Is Antarctic Warming Real or “Mann”-Made? A Note from Fred Singer

THE recent report in the journal Nature of an unexpected Antarctic warming trend has created a certain amount of skepticism – even among supporters of AGW. [1]

But in an AP news story, two of its authors (one is ‘hockey-stick’ inventor Michael Mann from the Real Climate blog) argue that this refutes the skeptics and is “consistent with” greenhouse warming.  Of course, as Roger Pielke, Jr, points out, not long ago we learned from Real Climate that a cooling Antarctica was ‘consistent with’ greenhouse warming and thus the skeptics were wrong: “So a warming Antarctica and a cooling Antarctica are both ‘consistent with’ model projections of global warming. Our foray into the tortured logic of ‘consistent with’ in climate science raises the perennial question, what observations of the climate system would be inconsistent with the model predictions?”

The results are based on very few isolated data from weather stations, plus data from research satellites.  And here is the rub: these are not data from microwave sounding units (MSU), such as are regularly published by Christy and Spencer, but data from infrared sensors that are supposed to measure the temperature of the surface (rather than of the overlaying atmosphere, as weather stations do).

But the IR emission depends not only on temperature of the surface, but also on surface emissivity — and is further modified by absorption of clouds and haze.

These are all difficult points.  Emissivity of snow depends on its porosity and size of snow crystals.  Blowing snow likely has a different emissivity than snow that has been tamped down; so surface winds could have a strong influence.  The emissivity of ice is again different and will depend on whether there is a thin melt layer of water on top of the ice, temporarily produced by solar radiation.  Finally, we have temperature inversions that can trap haze which is essentially undetectable by optical methods from satellites.

The proof of the pudding, of course, is the MSU data, which show a continuous cooling trend, are little affected by surface conditions and are unaffected by haze and clouds.  They are therefore more reliable.

Bottom line:  As it looks to me right now, the Antarctic Continent is cooling not warming.


1. Eric J. Steig, David P. Schneider, Scott D. Rutherford, Michael E. Mann, Josefino C. Comiso & Drew T. Shindell. Warming of the Antarctic ice-sheet surface since the 1957 International Geophysical Year. Nature 457:459-463, 22 Jan. 2009; doi:10.1038/nature07669

Picture of Dr Singer taken in New York 2008 by Jennifer Marohasy.

This article is from SEPP Science Editorial #4-09 (1/24/09) republished here with permission.

36 Responses to Is Antarctic Warming Real or “Mann”-Made? A Note from Fred Singer

  1. spangled drongo January 25, 2009 at 3:18 pm #

    The Antarctic is cooling! “Yep, we knew that!”
    The Antarctic is warming! “Yep, we knew that, too!”
    Wow! Is there nothing this hockey team don’t know?
    And nothing that’s not consistent with AGW?

  2. Luke January 25, 2009 at 5:44 pm #

    OMIGOD – is Singer saying contrary to Marohasian theory that … that … that … satellites may have … have … some problems. ARGH – the Horror !

    Pity the MSU data over the poles is rubbish too. Why RSS don’t provide it.

    Only pop music can save us now …

  3. spangled drongo January 25, 2009 at 5:57 pm #

    You have been known to claim that the MSUs were accurate in relation to SLR, but I thought what Singer was saying was that you should compare apples with apples.
    Not go bananas like the hockey team.

  4. Luke January 25, 2009 at 7:06 pm #

    Spanglers – you’ll note the RSS crew don’t give maps of MSU temperature data over the poles.

    David on a recent thread reiterated one of a number of outstanding issues with the UAH MSU data – namely “The peak weighting function for the MSUlt data sits a mile below the surface of much of the Antarctic ice cap. It is this “data” which has informed most sceptic comments about Antarctic temperature.”

    So Spanglers when out of ammo – kick back and enjoy the video !

  5. sod January 25, 2009 at 7:16 pm #

    the warming and the cooling trend over the anarctic are results of different time periods.
    they don t contradict each other.

    that they are consistent with AGW theory can be explained by different forcings influencing those different time periods.

    example: we meassure the temperature above an oven for 100 minutes. the oven is switched on from the 60s to the 80s minute.
    the full 100 minutes trend will show heating. the last 20 minutes trend will show cooling.
    both trends are consistent with a theory, that claims that a switched on oven causes heating..

  6. janama January 25, 2009 at 7:18 pm #

    we can all relax – Lucia has finally discovered that it’s been Leprechauns all along.

    what did someone recently say about the credibility of a theory and ridicule…….

    Luke – and you picked The Damned – oh the irony.

  7. J.Hansford. January 25, 2009 at 7:45 pm #

    Is “Climate Science” a real Science, or more of a political appointment?… Really?

    Because when you look at the field, it encompasses a broad spectrum of expertise. Are Climate Scientists actually more akin to a General Practitioner of Medicine….. A doctor knows much, but passes his patients on to more skilled experts for further diagnosis and treatment.

    Seems like Climate Scientists are the same… Mann in particular failed spectacularly when attempting to use Statistics to prove his proxy connections where good indicators of Temperature…. Steve McIntyre showed how badly Manns statistics and grasp of statistics was.

    Then there is problems with interpretations of physical properties and interactions of matter.

    Plus the experts in Oceans, Atmosphere, biology, Geology, etc…. Seems that once a “Climate Scientist gets hold of it, there’s a dogs breakfast instead of good science.

    Maybe I’m just being picky?

  8. Tony G January 25, 2009 at 8:23 pm #

    What about the more fundamental question ‘is global warming real?’

    The proponents of AGW claim that the world is warming based on the type of figures put out by the National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) or similar institutions.

    These NCDC figures are not temperatures based on real places, instead they are a theoretical temperature created in a computer, where the whole Earth long-term mean temperatures are calculated by interpolating over the 80% of the globe that is either inaccessible or has no data. The validity of these psudo-temperatures seems surreal.

    Not only is it hard to believe the south pole is getting warmer, it is even harder to believe the world is getting warmer.

  9. J.Hansford. January 25, 2009 at 8:28 pm #

    Seem to be having a problem posting on this thread since I accidently submitted without putting my particulars in…. just checking if this will work.

  10. sod January 25, 2009 at 8:43 pm #

    These NCDC figures are not temperatures based on real places, instead they are a theoretical temperature created in a computer, where the whole Earth long-term mean temperatures are calculated by interpolating over the 80% of the globe that is either inaccessible or has no data. The validity of these psudo-temperatures seems surreal.

    real scientist do not agree with you.

    what seems surreal, is your lack of understanding of scientific methods.
    i am curious how you are measuring temperature? hopefully not with a thermometer! because it doesn t measure it, but only the expansion of mercury…

  11. T G January 25, 2009 at 9:02 pm #

    “real scientist do not agree with you”

    It is not important what real scientist ‘believe’ or what their faith is, what is important is the scientific facts they can come up with.

    interpolating the expansion of mercury……?

  12. spangled drongo January 25, 2009 at 9:02 pm #

    The MSU LT data for the South Pole is measured similar to the rest of the world and shows a slight cooling throughout.
    What data are you referring to?

  13. Luke January 25, 2009 at 9:37 pm #

    The South Pole is 2385m above sea level, the average elevation of Antarctica is 2300m and the highest point is about 4000m.

  14. hunter January 25, 2009 at 10:46 pm #

    According to these AGW promoters, AGW is non-falsifiable:
    # 8 eric.steig Says:
    January 22nd, 2009 at 8:24 am

    Roger (and commenters),

    I have to admit I cringed when guest writer Weart wrote the article on RealClimate, which I didn’t get a chance to read first. I’m not sure what models he was talking about that said Antarctica should be cooling. A review of the literature would show you (see e.g. Shindell and Schmidt in GRL) that models have been predicting warming. It is also true that models have predicted than in the Arctic, and of course that’s what we find.

    But there is a larger point here that you seem to be missing. The entire question of whether models are “consistent” with data is a poor question. A good question is in what ways are the models inconsistent with the data. It is in comparing good data with model output that we learn more about what is important in the climate system. In this case, I think what we’ve learned is that influence of ozone depletion on Antarctic climate — which is certainly real, and certainly contributes to cooling — may be less dominant than we thought.

    For those of you that are interested, you really should look at the summary of Antarctic models by Connolley and Bracegirdle in GRL, 2007. The 19 models they look at all give different answers. It happens that the model that they consider the best — as judged by whether it compares well with observations — looks pretty much like our results. Yet Connolley and Bracegirdle weren’t using our results. The point is that our results (which are partly statistical) don’t violate the model physics. That’s good.

    Keep in mind that when we talk to journalists, they put words in our mouths. I was asked about 20 times this week whether our new data were “consistent” with the models, and not one journalist was willing to take “that’s not a good question” for an answer.”
    And here is Weart:
    “Despite the recent announcement that the discharge from some Antarctic glaciers is accelerating, we often hear people remarking that parts of Antarctica are getting colder, and indeed the ice pack in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica has actually been getting bigger. Doesn’t this contradict the calculations that greenhouse gases are warming the globe? Not at all, because a cold Antarctica is just what calculations predict… and have predicted for the past quarter century.”
    The bottom line is this, for the AGW promotion industry:
    If their models said the Antarctic was getting colder these past decades due to AGW, then they were right.
    If, later, we decide it has in fact been getting warmer, then they, and the models, were right.
    “And PS, you wonderful politicians please keep the money coming. AGW promoters need lots more. Because remember, no matter the answer, they are right.”
    Just how stupid are politicians to keep believing the rubbish of Mann, Hansen, Gore, Weart, and the IPCC. It is so obvious that their models are not designed to model reality, but are designed to separate people from their money.
    The operating principal of AGW seems to be:
    “We will take our experience and your money, and make it our money and your experience.”

  15. hunter January 25, 2009 at 10:57 pm #

    Sorry for the long prior post, but getting the context shown in full, so the depth of how cynically these promoters are playing a willingly gullible world for fools is important.
    Here is Weart’s closing paragraph, rather stark in his [then] strong understanding of AGW science:
    “The pioneer climate modelers Kirk Bryan and Syukuro Manabe took up the question with a more detailed model that revealed an additional effect. In the Southern Ocean around Antarctica the mixing of water went deeper than in Northern waters, so more volumes of water were brought into play earlier. In their model, around Antarctica “there is no warming at the sea surface, and even a slight cooling over the 50-year duration of the experiment.” (4) In the twenty years since, computer models have improved by orders of magnitude, but they continue to show that Antarctica cannot be expected to warm up very significantly until long after the rest of the world’s climate is radically changed.”
    And Steig’s attempt to rewrite AGW history:
    George Orwell would be amazed to see that scientists, not hack journalists and politicians, were so engaged in redefining language and rewriting history.

  16. spangled drongo January 25, 2009 at 11:07 pm #

    B-b-b-but Luke, how do they do it in the Himalayas? Or the Andes etc. Wouldn’t it be similar to any elevated part of the earth’s surface?

  17. Ian Mott January 26, 2009 at 1:59 am #

    Mann was not working with facts, he was working with a modelled reconstruction of an absent data set. In fact, as there was no data integrity to begin with it cannot be a “reconstruction” at all, rather it is a “construction” which could also be correctly called a “fabrication”. And given that there is such a shortage of stations to start with, it is more appropriately described as an extrapolation from a limited fabrication.

    This is the same stunt that was done with the gravitational analysis that purports to show a decline in ice mass, suposedly due to warming. The BoM has only 4 climate sets in the Antarctic and only two of those have precipitation data. And these two records show a range of variation in annual precipitation that completely dwarfs the recorded changes in ice mass.

    At the high precipitation Casey Station, with records from 1989 to 2008, the 5th decile annual precipitation is 231.0mm. Meanwhile, the 9th decile figure is 277.4mm and the 1st decile figure is 159.6mm for a range of 117.8mm, which amounts to 51% of the 5th decile figure.

    The lower precipitation Davis Station, with records from 1957 to 2008, is more representative of the whole continent with a 5th decile figure of 66.1mm. And interestingly, the 1st decile figure is 44.6mm and the 9th decile figure is 112.9mm, for a range of 68.3mm. This amounts to a massive 103% of the 5th decile figure.

    So it is in this context that we have the 2006 climatista claims of a net continental ice loss of 152km3 for the period 2003 to 2005. This is for a continent with 13.72 million square kilometres of ice at an average of 1.6km thick and a total of 22 million cubic km.

    We were all informed that this 152km3 +/-80km3 of lost ice mass was equivalent to 0.4mm of sea level rise each year. But no-one mentioned that this change in apparent ice mass was the equivalent of a uniform variation in annual continental precipitation of only 11.08mm.

    We were left to conclude that the claimed loss of ice mass was net of precipitation when such a calculation can only be based on a modelled (extrapolated) precipitation total from a data set that exhibits a ten fold greater range of variation.

    And if this was not bad enough, there also appears to have been no mention of ice mass loss through the process of sublimation. See

    Briefly this is the process through which a solid, ice, turns into a gas without first passing through a liquid phase. It is what makes your ice cubes shrink in your freezer. And in Antarctica it is sublimation that exposes blue ice. See

    “Blue ice is exposed in areas of Antarctic where there is no net addition or subtraction of snow. That is, any snow that falls in that area is counteracted by sublimation or other losses.”

    And it uses much more energy than melting.

    “A cubic centimeter (1 gram) of water in ice form requires 80 calories to melt, 100 calories to rise to boiling point, and another 540 calories to vaporize, a total of 720 calories. Sublimation requires the same energy input, but bypasses the liquid phase.”

    Furthermore, it is not limited to Antarctica. “Chinook winds are westerlies from the Pacific whose moisture gets wrung out as it passes over the Rocky Mountains. Once these winds come down from the mountains onto the high plains, they can be quite mild and extremely dry-as warm as 60 or 70 degrees Fahrenheit — over 15 Celsius — with a relative humidity of 10% or less. The air is so dry that when it hits a snowpack, the frozen water evaporates, going directly from the ice to vapor and bypassing the liquid phase entirely. This is called sublimation, and it’s a common way for snow to disappear in the arid West.”

    So lets just spell this out for the climate laggards. SNOW AND ICE CAN (DOES) DISAPPEAR
    WITHOUT ANY ADDITION TO SEA LEVELS. Changes in ice mass in Antarctica can certainly be attributed to sublimation. It is a process that requires more energy than melting, is very prevalent at high altitudes and dry conditions and can take place at temperatures below zero C. It is neither triggered by, nor a producer of, CO2.

    But it is a process that produces our most abundant so-called greenhouse gas, water vapour. And consequently, in Antarctic continental terms, it is a primary driver of variations in precipitation. Which in turn is a primary agent of localised changes in ice mass.

  18. barry moore January 26, 2009 at 3:05 am #

    On one of the NASA websites under the effect of coluds on global temperatures I found the following summary to an overview of the cloud research
    “Such variations are referred to as “natural” variability, that is the climate varies naturally for reasons that are not fully understood. The problem for understanding climate changes that might be produced by human activities is that the predicted changes are similar in magnitude to those shown here. The difference between natural and human-induced climate change will only appear clearly in much longer ( >= 50 years) data records.”
    I fully expect with the change in political hierarchy in the U.S. in 2009 such comments by serious, honest and unbiased scientists will be censored out of NASA and NOAA web sites.

  19. Kohl Piersen January 26, 2009 at 6:44 am #

    sod gives us an …”example: we meassure the temperature above an oven for 100 minutes. the oven is switched on from the 60s to the 80s minute.
    the full 100 minutes trend will show heating. the last 20 minutes trend will show cooling.”
    So it depends upon what time scale one settles on as to what trend one measures.
    Bit misleading sod.
    The proportions you give do not match the relevant time periods in the Antarctic measurements. The cooling has been going on since 1979. I reckon thats close enough to 20 years.
    But is it not the CA people who monotonously intone the mantra that “30 years is climate”?
    So what we have here is a cooling climate change? Yes?

  20. Kohl Piersen January 26, 2009 at 6:50 am #

    Oops last post – “thats close enought to 20 years” should reade “thats close enough to 30 years”

  21. T G January 26, 2009 at 6:51 am #

    Comment from: sod January 25th, 2009 at 8:43 pm

    “i am curious how you are measuring temperature?”

    If I was licking my finger and sticking it in the air it would be better than how the NCDC does it, which is replacing the vacuum of data for 80% of the globe with hot air.

  22. cohenite January 26, 2009 at 8:44 am #

    Well luke, you and david are nominally correct about the MSULT data but here is what Roy Spencer has to say about it:

    “It’s true that a good portion of the weighting function goes below the surface…but what it senses is probably the upper few feet. I’ve seen presentations at conferences showing from SSM/I 37 GHz data that the time variability in such measurements are a pretty good antecedent temperature measure (temperature in the weeks before), so even that portion of the weighting function below the surface measures something related to temperature. But it’s still not as good as if the surface was near sea level”

    What refreshing candour!

    The point about the UAH data for the Antarctic is that it is a lower troposphere record;

    We can argue about the ‘surface’ but the proximate surface [ie the height of the egoes of Steig and Mann] of the Antarctic is cooling. And luke, as Hunter’s post about Weart [who has the credibility of Hannibal Lector] shows, the defects of the pro-AGW data goes well beyond methodology, it firmly resides in attitude.

    I’ll take Roy Spencer any day of the week.

  23. janama January 26, 2009 at 9:13 am #

    Cohenite – check out this presentation


    from The 3rd Antarctic Meteorological Observation, Modeling, and Forecasting Workshop held last year

    Here’s their reading of antarctic temp from 1980 – 2005

  24. Luke January 26, 2009 at 9:53 am #

    HELLO !!!!!!!! and WTF and ROTFL

    This is the blog who buggered up the analysis of his own data to start with. cooling to warming – LOL

    I’ll take RSS thanks. (which don’t give an analysis)

    “it firmly resides in attitude” funny – I would have said the same about pseudo-sceptics

    I’m not sure what the UAH MSU polar represents actually – and in direct conflict with the Connolley mid-troposphere paper.

    See comment #1 !!!!

  25. janama January 26, 2009 at 10:36 am #

    the 2006 paper was also reported by the BBC – here’s an extract

    To try to resolve the conundrum, the BAS team compared the data with 20 simulations of the climate over the last century.

    The models simulate rising levels of greenhouse gases and are used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to replicate past climates and make predictions for the future.

    The team found that in all cases, the models failed to simulate the rise.

    The models do not match the data
    Dr Turner believes this could mean the temperature rise is a result of a natural fluctuation in Antarctica’s climate or that current models are inadequate.

    Dr Jeff Ridley, a climate scientist at the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research in the UK, agrees.

    He believes it is likely that current climate models are unable to sufficiently recreate conditions on the continent.

    “I’ve looked at all these models and seen that Antarctica is not very well modelled at all,” he said. “So we shouldn’t put too much confidence in what they tell us is going to happen there.”

    I don’t trust any of them!

  26. cohenite January 26, 2009 at 11:01 am #

    Thanks janama.

    Geez luke Connelly’s first comment on your RC link is to advise not to trust MSU; just answer me this; how does Steig get a 0.45C PD trend from this;

  27. SJT January 26, 2009 at 9:36 pm #

    “The proof of the pudding, of course, is the MSU data, which show a continuous cooling trend, are little affected by surface conditions and are unaffected by haze and clouds. They are therefore more reliable.”

    Fred tells us all the problems of the IR satellites measuring the temperature at the poles. He completely neglects the problems measuring the temperature at the poles using MSU. Spell it out for us, Fred. I’d be interested to hear that part, too.

  28. cohenite January 26, 2009 at 10:11 pm #

    As I noted in my 8.44am comment Will, Roy Spencer has pointed out that MSU is calibrated to a point below the surface ice; if you think about this that should add to the temperature trend because the temperature of ice is less than the Antarctic air; so, the cooling shown by UAH at the Antarctic is in fact an underestimate.

    What other defects are you aware of with MSU?

  29. Ian Mott January 27, 2009 at 10:42 am #

    Good point Cohenite. It would also be the case that if the measurement point is below the ice then it would also be warmer due to the lower altitude of that point. Remember, temperature declines by 1.0C for each 100 metre increase in altitude and rises by 1.0C for each 100 metre decrease in altitude.

    Correct me if I am wrong, but that would mean a mere 50 metre change in the altitude of the measurment point would be a significant as the past century of measured global temperature trend, would it not?

    The other thing we need to be very cautious about with any polar temperature records is what part of the seasonal cycle does the trend manifest itself. Clearly, even a whole 1.0C in higher temperature means absolutely jack $hit if it takes place in any of the 48 weeks each year that are not mid summer. If the trend is entirely generated by a lift in temperature from a frigid midwinter -32C to an equally mind numbing -31.3C then there are zero implications for ice melt rates, glacial flows, ice shelf calving or sea level rise.

  30. cohenite January 27, 2009 at 12:46 pm #

    Ian; how’s the timber? Mann has now had 3 prominent pro-AGW papers; the 2 hockeystick efforts and now this one; on this basis, he should be on a street corner selling cigars.

  31. SJT January 27, 2009 at 1:10 pm #

    “What other defects are you aware of with MSU?”

    “Defect” is the wrong way of looking at it. It is an interpolation, since it cannot look at layers, which is what you need to be able to do if you want to look at the lower troposphere. Instead, the temperature has to be inferred from matching readings from satellites that are looking at the atmosphere from the side. It’s not wrong, it’s not a defect, but it does involved complex calculations and manipulation of the raw data. Pretty much the same as they had to do with the temperature records used in this paper.

  32. Ian Mott January 27, 2009 at 2:59 pm #

    Keep trying, SJT, not a defect, indeed. It is a serious flaw in the methodology that produces false and highly misleading output. Most of us refer to it as pure bull$hit. And the use of any other term would amount to a serious departure from the truth.

    I had to postpone the milling for a while, Cohenite. Unbeknown to me, there was a birds nest on the lowest branch of the tree that I set the Mill up under. And I got through one log before it was pointed out to me that there were two young squabs in the nest that were well on the way to serious industrial deafness. This left me with images of “bald headed birds walking southwards in their dirty underwear”, as the song goes (Tennessee Bird Walk), and that was all the excuse I needed to take another dip in the Dam. And as I floated there in absolute bliss I could only reflect that, hell, its not easy being green, but someone has to do it, right?

    I did, eventually, get some building work done. Just enough to make the beer slide down the throat at days end. But rest assured, the on-going desire to kill and dismember trees has not waned.

  33. SJT January 28, 2009 at 1:06 pm #

    “Keep trying, SJT, not a defect, indeed. It is a serious flaw in the methodology that produces false and highly misleading output.”

    Hey, if you insist on calling the UAH MSU temperatures defective, be my guest.


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