|Poor Science, biased science, distorted science and the 'warmers' - new religion
Contents of this page are out of date and for historical use only
The infamous 'hockey stick' graph (Professor M. Mann) that magically wiped out our historically recorded warm periods to better fit global warming propaganda
Well, well, the cat is truly out of its bag thanks to the 'leaking' of a series of emails from and between the 'leading lights' of the IPPC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). These leaked emails tell a story of scientific fraud i.e. çherry-picked' data to further the global warming cause. Also revealed is the use of very dodgy computer modelling programmes without a proper audit trail to ensure all changes to the code and assumptions used within the model are transparently recorded within the project. They, (IPCC researchers) also came up with strategies to ensure any academic voices contrary to the global warming ''theory'' would not be heard i.e. research papers of an alternative hue were turned down for publication from the major science journals. To a large extent, the major science journals are also controlled, guillable or scientifically naive because in this sense, they colluded with the IPCC researchers to block any views other than the global warmers. As expected much of the media, particularly the environmental correspondents of the major newspapers are in a state of shock because they are unable to formulate a strategy to honestly report these revelations. For many people, particularly those acadmic institutions receiving research grants from the IPCC to 'normalise' global warming 'theory', their world has literally caved in under their feet and I guess, trying to distance themselves from the disgraced antics of the Climate Unit at the University of East Anglia.
Purely within a scientific perspective, this series of events will rock the annuls and halls of science and be the cause of much soul searching. This is more than a 'spat' between scientists over the interpretation of data, rather it is the first step in the demolition of the global warming strategy that we now know is steeped in fraud and deception. The basis of scientific objectivity is squarely in the dock of public gaze and there is very little the dishonorable IPPC 'gophers' can do about it. They have already started to squirm under the gaze of the public spotlight by saying that the data on which the entire contents of the various IPPC reports were based on since 1991 'have been lost'!!
Surely, these centres of deception have a backup server just in case the main servers break down? Not only that, the dissemination of this data must also be held somewhere within the other 3 datacentres? Not only that, they have consistently refused to release any climate data even when asked under a Freedom of Information (FOI) request. This is morally criminal and illegal under UK law. Someone else within the University of East Anglia will no doubt carry the can for this FOI 'oversight'. The scientific standing of this university and others that are in league with this global deception will suffer massively and I truly feel sorry for all the ordinary students who have just started or just ended their studies at these universities because the University of east Anglia is heavily tainted with the smell arising from the prostituting of their name in the cause of greed i.e. receiving many research grants to produce scientific reports that were made 'to order' i.e. data fiddled with and hoisted within the scientific community and upon the public as a set of scientific 'truths'.
Dark suits and Untruths:
In spite of the revelations of 'climategate', this will not stop the politicians from attempting to impose many more heavy taxes on ordinary citizens under the guise of 'meeting targets on CO2 reductions agreed during the Copenhagen Conference. I reproduce David Ickes' take on these events followed by some more of my musings from back in the day (here).
From a spiritual perspective, yet another example of dark deeds that are under the 'spotlight' of these new energies coursing their way into our little speck within the cosmos: boy do they shine. Much more has to come out of this and I feel that sooner rather than later, all the major players and their complicit associations within the so-called 'global warming project' (Illuminati-derived) will be laid bare before public gaze as nothing more than a series of historical strategies in which our freedom to express ourselves in whatever way we want has been regulated out of existence or taxed to such an extent that merely breathing air is deemed an offence punishable by a fine (lol).
Global warming and cooling are both cyclical and natural events. The levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) have been rising since records began i.e. around the 1850s. The theory says that as the levels of CO2 increase, global temperatures will increase as the lower atmosphere heats up due to the buildup of solar longwave radiation. The lower atmosphere is the region in which all of our weather takes place. In short a 'greenhouse effect' takes place whereby shortwave radiation from the sun hits the ground, heats up the surface, gets reflected back into the atmosphere as longwave radiation and then undergoes chemical 'collisions' with greenhouse gases, the heat gets trapped, thereby building up and heating the lower atmosphere. There are numerous 'greenhouse gases' present in the atmosphere i.e. water vapour, nitrous oxides, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and carbon dioxide (CO2) to name but a few. I am also aware that any study of the atmosphere is complex simply because you cannot study one interface i.e. the atmosphere without its relation to the surface be it land or water bodies. All is connected to everything else and an input in one physical sphere will make itself felt in another. In fact, if you look at the dynamics of the Water and Carbon cycles, making sense of what is going on becomes more and more complex. At the same time, the precessional 'wobble' of the planet Earth as it rotates around the sun needs to be factored in. Significantly, the 11 year sunspot cycle of energy from the sun and how it interacts with the upper and lower atmosphere of our planet is also important (probably the major factor of global climate dynamics) and needs to be acknowledged. Thus there are cycles within cycles within cycles that need to be fully understood when attempting to construct predictive trends in climate dynamics within a particular region or more problematically, at a global level.
This level of complexity cannot be understood by most people and computers are needed to help visualise what is going on using predictive modelling techniques. Computers are fairly powerful nowadays so the actual 'number crunching scenarios are not too problematic. The real problem of computer modelling lies in the fact that in order for the model output to be robust in terms of its predictive trends, athe dynamics of the inputs need to be recognised and their environmental significance graded correctly. Some idea of 'uncertainty' within modelling outputs and scenarios should also be looked at and noted within any scientific report that is to be used by policy makers. The old adage 'rubbish in - rubbish out' applies here. Superimposed on all of this is the fact that planet Earth has undergone numerous cycles of global heating and cooling in the form of 'ice ages' for millions of years yet much of the available data in terms of greenhouse gas accumulation in the lower atmosphere commence only from about the mid-1800s. Thus, 'indirect methods' need to be looked at i.e. ice core data with its associated package of elements and substances need to be carefully scrutinised because we need to understand probable cause and effect scenarios from way back in the history of the planet. It is also glaringly obvious from the stance of most scientists that the last mini ice-age took place in the 1600s and the northern hemisphere and its temperature has climbed back from very low levels to its probable equilibrium temperatures of the past decade or so.
Another important and significant factor that needs to be addressed in the current debate on global warming (now mutated or watered down to 'climate change') is that science does not operate in a vacuum and its general thrust of inquiry is largely politically, socially and culturally driven. An example of this is the outputs of a major report produced by the IPCC (Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change). At its inception, many of the leading lights within Atmospheric Science signed up, carried out their work, reported back their data and conclusions and found to their horror that the main thrust of the Panels conclusions were based on political considerations rather than its scientific findings. Many of these authors asked that their names/contributions to the report be omitted in its final version but were ignored. Much of the work carried out on global warming is also defined within a single strictly defined cause-effect pathway i.e. levels of CO2 in the lower atmosphere are responsible for global warming effects. Any research team that offers an alternative theory to this particular 'paradigm' will not be funded and hence, their voice and views will not be heard.
Another important societal facet now underlying this current debate is that anyone who disagrees with the prevailing assertion that CO2 = global warming is labelled a 'skeptic'!! Pardon me for thinking but, science is supposed to advance by one set of ideas (based on observable data) superceding the current paradigm based on its ability to explain and predict what has, is and will happen in the future much more convincingly than the paradigm it is about to replace! (see my article on Thomas Kuhn - overturning scientific paradigms).
As I write this there is an interesting 'battle' going on within the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) on what they report and also the way in which they report these issues. From about the 1960s onwards through the 1970s the BBC and other media outlets reported on predictions from the talking heads of that time that the UK and Europe was but whiskers away from another ice age. This has now completely turned on its head and they report the opposite effect, championing the notion that CO2 = global warming. There are now 'cracks' within the wallpaper from one of the Beebs own climate correspondent (see full article below)!
I also enclose an interesting discussion on a 'localised' (within Europe and northern Europe) discussion(Horizon, 13 October 2003) on the possible effects of global warming on freshwater melt reducing seawater salinities to the extent that the Gulf Stream conveyor belt of warm waters that pass parallel to the coasts of Western UK is disrupted. The consensus of this programme is that as the ice sheets from Greenland melt they reduce the salinity of seawater which in effect means that this body of water becomes less dense. This in turn means that the dynamics of the Gulf Stream waters change as they are unable to sink to the depths of the ocean. This warm water flow will effectively plunge the UK and parts of Europe into an ice age. The basis of these views is firmly within the CO2= global warming mind-set because they accept that global warming leads to an almost total meltdown of ice within and around Greenland. However, it is clear that the modelling of this is both juvenile and unrealistic. I get the idea from this discussion that they all assume that Greenland is a big blob of ice that is uniform in character with depth.
The 'common sense' view of most people I know on this topic is that weather is changeable in the short term and that climate is changeable over longer periods and that's the way its always been. I agree but think that climate dynamics are directly related to sunspot activities and if you can find data on warming (and cooling) trends versus sunspot number you will see a much better fit between the data compared to that presented in Al Gore's musing i.e. temperature trends with increasing CO2 levels.
This notion that CO2 = global warming and all the ensuing dire consequences of it has a real sting in the tail for ordinary citizens of planet Earth. Currently, industry has to trade carbon permits i.e. permissions to pollute between themselves to an agreed nationwide level and of course, these carbon exchanges now feature as normal industrial /financial activity on the Stock Exchange. The next step will be for all the large supra-national trading blocks i.e. the EU, North America/Mexico/Canada etc to impose taxes on people to reduce their carbon footprint. There also appear to be a lot of fairly weird ideas on how to tackle so-called global warming and many scientists point the finger at cows and other ruminants in India and elsewhere farting and belching methane (another greenhouse gas) into the atmosphere. This is truly laughable but they are getting funding to alter the micro-organisms within the gastrointestinal tract to try and decrease levels of methane from the cow. There appear to be no systematic ordering of specific greenhouse gases and their contribution to global warming. Water vapour within the lower atmosphere for example will have a much greater effect on keeping the lower atmosphere warm and this it has done since time out of mind. In fact, our planet would be a lot cooler without these and other gases being present in the atmosphere. The levels of carbon dioxide from industrial activities and activities from our spending and consumer choices also feature as small cheese in comparison to levels of CO2 produced from natural events such as materials emitted from volcanic eruptions and other chronic and spasmodic events. We have evolved alongside the carbon cycle (which is still largely misunderstood) and it sort of goes against the grain to think that we have polluted the upper atmosphere to such an extent that radiative forcing can take place.
In spite of all the environmental insults that we daily inflict on our planet, Gaia has all sorts of feedback loops to try and maintain environmental equilibriums so that for most of us, the air is breathable, the sun shines and we can get on with living our lives. If we really want to sort out these various insults, industry needs to clean up its act. We could start by asking all the big shop owners in our cities to turn off their lights when they close their doors. A walk through any big city show that there are many ways in which we can curtail our economic activities by observing common sense. Un-necessary packaging is another area we can look at. We can ask industry - do we really need to cover individual fruit and vegetables in plastic? A lot could be done but I suspect the real agenda here is for supra-national governments to control and regulate every aspect of our consumer activities so that they levy all sorts of çarbon' taxes and tithes.
The bright side to all of this is that some 'inconvenient truths' are silently emerging that global temperatures are actually falling and at some stage everyone will have to face facts as they present themselves. Even if the mainstream media ignore the cold realities of day, ordinary people all over the globe will begin to wonder and question whether in fact, our elected representatives and media pundits actually live on this planet. Truth will eventually out at some stage and for most people this will be a real wake-up call.
What happened to global warming?
By Paul Hudson, Climate correspondent, BBC News
Average temperatures have not increased for over a decade
This headline may come as a bit of a surprise, so too might that fact that the warmest year recorded globally was not in 2008 or 2007, but in 1998.
But it is true. For the last 11 years we have not observed any increase in global temperatures.
And our climate models did not forecast it, even though man-made carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be responsible for warming our planet, has continued to rise.
So what on Earth is going on?
Climate change skeptics, who passionately and consistently argue that man's influence on our climate is overstated, say they saw it coming.
They argue that there are natural cycles, over which we have no control, that dictate how warm the planet is. But what is the evidence for this?
During the last few decades of the 20th Century, our planet did warm quickly.
Recent research has ruled out solar influences on temperature increases
Skeptics argue that the warming we observed was down to the energy from the Sun increasing. After all 98% of the Earth's warmth comes from the Sun.
But research conducted two years ago, and published by the Royal Society, seemed to rule out solar influences.
The scientists' main approach was simple: to look at solar output and cosmic ray intensity over the last 30-40 years, and compare those trends with the graph for global average surface temperature.
And the results were clear. "Warming in the last 20 to 40 years can't have been caused by solar activity," said Dr Piers Forster from Leeds University, a leading contributor to this year's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
But one solar scientist Piers Corbyn from Weatheraction, a company specialising in long range weather forecasting, disagrees.
He claims that solar charged particles impact us far more than is currently accepted, so much so he says that they are almost entirely responsible for what happens to global temperatures.
He is so excited by what he has discovered that he plans to tell the international scientific community at a conference in London at the end of the month.
If proved correct, this could revolutionise the whole subject.
What is really interesting at the moment is what is happening to our oceans. They are the Earth's great heat stores.
In the last few years [the Pacific Ocean] has been losing its warmth and has recently started to cool down
According to research conducted by Professor Don Easterbrook from Western Washington University last November, the oceans and global temperatures are correlated.
The oceans, he says, have a cycle in which they warm and cool cyclically. The most important one is the Pacific decadal oscillation (PDO).
For much of the 1980s and 1990s, it was in a positive cycle, that means warmer than average. And observations have revealed that global temperatures were warm too.
But in the last few years it has been losing its warmth and has recently started to cool down.
These cycles in the past have lasted for nearly 30 years.
So could global temperatures follow? The global cooling from 1945 to 1977 coincided with one of these cold Pacific cycles.
Professor Easterbrook says: "The PDO cool mode has replaced the warm mode in the Pacific Ocean, virtually assuring us of about 30 years of global cooling."
So what does it all mean? Climate change sceptics argue that this is evidence that they have been right all along.
They say there are so many other natural causes for warming and cooling, that even if man is warming the planet, it is a small part compared with nature.
But those scientists who are equally passionate about man's influence on global warming argue that their science is solid.
The UK Met Office's Hadley Centre, responsible for future climate predictions, says it incorporates solar variation and ocean cycles into its climate models, and that they are nothing new.
In fact, the centre says they are just two of the whole host of known factors that influence global temperatures - all of which are accounted for by its models.
In addition, say Met Office scientists, temperatures have never increased in a straight line, and there will always be periods of slower warming, or even temporary cooling.
What is crucial, they say, is the long-term trend in global temperatures. And that, according to the Met office data, is clearly up.
To confuse the issue even further, last month Mojib Latif, a member of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) says that we may indeed be in a period of cooling worldwide temperatures that could last another 10-20 years.
The UK Met Office says that warming is set to resume
Professor Latif is based at the Leibniz Institute of Marine Sciences at Kiel University in Germany and is one of the world's top climate modellers.
But he makes it clear that he has not become a sceptic; he believes that this cooling will be temporary, before the overwhelming force of man-made global warming reasserts itself.
So what can we expect in the next few years?
Both sides have very different forecasts. The Met Office says that warming is set to resume quickly and strongly.
It predicts that from 2010 to 2015 at least half the years will be hotter than the current hottest year on record (1998).
Sceptics disagree. They insist it is unlikely that temperatures will reach the dizzy heights of 1998 until 2030 at the earliest. It is possible, they say, that because of ocean and solar cycles a period of global cooling is more likely.
One thing is for sure. It seems the debate about what is causing global warming is far from over. Indeed some would say it is hotting up.
BBC discussion from back in the day:
The Big Chill - transcript
NARRATOR (JACK FORTUNE): In thirty years time they say Britain’s summers could be like the South of France. By the end of the century we could be as hot as Greece. This they say is what global warming could bring us. But a growing number of scientists believe we could have our future climate completely wrong.
PROF BILL MCGUIRE: I can only describe it as catastrophic. It’s clearly going to influence every single one of us every day of our lives.
Dr RICHARD WOOD: You could expect to see sea ice off the coast of South East England, probably several miles off shore.
BOB GASGOSIAN: The implications are huge. The economic implications, the political implications, and the national security implications, for all countries.
NARRATOR: If these scientists have it right forget the Riviera, Britain could be heading for a climate like Alaska’s. And it could all happen in the just the next twenty years.
NARRATOR: In the Atlantic waters north of Scotland a fisheries researcher was the first to record a warning from the deep. Bill Turrell has spent his career studying the ocean currents. Until recently his concern has been how they affect fish stocks. But ten years ago he began to see something in the water that really alarmed him.
DR BILL TURRELL (Marine Laboratory, Aberdeen): We really worried when we saw these results, we’d never seen a change like this ever before. Changes that don’t occur quickly and don't stop quickly.
NARRATOR: Turrell believes that he has found evidence that a climate catastrophe could be heading right towards us.
DR BILL TURRELL: These changes are fundamental, they’re substantial. They are going to impact our climate and the climate our children have to live in.
NARRATOR: If he is right then Britain could be heading for a massive drop in temperatures. It seems we could be heading for something like an ice age. The ice ages were one of the greatest forces nature has unleashed on our planet.
PROF BILL MCGUIRE (University College London): They simply were the most dynamic, destructive phenomenon that’s ever hit the planet. They involve glaciers hurtling down from mountainous regions, pouring out from the polar regions and devastating everything in their paths, grinding rock to nothing, lowering mountains, filling valleys.
NARRATOR: More than twenty times in the earth’s history ice sheets have come down from the North Pole, the last one struck a hundred thousand years ago. Britain was buried in a tomb of ice.
PROF BILL MCGUIRE: Effectively they wiped the slate clean in the northern hemisphere, over twenty times in the last two million years.
NARRATOR: These events were so terrible that for years scientists wondered what had caused it, and could they ever threaten us again.
NARRATOR: In the search for answers they turned to the sun, our ultimate source of heat. They discovered that the pattern of ice ages matched strange wobbles in the earth’s orbit around the sun. These altered how the sun’s heat shone upon the earth. They allowed the ice to grow and retreat.
Prof RICHARD ALLEY (Penn State University): And these wiggles in earth’s orbit are very regular, they’re very predictable, they make sense and so there’s this long slow bumpy slide in to an ice age and then a climb out of an ice age.
NARRATOR: They found that the ice ages didn’t happen at random. They followed a slow and predictable pattern. It took ninety thousand years to grow an ice sheet and about ten thousand years to melt it. That predictability allowed scientists to calculate when the next one was due. It was reassuring news, not for thousands of years.
Prof RICHARD ALLEY: For a big ice age, a big climate change, we don’t expect anything to happen on human time scales of a few dozen generations.
NARRATOR: The message from the sun seemed to be clear. We had no reason to fear a massive drop in temperatures, at least that’s what conventional theory said.
NARRATOR: Then fifteen years ago Richard Alley came to Greenland to study how our climate had changed since the last ice age.
Prof RICHARD ALLEY: When we started working in Greenland we knew we were on to something big. We really expected that we were going to find things that might surprise us.
NARRATOR: Greenland is like an ancient thermometer, a unique record of what has happened to the weather. Every single year for the last a hundred thousand years. It’s all because the ice is preserved in layers, the further down you drill the older the snow.
Prof RICHARD ALLEY: If you took all these pieces of core that have been collected and put them end to end they’re about two miles long and this is a sort of two mile time machine.
NARRATOR: Each layer records what was happening in the earth’s atmosphere at the time the ice was formed. Whether it’s the traces of a huge natural disaster or pollution from human activity, it’s all frozen and perfectly preserved.
Prof RICHARD ALLEY: We can see this, this ice core is beautifully layered and we can ask of it what happened, what was coming through the atmosphere at that time. Is there ash and acids from a big volcano, is there lead from Roman lead refining or what have you? So there’s this history of what was blowing through the air and piling up on top of the Greenland ice sheet, sitting here on these beautiful layers.
NARRATOR: But the most important measurement preserved in the layers is the temperature. The ice that Ally brought back to the lab was in effect the annual weather reports since the beginning of the last ice age. What he was looking for was changes in the amount of so called heavy water held in the ice. The basic rule, the more heavy water the warmer the climate. If the conventional wisdom about climate change was true then when he plotted the results he would expect to see slow changes in heavy water as the world warmed and cooled during the last ice age. But that’s not what he found.
Prof RICHARD ALLEY: This flabbergasted us, I think this flabbergasted a lot of people.
NARRATOR: The changes were anything but slow. He saw that temperatures could drop suddenly and catastrophically. And it happened far more often than was predicted by the passage of ice ages.
Prof RICHARD ALLEY: The world sometimes did change in the slow grand sleeps and sometimes it changed like a light switch.
NARRATOR: The earth’s past was full of devastating climate jilts, none as bad as a full ice age but enough to turn Britain in to Alaska. The search was on to find out what could trigger these climatic disasters. They searched through the ice record for clues. Had huge volcanoes blotted out the sun? There was no evidence for that. A succession of asteroid impacts? Again, no evidence. More wobbles in the sun’s orbit? That didn’t fit. In fact no one could account for what Ally had discovered. Except for one man who thought he could. Wally Broecker is the guru of climate science. He was convinced that it was all to do with the oceans.
Prof WALLY BROECKER (Columbia University): I’m convinced that the ocean is at the core of the whole thing. The trigger lies in the ocean.
NARRATOR: Not everyone saw it his way.
Prof WALLY BROECKER: And of course you started out was three allies in a hundred people, who think it’s nuts.
NARRATOR: Broecker’s attention was drawn to one ocean current in particular, the gulf stream. Britain bathes in its heat. It begins south of the equator and as it flows along the gulf of Mexico it absorbs heat from the tropics. It continues on past the coast of Britain.
Prof WALLY BROECKER: It’s roughly equal to all the rain in the world. Fifteen million cubic meters per second.
NARRATOR: The current carries the heat of a million power stations. It means we can swim in the sea at the same latitudes that Canada has polar bears. But the most important thing about it happens further north. It sinks.
Prof WALLY BROECKER: When it gets up in to the northern regions of the Atlantic, cooled and make denser and it sinks in to the deep sea and goes back the other way.
NARRATOR: This sinking is caused by salt in the water. When the salty water cools near Greenland it becomes so dense that it plummets to the bottom of the ocean. The water then heads back south to where the gulf stream began, and the whole process begins again. It’s a continuously circulating belt of water and heat, that’s why it’s called the conveyor. The sinking off Greenland is vital, this is what keeps Britain forever warm. So Wally began to speculate what would happen if the conveyor ceased to flow. Could that explain those dramatic falls in temperature? Trouble was most scientists were convinced that the oceans never changed at all.
Prof WALLY BROECKER: People tended to think about it as something that went on and on and on and on. We assume that the properties of the ocean are at a steady state, but if it’s changing then you can't assume that anymore and it makes real chaos.
NARRATOR: Then came something that shocked everyone out of their complacency. Something so small it might have been completely overlooked. Lloyd Keigwin spends his time examining mud samples from the bottom of the ocean. Mud cores just like the ice in Greenland can tell the history of activity in the ocean and what was going on in the conveyor. In particular Keigwin was looking for tiny sea shells called forams. These lurk on the ocean floor feeding on nutrients that sink to the sea bed.
Dr LLOYD KEIGWIN (Woods Hole Oceanographic Inst.): The forams build their shells out of calcium carbonate like any sea shell you’d find on the beach. And when they take carbon and oxygen and other elements out of the water to make their shell the chemistry of their shell reflects the chemistry and the physical properties of the water.
NARRATOR: When the conveyor flows most of the nutrients get swept past the forams, and so their shells are usually poor in nutrients.
Dr LLOYD KEIGWIN: When the conveyor is on the deep water of the north Atlantic is continually being flushed out and there aren’t a lot of nutrients that have accumulated. But if the conveyor went in to an off mode or a reduced mode um more nutrients would accumulate.
NARRATOR: Keigwin developed a way of measuring how much nutrients the forams must have absorbed.
Dr LLOYD KEIGWIN: We add a little more liquid nitrogen here, and this trap will capture the carbon dioxide produced as this sample falls in the hot acid. And soon we’ll know was the conveyor circulation on or off at this particular time.
NARRATOR: To his surprise he found massive variations in the composition of the shells. In other words at times in the past the conveyor must have switched off. When this work was published Wally Broecker knew exactly what it meant. It was the clue he had been looking for.
Prof WALLY BROECKER: The greatest joy to a scientist is discovery. It’s almost as if nature is trying to prevent us from uncovering her secrets.
NARRATOR: So he put it all together. The huge drops in temperature seen in the Greenland ice, the shells that said the conveyor had been cut off, they had to be connected.
Prof WALLY BROECKER: Well it was, it was this merging two parts of my science, the understanding of the ocean and the understanding of the climate. It popped in to my head that one way you could do that would be by turning on and off the what’s now called the conveyor belt, the deep water formation in the north Atlantic. And so I got the idea well hell if you turned that on and off or up and down, that could make at least in Europe very large climate changes.
NARRATOR: Broecker believed this explained the massive jolts in temperature seen in Greenland, the conveyor had switched off.
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NARRATOR: And if it had happened before it could happen again. And if it did Britain would be plunged in to a bitterly cold climate. But then someone pointed out one obvious flaw in the theory. This isn’t the age of global cooling but of global warming. Eight of the ten warmest years on record fell in the last decade. Climate experts are predicting temperatures to rise faster than at any time since the last ice age.
Dr RICHARD WOOD (Met. Office): The models that are used to make the predictions of global warming suggest that by the end of the century the warming we would see will be between about one and a half degrees and around six degrees. And really to go to see that in historical context you’d have to go back hundreds of thousands, maybe even millions of years to see a climate in the past that was that warm.
NARRATOR: The effects of global warming are being felt across the planet. The talk is not of ice but about how to prepare for hotter weather and the extremes that would bring.
PROF BILL MCGUIRE: Global warming should make the UK a more hazardous place to live. Particularly during the winter when we have not only more rain but we have more heavy precipitation, bursts of extreme rainfall. This is going to mean that for example river flooding is much more common, much more frequent and its implications will be much more serious.
Dr RICHARD WOOD: They’ll be changes in er frequency of things like tropical cyclones. And possible storms in the er outside the tropics and there are some latitudes to the UK and Europe.
NARRATOR: These are the changes our government is urgently planning for in the coming century. But recent discoveries suggest we might have to gear up for ice, not heat and rain. But our understanding of global warming maybe too simplistic. One of the most important of these discoveries was made by a team of NASA scientists based inside the arctic circle. Bill Krabill and his team have spent the last decade monitoring the effect of global warming upon the vast Greenland ice sheet.
BILL KRABILL (NASA, Wallops Island): This particular area, you can think of it as a huge ice cube that nicely offers global climate, an ice cube that’s a thousand miles long, four hundred miles wide and two miles thick in the centre.
NARRATOR: For years accurate measurements of the effects of global warming across the ice sheet were impossible. It was just too huge and inhospitable to measure from the ground. So they took to the air. Greenland is one of the biggest blocks of frozen water in the world. And if it started to melt the effects would be felt worldwide.
BOB THOMAS (NASA, Wallops Island): It comprises enough water to raise sea level by about six or seven metres if it all were to melt.
NARRATOR: They mapped the ice with a combination of global positioning satellites and lasers. The satellite measures the height of the plane and the laser measures the distance from the plane to the ice.
BILL KRABILL: There are five thousand individual beams per second that are being projected in to that scan there and then down in a pattern on the surface, measures the surface at ten centimetre accuracy.
NARRATOR: At five year intervals they have flown the same route across the island, each time they have measured the height of the ice. By comparing the two measurements they can see if the ice is growing or shrinking.
BILL KRABILL : There’s definitely changes taking place here, all over the margin of the Greenland ice sheet it is thinning. It’s equivalent to fifty cubic kilometres of ice and snow that are disappearing off the Greenland ice sheet each year.
NARRATOR: This fifty gigotonnes of water melting from Greenland was the first evidence that global warming might be effecting the ice sheet here. But one change really shocked them. They started to measure one of the island’s biggest glaciers.
BOB THOMAS: Less than ten years ago, five years ago, it was moving at about six, seven kilometres per year. And that was more or less in balance with the snowfall. Now in the five years since then the speed is almost doubled.
NARRATOR: It’s now advancing at twelve kilometres a year. The increase seems to be linked to global warming. It’s the fastest moving glacier on the planet. It dumps enough fresh water in to the sea each day to supply London for several months. Global warming seems to be reshaping the whole landscape of one of the biggest ice sheets on earth.
BOB THOMAS: Well I myself am convinced that global warming has affected the dynamics of the Greenland ice sheet and um that is possibly because increased melt water is creeping to the bed through crevasses and boullans and lubricating the bed and making it far more easy for the er, for the ice to flow.
NARRATOR: NASA have recently doubled their estimates of how much fresh water is coming off Greenland. To a hundred cubic kilometres per year. And much of that fresh water is flowing towards the sinking zone of the conveyor. Scientists began to wonder just what could be the effect of all that fresh water on the conveyor. They began to realise that because the conveyor was driven by the salty water sinking then too much fresh water would dilute the salt and so if the salt was diluted too much the conveyor wouldn’t sink.
Dr TERRY JOYCE (Woods Hole Oceanographic Inst.): What’s amazing about this is that how well fine tuned the system is. Where only a one percent chance in the salinities maybe significant, may tip us over in to this regime where the water is too fresh at higher altitudes to sink and the conveyor will stop.
NARRATOR: Cut off the conveyor and a climate catastrophe would happen. The only question was just how much fresh water would it take. The truth is that no one quite knows. What they do know is that Greenland isn’t the half of it. There is another even bigger source of fresh water heading straight for the sinking zone. Predictions are that global warming will lead to a much wetter world, because warm air can hold more moisture. And when it heads north and cools it should lead to more rain. In 2000 a team of American scientists travelled to Siberia. They studied the effects of global warming on some of the biggest rivers in the world.
Dr BRUCE PETERSON (MBL, Woods Hole): If you took the Ob, the Enesai and the Elena rivers and put them side by side you’d have a volume of discharge equivalent to three Mississippi rivers.
NARRATOR: The rivers collect rain that has fallen over a vast area of land. They already carry nearly twenty times the amount of fresh water towards the sinking zone, then drains from the ice in Greenland. Peterson wanted to find out if global warming had led to more water in these rivers. The warming in the last hundred years is only about half a degree. He measured how the flow of water had changed.
Dr BRUCE PETERSON: An increase in annual discharge of a hundred and twenty eight cubic kilometres per year. You probably can not imagine what a hundred and twenty eight cubic kilometres per year’s like. It’s a large volume of water.
NARRATOR: And in the coming century we’re expecting up to ten times more global warming. So Peterson decided to calculate how much more fresh water that could bring.
Dr BRUCE PETERSON: At the end of the next hundred years we expect approximately fifty percent increase in the discharge that these rivers would occur.
NARRATOR: It’s a horrifying prospect. A fifty percent increase in some of the world’s biggest rivers. If Peterson’s projections are true a vast wall of fresh water will soon come flooding through northern Siberia. An extra thousand cubic kilometres a year more could flow in to the salty waters of the conveyor. The impact could be immense. And that was the warning that Bill Turrell had seen in the deep. He’s been monitoring the saltiness of the conveyor as it flows past the Faro Isles north of Scotland.
DR BILL TURRELL: This is the device we use to measure the salinity in the ocean. These bottles here collect the water samples that we bring back to the ship to analyse, to collaborate the electronics which are down here. This package measures temperature, salinity, about twenty five times a second as we lower it down from the surface down to the seabed.
NARRATOR: If the saltiness of the water is dropping it’s a sign that the driving force of the conveyor is weakening.
DR BILL TURRELL: This graph shows the salinity or saltiness of the bottom water. It’s the saltiness from 1900 to the present day.
NARRATOR: Until the 1970s the salinity had been almost constant. But then it began to drop.
DR BILL TURRELL: After the late seventies we began to see a freshening of the bottom water. So much so that we, we began to doubt our own results. We took further samples, we checked with other countries who are sampling the same water, until eventually we became convinced that this change was actually happening.
NARRATOR: Turrell had measured the largest and most dramatic change recorded in the era of modern instruments. And there was worse. He took measurements from the very bottom of the ocean, from the return leg of the conveyor. Its flow had fallen by a massive twenty percent.
DR BILL TURRELL: It’s the first changes that we’d expect to see if we thought that global warming was beginning to effect the conveyor belt. Er a few years ago I probably wouldn’t have said that because global warming was far more iffy, it wasn’t so significant, it wasn’t so certain. Now we really do know that fresh water input to the Arctic is increasing. The Siberian rivers are pumping out more fresh water. The Arctic ice sheets are melting and there is more release of fresh water. It, it’s the most fundamental change I’ve observed in my career.
NARRATOR: The process that could cut off the conveyor has begun. We don’t know where the cut off point is, we just know we’re getting closer to it.
Prof RICHARD ALLEY: I don’t think that an abrupt sudden trip and fall down the stairs is the most likely outcome. But I think that the probability of that is high enough that we should really think about it.
Dr TERRY JOYCE : The likelihood of having an abrupt change is increasing because of global warming is moving us closer and closer to the brink. We don’t know where that is but we know one thing, we’re moving towards the edge. And so I would say within the next hundred years it’s very likely. In other words a fifty percent probability that this might happen.
NARRATOR: So there could be a fifty percent probability that the conveyor will stop flowing past the shores of Britain. Perhaps a one in two chance that one of the most important sources of heat in the world will just disappear. What would happen to us if the heat of a million power stations were to cut off? The answer depends crucially on how soon it happens. The Met Office has run a series of possible scenarios. In the first they examined what would happen if the conveyor cut off in fifty years. They have balanced the effects of fifty years of global warming against the regional cooling caused by the conveyor cutting off. In this scenario the area around Britain does indeed get colder.
Dr RICHARD WOOD: Cooling due to the ocean circulation collapsed is even stronger than the global warming. We’re still looking at a climate which is a lot colder than today’s.
NARRATOR: But how much colder? This was the coldest winter in the past century. A freak event not easily forgotten.
PROF BILL MCGUIRE: The winter of 1962 to 1963 is something that people of my age particular remember because from Boxing day ‘til March there was very deep snow on the ground across much of England.
NARRATOR: Blizzards lashed the country for day after day. In places snow lay eight meters deep. And temperatures fell to minus twenty two degrees.
Dr RICHARD WOOD: That would have had a huge impact on, on people’s lives. There’s a lot of disruption to all sorts of infrastructure, people were snowed in for long periods, over quite a wide part of the country.
NARRATOR: The electricity supply failed across the whole south east. Crops had to be drilled out of the ground. We asked the Met. Office to examine their scenario and calculate how often we could expect a winter like this. Their answer, once every seven years. But there is a second scenario the scientists have been examining.
PROF BILL MCGUIRE: Well I can only describe it as catastrophic.
BOB GASGOSIAN: The implications are huge.
PROF BILL MCGUIRE: It’s clearly going to influence every single one of us every day of our lives.
BOB GASGOSIAN: The economic implications, the political implications, er and the national security implications, for all countries.
NARRATOR: This scenario is that the gulf stream conveyor cuts off, not within fifty years but twenty. It’s described as a low probability, high impact event. The whole of north west Europe gets a lot colder.
Dr RICHARD WOOD: This is really a huge change in climate, a massive cooling. If this was to happen we would certainly have a future which was very cold, very different from what we have today.
NARRATOR: The coastline of Britain would become unrecognisable.
Dr RICHARD WOOD: You could expect to see er sea ice off the coast of, off the coast of south east England probably several miles off shore.
NARRATOR: We would struggle to keep our coastline open and our ports working. But the effects of a shutdown could be even greater on land. Winter blizzards would bring us entirely new hazards.
PROF BILL MCGUIRE: We’d expect to see ice storms. Now these are severe winds but they bring with them either frozen rain or snow which clogs up and builds up on cables, power cables, telephone cables, brings them down very effectively. These conditions can persist for days and can really bring a country to its knees.
NARRATOR: Our infrastructure would be in danger of collapse.
PROF BILL MCGUIRE: The power lines would ice up, they’d snap, they’d collapse and this could happen virtually country wide during the worst of these storms.
NARRATOR: With enough warning we could make plans and adapt to our new landscape. The trouble is there wouldn’t be any warning.
Dr TERRY JOYCE: It’ll be quick and suddenly one decade we’re warm, the next decade we’re in the coldest winter that we’ve experienced in the last hundred years, but we’re in it for a hundred years.
NARRATOR: Winters like this would be commonplace.
PROF BILL MCGUIRE: I think we’d be extraordinarily poorly equipped to deal with a gulf stream shutdown. If we’re dealing with a situation where snow is on the ground for perhaps thirty days a year or maybe up to a hundred days a year, with temperatures regularly down in the minus twenties, I think we’ll find it very, very difficult to cope with that.
NARRATOR: It could mark the end of the British way of life as we’ve known it. But there is something even more disturbing about the conveyor cutting off. Something that suggests it could cause a catastrophe of truly global proportions if it were to happen. The Met Office have run another computer simulation. It shows a clear link between a conveyor cut off and patterns of rainfall across the world.
Dr RICHARD WOOD: One thing that’s really surprised us was the fact that, that the impact is not just confined to our part of the world.
NARRATOR: The dark red areas of his map suffer massive drops in rainfall.
Dr RICHARD WOOD: The main rain band in the tropics would move quite a bit south so all these countries in the red region here would lose a very large proportion of their rainfall and that could impact on a large number of people in those parts of the world.
NARRATOR: Central America would be one of the worst hit regions. It could lose up to forty percent of its rainfall.
Dr RICHARD WOOD: The model suggests that the present er vegetation in the rainforest wouldn’t be sustainable in that situation, and the forest would die and be replaced by grassland.
NARRATOR: While we shivered through long and bitter winters huge tracks of forest would die away. Well that’s what the computer model said. And then came evidence that it had actually happened before. The clues came from within Richard Alley’s ice cores. They contained bubbles of ancient air, evidence of how the atmosphere has changed. Alley’s attention focussed on one gas that was present in the bubbles, methane. It’s produced naturally by bacteria in the tropics when they receive plenty of rainfall, and it disappears at times of drought.
Prof RICHARD ALLEY: And so you can ask of those bubbles how many swamps were there on earth. And this is wonderful because it tells you something that’s happening across a whole bunch of the land area. If the world dries up partially they’ll be much less methane in the air and it will show up, right there.
NARRATOR: He found that the methane levels plummeted at the same time as temperatures had dropped in the past. It seemed the conveyor cut off made the world drier.
Prof RICHARD ALLEY: And when the north Atlantic has been cold in the past the monsoon seems to have weakened or failed in places in Asia. Chill out the northern Europe and you dry a lot of places around a lot of millions of people with that.
NARRATOR: The monsoon is a lifeline to hundreds of millions of people living across the Asian subcontinent. Agriculture depends on its heavy rains. Should this scenario ever happen it would bring disaster on an unimaginable scale. There would be famine, economic collapse and refugees on the move.
DR BOB GASGOSIAN: We had only three billion people on this earth in 1962, we have over six billion now. Where are these people going to go if there are economic hard times? If we were to get on the same scale of the Irish famine today, that occurred then, I am very concerned at what would happen at that time.
NARRATOR: And there is a final twist to these scenarios. Switching the conveyor off can happen at speed. But switching it back on is altogether harder.
TERRY JOYCE: We’re moving along and suddenly we drop down, how do we switch it back on? Well we would have to climb this cliff. There’s an enormous amount of energy required to climb that cliff.
Prof WALLY BROECKER: And there’d be nothing in the meantime we could do to change it.
TERRY JOYCE: We have to reveres this effect of global warming by hundreds of years.
NARRATOR: We are now preparing for more heat and more rain. But our new understanding of how climate change works challenges all that. It suggests our defences could be pointing the wrong way.