Tipping point in the Antarctic – 0.1degrees Centigrade?

A report published this week in Nature Geoscience, reveals a steadily increasing temperature over the last few decades in the Antarctic Peninsula. This has been discovered by looking at the pattern of summer snow melt revealed in an ice-core, which represents conditions over the last 1000 years.

 Although results from similar recent research on the West Antarctic Ice sheet give a more ambiguous result, of periods of warmer and cooler conditions over the last 2000 years, it appears beyond doubt that in the peninsula – which is much further north, conditions have become significantly warmer, as well as spending a significant time above the critical temperature – freezing point.

 One of the researchers, Dr Nerilie Abram from ANU, was interviewed by Fran Kelly on Radio National about the research.

Sadly she gave the normal scientist’s response to Fran Kelly’s inavoidable question: “But it is possible that these changes could be due to ‘natural causes’?”  Instead of emphasising that while natural variation might have played a part in the last thousand years, but that the changes in the last 50 were categorically not ‘natural’, Dr Abram got diverted into a discussion about natural variation, and the fact that changes in other areas of Antarctica didn’t show the same result. ( the ABC had already emphasised this by talking about another research project on the West Antarctic ice sheet which indicated that warmer periods similar to the current one had occurred repeatedly in the last 2000 years – music to the ears of the denialists)
 It wasn’t until right at the end of the interview that in the process of explaining in detail about the conditions on the Antarctic peninsula, Dr Abram showed that the warming was directly linked to changes in the Ozone hole! Apparently this had resulted in an increase in wind speeds, and consequent changes in the local climate. Now if there is one thing that those wretched deniers can’t challenge, it’s the human cause of the Ozone hole.
 The whole slant of the ABC’s presentation of this research ( the need to provide ‘balance’ by reporting the views of a small group of cranks alongside the science)was echoed in a short report on the news, while a spot on AM somehow avoided the use of the word ‘HUMAN’; even when asked an open question:
SARAH CLARKE: And looking at the fact that the most rapid melt has been in the last 50 years – why do you think that is?
Dr Abram gave a circuitous answer; one which was actually about this being evidence of a significant tipping point, but without saying so noone would really have got that idea:
NERILIE ABRAM: So what the ice core shows, which is quite interesting, is the changes in environment that happen when the climate warms don’t necessarily have to happen gradually or in a nice linear way.

 It was however mentioned several times that ‘the coldest period’ was 600 years ago, without any apparent recognition that the key claim of the climate change deniers is that it was hotter 800-1000 years ago than it is now, and this report did nothing to counteract that stupid claim, particularly when combined with the mention of the ‘other research’.
I look forward to the time when the ABC and other official presenters of such reports put the emphasis where it is necessary – on the implications of this extra evidence of rapid change for the climate system, in this case the one that may affect Australia’s climate significantly.
 It is long past time when we need to give space to the climate science bullshitters; it’s as silly as interviewing a fundamentalist Christian to comment every time we have a report on something that happened more than 5760 years ago.

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