarmists claim they have ‘statistically smoothed’ the data to show Antarctica is warming, even though surface temperature stations show a significant, long-term cooling trend,” Taylor explained.

“I would be quite wary of assigning much value to this article,” said Taylor. “Raw temperature data and a number of studies over many years have determined Antarctica is cooling. Now we have a single article, reliant on subjective data interpretation from well-known global warming alarmists, saying the opposite.”

Penny Rodriguez ([email protected]) writes from Parrish, Florida.