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back to article Global warming fingered as Superstorm Sandy supersizer

In a caveat-laden article in the current edition of the journal Oceanography, a trio of researchers from Rutgers and Cornell Universities argue that it's an even-money bet whether last October's "Superstorm Sandy" was caused – or at least exacerbated – by disappearing summertime Arctic sea ice. "With the increasing frequency of …

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Trollface

The visuals!

I didn't read a word of the article, but that image is absolutely grand! I even love the little "a" in the top left corner, which leads me to believe images "b" and "c" still had the numbers showing through the paint!

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Why not just....

"the likelihood of greenhouse warming playing a significant role in Sandy's evolution as an extra-tropical superstorm is at least as plausible as the idea that this storm was simply a freak of nature."

So they're saying that the odd are 50/50. "Maybe yes, maybe no." Why not just toss a coin and build policy on that?

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Paris Hilton

Re: Why not just....

Because it's not a coin toss situation. They are saying that there is a >=50% chance that a new causative factor is involved.

If you had a long spike in hurricanes each of which had a probability that climate change increased their severity, the overall probability would increase. If a coin known to be fair came up heads 21 times in a row that would be a one in a million chance. If an unknown coin did it, you would have strong grounds for suspecting a bent coin.

Paris, because she's known for taking chances.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why not just....

Even standing in waist deep water watching your house collapsing into the sea for the fourth time in as many years with a superstore whipping round your ears, the global warming sceptics are still to be heard saying 'well its just a 50/50, toss of the coin chance of having this kind of weather and its got nothing to do with the fact there is no longer any winter sea ice in the Arctic.'

Scientists will of course remind everyone of probabilities with caveats.

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Devil

Re: Why not just....

You do not toss a coin over the idea that most late season hurricanes will turn west and obliterate the Eastern Seaboard on a regular basis. Even 5% (not 50%) would be pretty much a call for action if this research is correct.

Now add to that an eruption on Cumbre Vieja and welcome to the day after tomorrow.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why not just....

Sample space = 1

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Why not just....

The sceptics just read all of the propaganda research funded by the oil companies.

You need to be a climate scientist to really know if they are correct or not. You need to analyse the data, but of course, few people have one of the world largest supercomputers at their disposal.

If scientists are wrong on this then why have they been so correct on so many other things?

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Boffin

Re: Why not just....

"Sample space = 1"

You don't really understand when sample size might be relevant, do you? This was only ever an investigation of a single event, not an analysis of overall likelihood. Much in the same way that investigation of one particular car crash is not going to provide overall road safety statistics. The investigation of the single event is still a worthwhile exercise.

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Flame

Re: Why not just.... @Turtle

They did toss on a coin and the result was:-

Heads I win

Tails you lose

Please give all your money to stop something that cannot be stopped, trust us.

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Thumb Down

Scientific Terminology

Note that these hard-core 'scientists' begin by calling Hurricane Sandy "Superstorm Sandy" in line with the freak-out media, then proceed to baldly assert as fact the claim of increased 'extreme weather,' as if that were simple reality rather than unsupported IPCC fear mongering. Need we bother to read further?

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Re: Scientific Terminology

You mean I shouldn't be building a bunker right now! Oh my god! What should I do! Please SAVE ME!

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Re: Scientific Terminology

"You mean I shouldn't be building a bunker right now! Oh my god! What should I do! Please SAVE ME!"

You're confusing Global Warming with Nuclear War, a common mistake. For GW you should build a strong tower to escape the rising seas, along with anti-wind hardening for existing structures in higher locations. Make sure you go off-grid and rely on solar cells/batteries, and recycle your brains out. Don't forget to save your 'night soil' for use in the veggie garden. If you're in a flood plain (as so many are these days), just let the flood have its way, it's for the best.

Lessee, did I forget anything?

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Re: Scientific Terminology

While the media do certainly get a bit excitable when things like this happen, the facts are that the storm lost its tropical characteristics before landfall, which was later confirmed in post-event analysis. The National Weather Service, in fact, has been called to task for not only keeping its Hurricane and Tropical Storm Warnings active when the storm was in fact no longer tropical in nature, but also for confusing the subject by trying to explain in the text of those warnings that it wasn't in fact a tropical storm. According to the NWS, they didn't want to mislead the public into thinking that the phenomenon associated with tropical storms (storm surge, tornadoes, squall lines, hurricane-force winds, etc.) no longer were present just because the storm had transitioned from from tropical to extra-tropical.

It doesn't help that many homeowners policies for the coastal United States have extremely specific clauses regarding hurricane, tropical storm, nor'easter, and other storms that come off the ocean as opposed to from the land, which makes classification even more important from a legal standpoint, as usually if it's classified as a Hurricane, insurance moves from a replacement policy to a shared or large deductible (I think 10 to 15% of the insured value of the home) policy. That's quite different from a $500 deductible when your home is worth $150,000.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Scientific Terminology

So, you're discounting the authors' argument entirely, merely because they used the commonly referred-to moniker for that storm, "Superstorm Sandy"? And then you dismiss the overwhelming preponderance of climate scientists' research and consensus as "unsupported IPCC fear mongering"?

If so, sir, may I propose that you are a thoroughgoing moron who prefers to counter reasonable argument with mere ad hominem attacks (as, admittedly, I just did myself, in a spirit of comradely parallelism), then add to them -- to use your unsupported term -- with unsupported assertions?

Ah, denialists... You folks would be an interesting, isolated cohort for a sociologist's grant-supportable PhD study of self-affirming religionists if you weren't so dangerous to reason, scientific argument, and thoughtful response to the inarguable warming of the planet.

And, yes, it is inarguable and human activity is causing it. As xkcd so aptly put it, "Science. It works, bitches."

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Re: Scientific Terminology

It would be odd if the changes in Arctic ice didn't have an effect on climate. The interesting thing is why the ice is disappearing. There are three factors, AGW, natural variation, and soot pollution. There's good body of peer reviewed evidence showing man made effects are the dominant cause, but recent work indicates that soot may be playing a much larger role in summer melt than had been previously assumed.

If soot is a significant factor it's a problem that is a piece of piss to fix compared with trying to prevent more CO2 getting into the atmosphere.

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Re: Scientific Terminology

It was a superstorm, because it no longer met the technical definition of a hurricane (it was too cold!).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Scientific Terminology

What's your proposal? Ask the Chinese and the US to put their economies on hold while they clean up their coal power stations, or send loads of squaddies to paint the snow white?

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Boffin

Re: Scientific Terminology

"...There are three factors, AGW, natural variation, and soot pollution...."

A very perceptive post.

There may actually be more factors - it would be sensible not to commit the enormous faux pas which IPCC made by saying that because we can't (won't?) think of any more reasons, therefore there aren't any.

It's worth pointing out here that Arctic ice cover has dipped somewhat in the last 10 years, though it seems to be recovering now. When it started dipping, it was noticed that warmer currents of water were making their way further north than usual, and that particularly strong winds were breaking up the ice surface. These seem to have been that major reasons for the ice-cover dip.

The problem with current 'peer-reviewed' climate science is that it is often fraudulent. An obvious example is the latest Marcott et al paper reviving the hockey-stick, which has just been shown to have passed peer-review as a PhD thesis without the hockey-stick graph ending, and then had that added later for publication.

With this sort of thing going on, 'peer-reviewed' has become a byword for deception.

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Stop

Re: Scientific Terminology

...And, yes, it is inarguable and human activity is causing it. As xkcd so aptly put it, "Science. It works, bitches."..

Aha... so the Earth's temperature is continuing to rise as the climate scientists predicted, is it?

Unfortunately, it isn't. And the scam artists have been revealed to be aware of this, but are still trying to scam us. "We can't account for the lack of warming - it's a travesty.."

So, if it's science, it works. This DOESN'T work. Still think it's science?

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Re: Scientific Terminology

"It's worth pointing out here that Arctic ice cover has dipped somewhat in the last 10 years, though it seems to be recovering now."

What a load of shit. You guys are shameless aren't you. How the fuck do you conclude it's "recovering now"? It only just broke a NEW record last September and now you guys are carping on about it recovering, just as you did after it broke it's last record in 2007.

You clowns will still be bullshitting about the ice recovering even when it's gone. Which at the current rate is going to be quite soon.

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Re: Scientific Terminology

Folks who think they talk to the dead are inarguably sure of it too.

There is no doubt that the Earth's climate is shifting (again), but that it's man made is bollocks.

Believe what you want, and suffer and sacrifice, but the rest of us are going to carry on with modern conveniences, cheap sources of energy and ignore the likes of you.

Also, the words of these scientists are full of climate change buzzwords and bullshit and it does have a discrediting effect.

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Re: Scientific Terminology

"Lessee, did I forget anything?"

Don't buy a house in a development called "The Water Meadows".

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WTF?

Re: Scientific Terminology

"It's worth pointing out here that Arctic ice cover has dipped somewhat in the last 10 years, though it seems to be recovering now."

Strange. I don't see that:

http://www.woodfortrees.org/plot/nsidc-seaice-n/compress:12/plot/nsidc-seaice-n/trend/plot/none

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Re: Scientific Terminology

"The problem with current 'peer-reviewed' climate science is that it is often fraudulent. An obvious example is the latest Marcott et al paper reviving the hockey-stick, which has just been shown to have passed peer-review as a PhD thesis without the hockey-stick graph ending, and then had that added later for publication."

Interesting. Where has this been shown?

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Mushroom

Re: Scientific Terminology @ AC 0702 GMT

And you have the temerity to say to denialists "Ah, denialists... You folks would be an interesting, isolated cohort for a sociologist's grant-supportable PhD study of self-affirming religionists". Et Tu Brutus

Methinks you should be looking closer to home for the "self-affirming" after you said :- "And, yes, it is inarguable and human activity is causing it"

usually, only a religious zealout says something that is NOT conclusively proven is inarguable - go figure on your comment...

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Childcatcher

The politics of it

Climate change is due to greenhouse gas emissions, say the scientists ...

... because that conclusion fits their data.

No it isn't, say the neoliberals ...

... because that's incompatible with deregulation and unconstrained growth.

Hence we are bombarded with propaganda to cast doubt on the science and the scientists - and jolly effective it is too!

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Re: The politics of it

It's the monomania with CO2 and feedback effects that's the problem.

Land use change also has a significant impact on on climate. You can't just build thousands of 100sq mile conurbations and cut down trees to grow crops that require irrigation without seeing changes in climate. The focus on CO2 has distracted effort in trying to gauge the significance of these effects. Consider the increased rain run-off from cities and towns, it goes to the sea when much might have been absorbed into the ground. How much contribution to sea level rise does that make? Recent papers have shown irrigation run-off as a significant player in sea level rise.

Ever wonder why we don't hear much about Kilimanjaro's shrinking glaciers any more? It's because all the evidence points to man made deforestation being the cause, not temperature rise.

The real debate is over the scale of these effects compare to that projected for CO2 from models. Remember, on it's own, doubling CO2 will give around a 1c rise in temps and everything else is feedback from that rise. Recent papers have pointed at a significantly reduced climate sensitivity.

The science isn't settled.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The politics of it

"Hence we are bombarded with propaganda to cast doubt on the science and the scientists - and jolly effective it is too!"

Except nobody is paying the pro-global-warming scientists for their opinions !

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Paris Hilton

Re: The politics of it

so they're working for free?

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Re: The politics of it

"Except nobody is paying the pro-global-warming scientists for their opinions !"

A rather lopsided percentage of global government research grant money is now going to climate research, far more than just a few years ago. The only reasonable explanation for this change is fear of a warmer world that will cause expensive trouble down the road.

Logically, if that fear dissipates, so will the new grant monies. Therefore, there is a strong incentive for those receiving those grants to maintain the fear of warming.. er, "climate change."

Maybe those scientists aren't being paid directly to lie, but the conflict of interest is huge.

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WTF?

60mph

The only reason why a 60mph wind had any publicity is because it landed over a very populated part of the USA. There is nothing exceptional about a force 11 hitting land just the reaction to it in the media.

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Re: 60mph

Apologies - force 10.

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Re: 60mph

And coincided with a spring high tide as well. Rather like Katrina, which was unexceptional as a storm, gaining its deadly effects from its location and timing.

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Re: 60mph

89 MPH recorded, and > 80MPH recorded across a wide area according to this article:

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2012/10/sandy_wind_speed_map_see_how_s.html

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Re: 60mph

What was exceptional was the size of the storm and thus the storm surge, which did the most damage.

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Re: 60mph

The ONLY reason? By nearly every measure Hurricane/Post-tropical Cyclone Sandy was an exceptional storm. For starters it was big - the storm bands extended roughly 500 miles from the center, and the effects were felt as far west as Michigan and Wisconsin.

Also, it was a slow-moving storm, with some of the affected areas experienced hurricane conditions for two or three days.

The wind speed is only part of the destructive equation of a hurricane - the more destructive part of the equation is water. Rain, storm surge, and in the case of Sandy ... snow. And Sandy offered up too much of all three. Most areas experienced at least 5-inches of rain, and the extra-high tides at the time made for an unusually high storm surge.

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Re: 60mph

Also I should point out that size of storm surge != size of waves. A surge is how much the water is piled up due to the storm, and is a rise in the base water level, like a tsunami. Waves are on top of this, like in an ordinary storm.

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Re: 60mph

Shoddy construction (houses on slabs on sand too close to the waterline) did play a factor. Note for someone who had a note about building in "stone" - apartments build on slabs too close to the waterline were also undermined and destroyed, but the substitution of particle board for plywood and 2x4s which no longer are mean that traditional wood construction is also far weaker than in the past.

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Re: 60mph

I don't know if anyone is reading anymore, but for posterity:

I live in southeast Virginia. We got hurricane-force winds both when it skirted the North Carolina-Virginia coast, and when it turned. - maybe 24 hours. Also, it was some nearby regions that got 12 inches We got near-record flooding in some areas (a couple of hurricanes in recent memory, most notably Isabel (sp?), also lingered and set the record - washing away a highway bridge in Chesapeake, I believe. The Outer Banks also got hit harder than it had in a long time by a surge. Some areas of Vermont were hit hard by rain flooding. BUT - I guess one can't always separate surges from estuarine flooding in the Chesapeake Bay, but river peaks occurred well after the surge, because much of the rain was dumped later (unlike Isabel). Google Earth gives a crow-flies distance of over 400 miles from Hatteras to NYC. Not all of these areas were as hard-hit by the surge, but it was huge in VA, and huge in NC (just ask folks in Manteo - houses were flooded and wrecked there), and NY as local records go. I measure the length of Great Britain's main island as under 600 miles. Thus, this is the equivalent of hitting over 2/3 of that coastline with an enormous storm surge.

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Anonymous Coward

Every weather disaster is caused by global warming

Typical new age science based on unsubstantiate opinion meaning it's pretty much a 50/50 chance of being wrong or worse.

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Whatever the cause...

... it looks like an accident waiting to happen

http://www.nyc.gov/html/oem/html/hazards/storms_hurricanehistory.shtml

The 1938 hurricane would have had a bigger impact had it hit the Boroughs. And there are a lot more waterfront properties than there were then.

One thing is for sure sides of the argument will seize on this as using selective quotes to prove that is was/was not CO2 that caused it.

Note that I did not say climate change. The climate changes and it is definitely affected by people. The question in my mind is how the changes can be attributed to CO2 and the cost of the precautionary principle.

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IT Angle

The 1987

storm that hit southern Britain had roughly the same cause, a blocking high to the north forcing the jet stream way further south than it usually runs in mid october, driving a mass of cold air into a warm low pressure area that usually haunts these isles at that time of year.

It was only the fact that it ran through southern england at 45-50mph that saved us from even worse damage than it did

Btw Sandy was barely a cat 2 storm when it landed, katrina was a strong 3

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Anonymous Coward

meh

Here in Orkney in Dec. 2011 we had sustained winds of 83mph and a maximum gust of 122mph.

That was recorded by the anemometer atop the 900kW turbine that is a mile from my house so it should be accurate.

Anything that could be blown away had already done so years before, most houses here are built of stone.

Down in London they think that the world will end if the wind exceeds 60mph.

Last year the "pinching" of the jet stream resulted in us getting anti-cyclones one after another. We are lucky if we get three sunny days in a row, Summer just does not happen like it did in our youth.

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Go

One Beeellion Dollars

"Sandy did something never observed before in records going back to 1851 – it took a sharp turn to the west and headed toward the most populated area along the eastern seaboard."

I see Dr. Evil's hurrican magnets are working as expected, even if the accompanying surge failed to deposit the promised sharks with laser beams on shore.

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Bronze badge

Columbo* time, folks!

Just the facts, please.

1) ""With the increasing frequency of extreme weather events serving as a backdrop, ..."

Sir, I can't find any record of such an alibi. Could you be more specific?

2) "...the recent record-breaking losses of Arctic sea ice ..."

Ma'am, are you referring to the *satellite* record, which only goes back 30 years? My wife tells me it was warm up there about 90 years ago, which predates the claimed period of human influence on global temperatures. Have you looked at Arctic ice extent back then?

*Beloved fictional TV detective played by Peter Falk.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Columbo* time, folks!

I congratulate your wife on her excellent memory.

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Boffin

puzzling

The puzzling element for me is the suggested link between melting summer ice and increase of overall temperatures at the Arctic (or decrease of gradient between Arctic and middle latitudes) in terms of cause and effect. We're talking about a significant warming around the globe within quite a broad strip in a time where most global measurements report a stabilizing or even slight cooling around the globe. Maybe this is just a matter of energy distribution and local absorption but I'm hesitant to just assume "excess heat" would simply bounce back like that. I'd suggest going over historical records and check if in periods of similar global temperatures and (therefore) melting summer ice the weather patterns indeed changed in similar ways in terms of storms and local cooling. These type of experiment do not fit in labs so unless one has a reliable computer model (and there isn't) the past record looks like the only way to verify these connections.

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Had the storm been of the same magnitude as the famous "Long Island Express" hurricane of 1938, way more damage would have been seen. That hurricane moved northward at 70 mph vs. the slow meandering @ 30 mph of Sandy. Had it occurred at spring tide, it would have also caused more damage. If we continue to build in flood prone areas, we'll have more damage to structures when flood hit.

CAGW doesn't exist, at least like it's portrayed.

1. Urban heat islands exist, but that's land use, not global warming. Most of the meteorological sites fail quality tests for measurement. Rural sites show no significant temperature change, while urban sites show increasing temperatures.

2. The sea level is creeping up at ~3mm/yr, or falling, depending where you take the measurements. Sties with subsidence show greater rates of sea level rise - surprise.

3. The Arctic Ocean is melting more, but it's done so in the past too - see the early 20th Century. Mariners have sailed between the Atlantic and Pacific for centuries, and documented it in ships logs.

4. The Antarctic ice is increasing, and the icebergs breaking off are already floating before they break off - note glaciers retreat, not advance, as temperatures rise, so that's not the cause of the icebergs.

5. ENSO drives our climate strongly and the oscillations correlate well with our climate changes.

6. The Pacific Decadal Oscillation drives the Arctic Ocean melt, as does changes in the AMO, Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation.

7. None of the ARGO floats even remotely hint at the "missing heat" in the ocean.

8. It's been a lot warmer in the past 10,000 years than it is now - despite the attempts at using manipulated proxie graphs to try to show sudden change.

If you want to see the unmaniplulated data and make up your own mind, visit the dataset pages of WUWT. You don't have to read the blog, just use the data pages, they're on the lower righthand side of the column. Sea Ice, ENSO, TSI, etc. There, and with the raw data for inquiring minds. Some of the datasets are large, you might want to bone up on R for processing them.

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1. Even if you only use the best meteorological stations that pass quality tests you see warming. Even if you use rural stations you see warming (significant warming). Heck even if you only use ocean data you see warming. Or use satellite data. The idea that global warming is just urban heat islands, or bad station siting was an idea discredited over a decade ago.

2. The 3mm/year sea level rise is the global average measured by satellite. It isn't due to subsidence.

3. The evidence from ice boundaries as recorded by shipping logs is that the Arctic now has less ice than any point in the 20th century. While there was a period of lower ice in the 30s, that's been exceeded by the decline in the last decade. Now even unreinforced boats are making the passage.

4. The Antarctic is melting. Satellite measurements show the continent to be losing mass and contributing to sea level rise.

5. ENSO is an oscillation and has a longterm trend of zero. It cannot explain any of the warming over the past 100 years because it just goes back and forth.

6. There's no evidence the PDO or AMO drive Arctic melt. There's now even good evidence the PDO doesn't drive Arctic melt, as it switched a few years back and yet Arctic melt has continued.

7. The ARGO floats show a gain in heat in the top 2000m of the ocean:

http://www.nodc.noaa.gov/OC5/3M_HEAT_CONTENT/

8. Scientists expect the last 10,000 years to begin with a warm period, because the Earth's tilt back then favored more sunlight in NH summers. The NH being mostly land warms up faster than the SH being mostly ocean. So a warmer NH and slightly warmer globe is expected. However what isn't expected, and cannot be explained except by manmade climate change, is that temperatures in the past 100 years have shot up and the world is now warmer than most of the past 10,000 years and is approaching the peak.

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