Alas, woolly mammoths are no more!

May 21, 2014


I don’t quite recall where that phrase comes from:  perhaps a tag line from my surrealist days in school.  But speaking of the Ice Age, there was an article in the NYTimes Science Section headlined The Big Melt Accelerates.  It provides more grist for my mill on the topic of the Times’ incredible bias and sloppiness in its supposedly “for the record” coverage of climate science.

The article covers the topic of glacial recession worldwide, i.e., the shrinking of glaciers.  Not the “melting” of glaciers:  glaciers are always melting.  Whether they grow or shrink depends on how much ice and snow are being dumped on their upland regions.  Mass-balance, that sort of thing.

Of course, the point of the article is that glaciers are shrinking everywhere (although they do note that some are not, and some are even growing.)  The two images shown above are featured prominently at the headline, and the message is clear.  In 1941, plenty of glacial ice; 2004, the glacier is visible only in the distance. Global warming, dumbbell!  Clear evidence to confound those anti-science deniers!

The images show the Muir Glacier in Alaska, and it has indeed been receding for many years.  In fact, it has been receding since it reached its maximum extent in…1780.  It’s quite well documented.  In the map below, you can see that in the late 18th century, long before the industrial revolution got going bigtime, it reached the end Glacier Bay (see the red circle at the bottom of the map.)  After 160 years, it retreated to where the red circle near the top of the map is.  And in the intervening sixty years, it has continued its retreat.  Clearly, the bulk of the recession was not caused by the industrial revolution and its discharge of C02 into the atmosphere – it was hardly a major force then.  It doesn’t seem to have accelerated its backward movement in the 20th century either.

Why did this glacier retreat?  The Little Ice Age, which saw glaciers growing all over the northern hemisphere – to the point that there are engravings showing European villages being engulfed and destroyed by ice! – ended in the very late 18th century.  Things started to get warmer after that…


This bit of scientific context doesn’t prove or disprove anything much other than that the NYTimes is extremely sloppy in its reporting.  The governing attitude seems to be, “We know the issue is settled.  Let’s get the message out.”  Fellow bloggers, e.g. Troutsky, who otherwise are sympathetic to my views expressed in this blog, seem to think my doubts are the result of clever indoctrination by the radical right-wing. But this sort of graphic legerdemain and purposeful misdirection is, to me, reminiscent of the GWB years, and the WMD buildup to the Iraq invasion, which the NYTimes swallowed whole.  Not nearly so serious and destructive, but structurally, the same sort of trash.

I wrote to the author of this piece, asking him if it wasn’t “a tad bit misleading” to use those photos.  His reply was, “Short unsatisfying answer:  I don’t choose the photos.”  I guess that’s life as a journalist.  But then he went on, “That being said…,” it’s part of a widespread and well documented trend over the “last several decades.”  Last several decades?  I know he understood my point, so is he just evading the entire question?

Batting 500

May 2, 2011

I thought he would never be captured or killed – I was wrong.  Oh, well, I was right about those weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The reasons for my relative sang froid regarding this event are illustrated by this quote from the journalistic blusterer, Ross Douthat:

They can strike us, they can wound us, they can kill us. They can goad us into tactical errors and strategic blunders. But they are not, and never will be, an existential threat.

This was not clear immediately after 9/11.

As with his fellow windbag, Thomas Friedman, as well as many, many, politicians and talking-head wannabee pundits, he takes far too long to learn his lessons.  The sense of those two sentences that are in bold was very evident to me in 2001, and to John Kerry in 2004, and to the writer of an op-ed piece that I recall from the NYTimes shortly after 9/11 (citations, please, if anyone can find it![Here it is.]) that stated that Osama bin Laden’s was a form of ‘politics’ doomed for the dustbin.  Yes, there were plenty of reasonable people who understood what was what, but the hysteria of people like Ross and his fellow scribblers, not to mention GWB, made it hard to understand what they were saying.

Global Warming Dud

April 30, 2010

I went to hear Dr. Alan Robock, a climatologist from Rutgers University, speak at a local organization in my town last night.  He gave the usual slide show:  light on the science; heavier on the ‘predictions’ and scare stories; heavier on what we should do about it, i.e., alternative energy and all.  I was pretty disappointed, as he seemed like a reasonable guy, polite and energetic, and I was hoping for something new.

Instead, he presented an example of why the controversy is so hard to discuss rationally.  His remarks were overtly partisan.  True, he was speaking to an avowedly left-wing group, and I happen to agree with his swipes at Kissinger getting the Nobel, and other rhetorical jabs at the right, but I would have liked to have heard that stuff separately from the scientific talk.  No, it was all mixed up.

I asked him a question about how the average global temperature was computed and what was his opinion on the issue of bias in the surface temperature record due to station locations.  His answer was remarkably lame.  There are lots of stations on the land, and the 70% of the Earth that is ocean is covered by bucket samples taken by roving ships.  Not exactly a homogeneous record in my book, not to mention historical problems.  Then he said the problems with the urban heat island are “well understood” and that each station is paired with a rural station, and if a bias in an urban station is clear, they “throw out that record.”  That’s news to me.

One woman gave him a really hard time in a rather disjointed way, bringing in a raft of accusations and questions.   She mentioned several scientists who disagree with AGW.  His response was to claim that each of them was not an expert in climatology:  this one’s an expert in atmospheric dynamics, that one in tropical storm formation, etc.  She mentioned Lindzen, a prominent critic from his alma mater, MIT, and he said, “Lindzen lies to you.  He should know better.  I could talk a long time about Dick Lindzen.”  How do we know Robock doesn’t lie to us?  And of course, he repeated the claim that the “deniers” are funded by oil and coal corporations.

His remarks on the published emails from CRU were enlightening as well.  It was a crime to publish them.  This from a man who certainly supports Daniel Elsberg’s filching and publication of the Pentagon Papers.  What crime, I wonder?  The standard line – no evidence of criminal fraud was found, that’s a lie, so there’s no problem.  Conspiracy theory contra conspiracy theory. 

Inadvertently, he let the real cat out of the bag during his discussion of the emails.  Remarking on the “hide the decline” fracas over tree-ring proxies and 20th century data, he said (from memory, I quote):  “The proxy data for the latter 20th century showed a decline, and this data was contaminated for some reason, by pollution perhaps, so they threw out the bad data.”  Ahem…bad data?  Because it didn’t follow the projected uptick in surface temperature?

Is this the best they can do?  When Bush invaded Iraq, I remarked to a friend, “They better find those damn WMD or there’ll be hell to pay!”  They didn’t find them, and there wasn’t much hell to pay, so I was wrong.  I predict again:  If these computer models are shown to be off target in fifteen or twenty years, there’ll be hell to pay – the standing of science with the public will be seriously damaged.

For the record, I am not paid by fossil fuel corporations, and I voted for Al Gore and Barack Obama.

He kept us safe…

January 18, 2009


In many letters to editors, I have heard this sentiment expressed in defense of GWB’s miserable record as president:  “No terrorists have attacked us…he kept us safe.”  Well, 9/11 did occur when he was president.  Here is a small gallery of momentos of our safety with W.

Our fearless leader keeps cool, and keeps reading “My Pet Goat” as the attack plays out.  What decisiveness!

safe1    bushreadingthepetgoat

Our great leader was brilliant during the phony energy crisis manufactured by Enron (remember them?) that nearly bankrupted California.


Once again, Numero Uno was on the ball when Katrina hit, and his valiant lieutenant, Brownie, did a “helluva job.”  Oh well, it was an act of God…

katrina-neworleanssuperdomesat3sept-moretrashstillwaiting2bevacd-reuters-shannonstapleton       _42130348_domebaby_getty416b

WMD?  WMD?  Did somebody say something about weapons of mass destruction..?  Well, he kept us all safe, right?


Well, Bush isn’t the only great leader and visionary we had to guide us these last years.  Now we see the results.  I bet he  and his friends kept their money really safe!