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back to article Steady Antarctic ice growth 'limits confidence in climate predictions'

Boffins from NASA and the British Antarctic Survey have teamed up to investigate one of the great mysteries of climate science: why it is that the extent of sea ice around the south pole has actually increased steadily over the years. As the scientists note in their new paper, while the increase is not as big as the decreases …

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Childcatcher

Wrong as in 'Won't get as warm' or as in 'Could get a lot warmer'?

Presumably the former but hey - wrong just means not right.

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Well done for pointing out that uncertainty works both ways and that such errors could just as easily mean the models underestimate the warming as overestimate it. There's also the real possibility, and I would argue it's quite likely, that the impact of this particular error on total warming will turn out to be negligible.

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Based on what?

So you're a climate expert, and have decided that this particular error will turn out to be negligible? You should call up the scientists and dazzle them with your wisdom, to save them the tedious business of actually trying to figure out why the model is wrong and correcting it.

The problem with making corrections to this model is that now most of the climate scientists have committed to the view that the Earth will continue to get warmer. Thus, as they discover problems and adjust the model, if the adjusted model was to conflict with the message they've been giving the past 20 years or so, they'll probably just bin that and continue adjusting until it says what they've been saying all along.

If the models can miss something as basic as the largest store of ice in the world growing, even if it correctly predicts the reductions in ice seen most everywhere else, that isn't a "negligible" error. That's a HUGE problem, one that throws even the most basic assumptions about the model into doubt.

There's a tremendous amount of groupthink in science; if almost everyone believes something, little attention will be paid to those who dispute it. While science does have it over religion and politics in that eventually if enough proof is amassed that the prevailing view is wrong everyone will come around to the new viewpoint, it isn't immune. Look at paleontology - when I was a kid, I was taught that dinosaurs were cold blooded creatures with crocodiles as one of their closest living relatives. It took a lot of discoveries of fossils with evidence of feathers and various other clues suggesting they had to be warm blooded to overturn the orthodoxy and come around to the modern view that they were warm blooded creatures with birds as the closest living relatives.

I'm not arguing that global warming theories are wrong, just arguing that basic errors like this in models show that they are far from accurate, and I fear that in today's climate (no pun intended) scientists who adjust their models to account for this and end up showing little or no warming will be shouted by down by the large majority of climate scientists, who want to present a united front against a very real conspiracy that denies their conclusions for various non-scientific reasons. If it turns out there is no global warming, science will eventually come to that viewpoint, but in the meantime we might waste a lot of money preparing for floods that will never come, or worse, attempt some climate engineering based on faulty models that could theoretically lead to a far worse outcome.

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Re: Based on what?

"So you're a climate expert, and have decided that this particular error will turn out to be negligible? "

Odds are that it will turn out to be negligible.

There have been many much bigger fixes to models over past decades, including the addition of entirely new processes and yet the mean result of significant warming from CO2 has remained unchanged.

The CO2 impact is so big that even basic models from 40 years ago were showing significant warming from doubling CO2. Hoping that something in the details of antarctic ice will negate a result so robust seems like wishful thinking.

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Alien

Re: Based on what?

The models have been predicting it will get warmer for the last 15 years, for the last 15 years they have been wrong. The models from 40 years ago were predicting cooling, they got it wrong as well. Maybe and I know this is radical but maybe the models are crap and we shouldn't drive ourselves into poverty based on a jumped up game of tetris.

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Facepalm

Higher temperatures =

more precipitation = more snow = larger & faster moving glaciers = more sea ice

You may not have noticed Lewis , but the northern artic doesn't have glaciers. I'll let your planet sized brain figure out why.

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Re: Higher temperatures =

"more precipitation = more snow = larger & faster moving glaciers = more sea ice"

I don't think that's right., especially the end part. Sea ice is mostly frozen sea, not ice calved from glaciers.

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Boffin

Re: Higher temperatures =

No it makes sense. Faster moving glaciers calving more icebergs will cool down the surrounding sea more, so more of it will freeze on the surface. That's a local effect though. Doesn't prevent the whole earth getting warmer on average. Local anomalies don't account for what's happining globally when taken in isolation, but that's the model journalists, as opposed to scientists tend to assume. We never hear about the greening of the Sahel, for example. We only hear about the Sahel when its drying out. So we can't rely on journalism which is interested only in local anomalies for useful information about what's happing globally.

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Re: Higher temperatures =

Damn you, boltar! I came here to say the exact same thing! It's no surprise.

The Antartic is also known as a desert, at an annual precipitation of about 165mm - the extreme cold makes the air extremely dry. A rainfall of less than 250mm per year qualifies it as a desert. For comparison's sake, London's annual rainfall is 1,480mm.

The poor sods in Crib Goch, have to suffer through 4,473 mm. Maybe Rob McKenna lives there...

Most people who live in snowy climates know that when it's really cold, it tends to not snow much.

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Coat

Re: Higher temperatures =

London's annual precipitation is more like 600mm.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London#Climate

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Facepalm

Re: Higher temperatures =

You may not have noticed boltar, but Lewis isn't the author of the Nature paper.

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Gobbledygook

> We quantify dynamic and thermodynamic processes in the internal ice pack and show that wind-driven changes in ice advection are the dominant driver of ice-concentration trends around much of West Antarctica, whereas wind-driven thermodynamic changes dominate elsewhere.

Ice advection means transport of ice as opposed to creating or melting it as is the case elsewhere. You can actually watch what happens to water content in the air there:

http://www.bom.gov.au/australia/charts/viewer/index.shtml?type=mslp-precip&tz=UTC&area=SH&model=G&chartSubmit=Refresh+View

The effect has just changed dramatically as the season and this is also the explanation for the timing and the geography of the ITCZ. Come back in April when the world's tropical storm seasons start again.

BTW, who lives in Crib Coch?

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Re: Higher temperatures =

No matter how many articles I see like this, I can never get used to the deliberate deception of the public. The increase in arctic Sea Ice is very well understood by climate scientists, and is completely consistent with what is observed and predicted in climate studies.

Arctic sea ice is expanding at approximately 0.9% per decade, and has done so consistently for at least thirty to forty years. The damage to the ozone layer over the antarctic due to pollutants has still left the area under the ozone hole. That layer of ozone, when it is present, warms up as it absorbs energy from the sun. If it is missing, the highest levels of the atmosphere grow colder, and the atmosphere of the Antarctic loses heat to space more quickly. Thus, when the winter comes, it cools more quickly, and ice grows more rapidly.

Secondly, Land Ice in the arctic is melting, and as per the usual variation in observations in something as complicated as world climates, in some places it is melting very much more rapidly then predicted, and in other areas a bit less. The important point is: Antarctic Land Ice is melting. Increased fresh water from runoff, and also from an increase in precipitation due to more moisture being available in the warmer atmosphere, have freshened or diluted the surface of the antarctic ocean. Colligative properties. The fresher the water, the higher the freezing point, and the faster the surface waters freeze.

Now, one final and seminal point. Although this article lies, like so many others, in taking the meaning of studying one interesting and complex aspect of the climate and conflating it to somehow mean that it casts some doubt on climate change (Its like someone studying tread wear on tires, and The Register reporting that we might be in doubt about cars.), there is really very little comparison in Arctic and Antarctic Sea ice in the overall effect on climate. All the Arctic Sea ice is disappearing at an astounding rate, which exposes the poll to absorb much more energy, in the summer. This causes further warming, and is a climactic tipping point. Antarctic Sea Ice expands so slightly, in the depth of winter, when the poll is tipped away from the sun, all due to well understood causes, that you pretty much need good satellite data and fast computers to even measure it. And. This winter ice melts away every year. It's seasonal.

Lastly, The real changes are also causing changes in ocean currents and wind patterns in the area. The real 'What if?' type questions concerning scientists, deal with the possibility that this will direct much warmer water at the base of some of the ice shelf areas, where they rest on the sea floor or the grounding line, and cause them to melt and break free.

There really is no excuse for an article like this to be printed. Most climate scientists are far more skeptical of journalists and journalistic publications than they could ever be about scientists intentions, but even still there are many who are readily available to clarify our understanding of causation on some of these issues; and, if they do not know, they will tell you. Unfortunately, taking work or comments that a scientist does, and drawing a completely indefensible conclusion, as this article does, is far too commonly the result. Antarctic sea ice expansion is an important confirmation of the causes and projections for global warming.

This article and headline are deliberately misleading, and despicable.

Coffey3C@gmail.com

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Re: Higher temperatures =

"This article and headline are deliberately misleading, and despicable."

Yeah, but they match Lewis's agenda.

There are those on El Reg who seek to prevent the BBC and Met Office from reporting the facts on AGW, because they run counter to the aforesaid agenda.

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Re: Higher temperatures =

I know. It's still so damned disappointing though. When you consider, that when one of the growth industries of lying about a certain issue spring up, it can only function as a delaying tactic. In the end the process will make the final determination, but it is just such an indefensible waste of time. In the tobacco cause, the lying and obfuscation lead to them not losing a case in court for what, fifty-five years? A generation or two, of people who should have known better, smoked more and a percentage died.

With this issue, however it's different. WE delay, and it becomes harder, and harder, and more expensive... This is an escalating threat. When a public forum/journalist/agenda uses the basic lack of educational systems, and the resulting deplorable ignorance, against us.... What do they gain by throwing us all under the bus? Taylor and the like over at the Heartland Clown College get to be employed in one of the largest growth industries today, i understand. His kids will go to collage. I get it.

But. What then?

Have people even noticed that all of the most capable climatologists, and all of those who can speak well in the public forum, are wasting no time trying to publicize this issue? Why should they? Those in a position of public trust, who are supposed to watch out for and react to just these issues, seem only able to focus on their own venial short-term agendas while the rest of us are thrown as a whole right under that buss.

I've never liked the term 'Catastrophic Global Warming." Life will go on, but changed. The planet will continue, even though our public opinions seem perfectly content with allowing our governments and industries to run destructive testing on the only bit of rock in the universe that we can live on. What really offends me, however, and this is the unforgivable part, is that they've never read a history book. When there are ten to twelve billion people on the planet, just about the time we are running out of oil, the same governments that are running amok and acting like undisciplined toddlers right now, are going to be panicked for survival.

Who could possible imagine, that a few degrees of temperature rise in the middle of the Pacific ocean would lead to millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa dying, or being in danger of dying', of thirst? America was at the height of it's power, and Europe was working together as never before. Oil was cheaper and far more plentiful, and food production setting records every year... And all they could tell us is that we did not have the resources to reach those people in time.

It's people who are at risk from AGW. It's our food production, and our economic models, and the political balance of power, that we don't seem to be very good at maintaining in the best of times. No. The readers here need to ask themselves, that while the climate scientists in the US can't work, because they are being so badly harassed by spurious freedom of information requests, why they no longer bother to expose themselves to the sea of articles just like this one?

It's because we've screwed around with this for fifty years, and the meaning has been clear for twenty years before that. Reduce CO2 emissions. Not tariffs or taxes, nor caps and trades, but an actual reduction in the pollution that is causing obvious and measurable physical damage to the atmospheric bubble we are trapped within. Now, with tipping points kicking in, and methane bubbling out of the Arctic and Atlantic ocean... Eight degrees of warming may well seem like a gift.

Nature, as it always does, will settle this "Debate," but wasted time as well as our inability to act due to private agendas are the true Catastrophe here. This is not a failure of our technology. It is a failure of our educational systems, our political systems, and our society as a whole.

Coffey3C@gmail.com

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Unhappy

Re: Higher temperatures =

D'oh! Those are Glasgow's figures... My bad.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Higher temperatures =

"There are those on El Reg who seek to prevent the BBC and Met Office from reporting the facts on AGW, because they run counter to the aforesaid agenda."

Yes I recall many a time seeing both the BBC and the UK Met Office bemoan and berate denizens hereabouts, all the while accusing said denizens of stifling valid scientific debate and research. I've lost count of the number of times I have witnessed the BBC and Met Office accuse Register readers and authors of endangering the future of human-kind. Not.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Higher temperatures =

Perhaps if the BBC was a little more transparent in how it arrives at policy decisions, people might trust it more.

I think its better to distrust and ignore those who are secretive and deceptive than to reward that behaviour with acceptance. Force them to change or be irrelevant.

"The sky is falling, we're all going to die!" is a little less scarey when you remember we're all going to die anyway.

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Flame

Re: Higher temperatures = farce

One **just-so** story after another from the hotsy-human faction pushing the ice-is-nice meme. Gonna melt all that frost, flood island savages (Temes??) & grow gooseberries in Iceland. Gawd-help us it **could** be, couldn't it?

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Anonymous Coward

The Ice

Just went on Holiday, worry over.

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Anonymous Coward

Did you read the same paper I did?

Wow, another Lewis triumph, selectively grabbing phrases from the story to imply that the ice gain down south was counterbalancing northern ice loss (hint - it isn't) and then implying that a sound bit of research that shows the Antarctic ice gain, where it happens, is explicable by local weather and winds, somehow validates his distrust of models (hint - it doesn't).

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Re: Did you read the same paper I did?

"selectively grabbing phrases from the story to imply that the ice gain down south was counterbalancing northern ice loss"

The article doesn't imply that. It says: "As the scientists note in their new paper, while the increase is not as big as the decreases seen in Arctic sea ice..."

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Joke

Australia's Carbon Tax is working!

Proof positive.

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Anonymous Coward

Land / Sea ice

Land ice is still reducing while sea ice is increasing

The Land ice melt will be decreasing the salinity of the sea so therefore raising its freezing point making it easier for sea ice to form

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Good article, one part flummoxed me though:

"Holland and Kwok reckon their new satellite research has at last shed some light on the mysterious (to climate science) ice gains around Antarctica"

It's a mystery to climate science but not to....?

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von Karman streets ahead

> "Holland and Kwok reckon their new satellite research has at last shed some light on the mysterious (to climate science) ice gains around Antarctica"

It's a mystery to climate science but not to people who no longer believe what the artists formerly known as scientists tell us.

Climate science is based on logs that were buried in a marsh in coastal Siberia.

From this they have deduced that carbon dioxide is poisoning us all.

What if the problem could be cured by not chopping all the trees down but by growing them instead?

Microclimates all over large continents would change dramatically in 4 years or so. And all the excess carbon dioxide would be used as plant nutrient.

All you would have to do then is stop the idiots in the small continents overgrazing. That would allow aquifers to recover, natural ground cover to rebuild and fewer large ruminants farting green gasses all over the place and upsetting all those suicidal Kiwis.

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Linux

"It's a mystery to climate science but not to....?"

See icon for the answer :)

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An inconvenient truth about global warming

I made it up down the pub and told a mate. He tweeted it. His mates retweeted it and before I knew it, it was trending wildly. A freelance journo desperate for a story was scanning his sources (checking twitter) and saw my theory trending. He convinced Newsnight to run a special report. The Guardian interviews me and I admit I made it up. The entire senior management of the BBC gets sacked, but I don't feel bad cos they get massive pay offs.

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Trollface

There's more glaciers spilling ice into the sea and it all goes to the South Pole because it's at the bottom of the world.

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Boffin

@Ravenviz

Nah, can't be that. Ice floats, remember?

GJC

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Coat

Re: @Ravenviz

So it floats downhill........

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Anonymous Coward

limiting confidence in [the models'] predictions

Of course confidence is going to reduce in a prediction which doesnt follow the facts. Surely that isnt a problem (its the norm in science), it just shows the model is wrong and doesnt reflect the facts. And so the learning curve of producing a working model which matches the facts will keep scientists busy for a while as the process of science continues. Hopefully this will lead to the truth and a working model which will improve our understanding of the world.

But it isnt so simple unfortunately. The key problem is the predictions made on the (flawed) model which assume doom and gloom. These should be revised with a much larger margin for error to reflect the lack of knowledge (until a working model is produced) or scrapped for being based on wrong information. But these are the basis of political policies which consume vast amounts of money because they were presented as facts, although as we can see they dont have a solid working foundation. These unfounded scenarios cant be withdrawn without political shame, and so they will continue.

This should not be a bad reflection on scientists who are presenting what they have when they have it, but it is those who apply the half baked results impatiently claiming them to be facts. As a result it is the reputation of real scientists that is damaged and us who have to pay excessively for dud technologies.

A lot of these MMCC 'we all gonna die' 'facts' are based on a scientific prediction which has yet to be. And so when the time comes for the prediction to be proven right or wrong the truth could be very different. And when it is proven wrong we have this embarrassing situation.

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Re: limiting confidence in [the models'] predictions

The error bars are a little long, but the overall direction of the phenomenon is clear. I noted with interest the observation (at New York harbour) that sea levels have risen by almost 30cm since the middle of the 19th century, and was a factor contributing to the underground (otherwise known as the "subway" in some parts) flooding recently. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, even when not every jot and tiddle are known.

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Re: limiting confidence in [the models'] predictions

Unfortunately, the earth moves. Hence any locally apparent rise in sea level is just as likely to be the earth going down as the sea coming up.

Building too many heavy buildings, draining aquifers and natural crustal movement can all explain it.

The same goes for a local sea level fall, of course.

Take a mean all over the world, then get back to us.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: limiting confidence in [the models'] predictions

And guess what. I bet it rose by the same amount over the previous period of the same time period.

We have hundreds of years of quite precise tidal records.

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A miss mass of data?

Obviously the total mass of ice is important as are the implications for future weather fronts from these Arctic/Antarctic ice changes.

I'm sure if we have one more Sandy type disaster in the next 12 months and panic will ensue, at least amongst the investment community.

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Happy

Increasing

global temps mean more energy in the polar current that circling Antarctica, thus it and the winds with it go faster ,thus further isolating the continent from the heat the rest of the world gets.

Which means more sea ice.

Next up

Solving X^n+Y^n=Z^n where n>2

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Anonymous Coward

LOL

LOL

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Pretty obvious really.

All the lumps of ice which break off in the Arctic float down the earth because of gravity, arriving at Antarctica which is at the bottom of the planet.

Can I have a grant please?

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Re: Lewis is now a one-topic poster

Maybe he's just forgotten how to write the MOD stories..., quick start a rumour that the Army is testing Biofuels in helicopters for him to rubbish, stat!

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Anonymous Coward

Optional

So it's ok to have the doom mongers reporting anything as an end of world scenario but not ok to have someone say 'hang on wait a minute...' ?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Optional

When a few bang on about the acceptable cult it is ok. When a few bang on about how its a cult and very much missing the point it is not ok. Think of the church (of the MMCC we all gonna die brigade) trying to stop reasonable discussion by heretics (reasonable question).

Compare this to the history of religious debates and it fits nicely. E.g. heaven is above the clouds (MMCC is real and will kill us all) vs we looked there and your theory doesnt match the results.

Similar arguments based on the limited information at the time but the theory fell through. It shouldnt be a bad thing (certainly not in science) but for those pinning their hopes on mud huts or doom get upset. And dont like the debate

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Expertise?

If the Register is going to continue posting these climate trolling articles should they not think of employing an actual scientist to write them who can actually speak about the subject instead of people who write about the climate because they, you know, use umbrellas and have been skiing and stuff.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Expertise?

"If the Register is going to continue posting these climate trolling articles should they not think of employing an actual scientist"

The problem is that there are more Climate Scaremongerologist's than there are Climate Scientists. We really need Lewis + 1 form each camp for a real debate.

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Linux

Re: Expertise?

No climate scientist dares write anything about AGW that isn't either so obscure and carefully;y phrased that it could mean anything, or in total accordance with the mean of the marketing centre of gravity of the material spewing out of the specially funded institutions that promote the AGW proposition.

I suggest to anyone who is NOT convinced that there is a hugely active agenda to suppress any alternative views, to do the following. As someone I know did inadvertently.

1/. Pick an unusual name that you cant find on any web searches

2/. Pen an article that is as near as you can make it, correct in every respect, which suggests that either AGW is unproven, or that renewable energy cannot actually make much difference to it.

3/. Publish it on-line and promote it on-line.

Within ONE DAY someone had reported that "This Author is a well known and thoroughly discredited member of the XYZ conspiracy to support fossil fuel and destroy the planet".

Etc etc.

This was a blatant lie. The author was not a scientist, he was an engineer. He had never used this name online, and was an entirely independent person.

Why would those who support AGW and renewable energy policies feel the need to lie blatantly and promote ad hominem attacks, if they have such well found science to rest upon?

FUD and more FUD. This isn't science. Its marketing. AGW and renewable energy are PRODUCTS being SOLD. What matters is not the truth, whatever that is, but simply what people believe, hence the millions spent on opinion polls to find out whether people have bought into the mind set, or not, and the association of green issues with high moral ground.

Whether or not the earth is getting warmer or colder, whether its down to carbon dioxide or not, what emerges is that disgraceful tactics are being used to stifle debate about the matter. And massive sums of money are involved in it. To the extent that it has to cast doubt on the propositions.

Caveat emptor.

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Anonymous Coward

Don't know what's causing the extra ice in the Antarctic, but...

...it was a master stroke to show that photo of a lady's bottom again!

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"global temps mean more energy in the polar current that circling Antarctica, thus it and the winds with it go faster ,thus further isolating the continent from the heat the rest of the world get"

And so as I see it, since the rest of the world is more isolated from the heat sink of Antartica, the temperature of the rest of the world goes up a bit. Oh dear. It's quite clear that increasing CO2 content of the atmosphere increases the heat retained by the Earth. I learned about infra red spectroscopy about 50 years ago as a chemistry undergraduate. Where does Lou think the heat is going to?

#

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Trollface

It was called infrared, when I was chemistry undergraduate, 43 years ago.

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