Pantomime on ice

josh_cagw_boat_stuckHow appropriate that it is pantomime season. This year’s sell-out production of “Climate Change Academics on Ice” may have been marketed under #SpritOfMawson, but Professor Chris Turney, climate scientist, certainly knew the story he wanted to tell via media circus.

As The Spectator blog puts it:

The idea was that the world would be left gasping at the changes measured by Turney compared with the measurements made by Mawson a century ago, thereby encouraging acceptance of the thesis of man-made climate change.

His own research seems to focus on peering into the past to understand climate change, and so established in his mind was the story of warming that it did not occur to him to get his facts right in the present.

Speaking to students during advance promotion Professor Chris Turney said

“One of the things we do know is that in the last 20 years or so the westerly winds in the Southern Hemisphere have been pushing towards Antarctica. […] greenhouse gas levels […] have been increasing and that’s changing the amount of heat in the atmosphere, but it’s also changing the distribution of heat and the result is that those westerly winds are continuing to go further South. […] It’s bringing warmer air further South; it’s also changing ocean circulation which is leading to some warming around the Antarctic coastline.”

He goes on in another video about the importance of believing the data in science. But is he a victim of believing models?


Modelling suggests warm water could push deep into the Weddell Sea (from BBC News)

In reality he shouldn’t have had too far to look to for real data.  The NSIDC Sea Ice Index pages tell quite a different story. Note the pronounced increase in December 2013 ice along the coast adjacent to the target site at Commonwealth Bay (about 5 o’clock on the images).  Must be those westerly winds to blame.

Nov Ant anomS_201312_anom

and not just this year – quite a trend:


The real drama certainly played out like a pantomime as the climate tourists, seemingly oblivious to the danger they were in, carried on with their plans, deaf to the cries of “It’s behind you” from the ship’s crew as the ice closed in.

Image WarnePantomine1890

Harlequinade Characters (source Wikipedia)

How does it end?  Well, while I do hope and pray for the safety of the crews of the Akademic   and Xue Long currently imprisoned in the ice, the media circus on this  Ship of Fools is all set for the traditional pantomime ending – the Harlequinade.

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4 Responses to Pantomime on ice

  1. Ed Caryl says:

    I ran the GISS temperature anomaly map for the period 1913 to 2013, annual November to October. There are just a few spots on earth that cool or don’t change over that period. One of them is….. Wait for it…. Commonwealth Bay!

    • Verity Jones says:

      Hi Ed,
      I did read your piece when you published it and thought it very apt. At the time though I hadn’t got into my head the location of Commonwealth Bay so the locations of cold spots didn’t really strike me.

  2. Bloke down the pub says:

    Now all the real scientists who work in Antarctica, and rely on resupply trips from the ships that have been involved in the rescue, are a tad ticked off because their experiments have been shelved. Chris Turney is going to be as welcome as a fart in a space suit amongst the polar researchers.
    With ref to Ed Caryl’s comment, for most of the period from 1913 there is practically no data, so anything from GISS is likely to be pure conjecture. Strange though that they haven’t used their usual heavy thumb on the historic figures to cool the past.

    • Verity Jones says:

      They’ve every right to be ticked off. They endure uncomfortable conditions for serious long term study and this lot come along with more hot air than hard science and waste huge sums on the rescue as well as jeopardising the work done at the bases.
      Good point about the GISS data.

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