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Sunday, May 21, 2006
A Positive Effect of Global Warming?

Or just statistical variability? Here's an interesting article on icebergs, which discusses whether global warming could be to "blame" for the absence of them this year:

"There is no doubt in my mind that major climate change is happening," says Murphy who has been a professional oceanographer for 22 years. "Studies in Greenland show that the glaciers are moving twice as fast as before. That means a lot of production of ice. My expectation has always been if the Greenland glaciers started moving faster there would be increased production [of icebergs] for decades and there should be an increase in the number of icebergs into the shipping lanes. That was my model. But the last couple of years that hasn't happened, and I'm having a hard time understanding what is going on except that there are complicating factors having to do with increased storms. Maybe the destruction processes dominate over the production processes."

BTW, when he talks about the glaciers "moving twice as fast", he means growing. Hence the "climate change" rather than "global warming. It certainly highlights the problems with climate models:

In 2005, according to the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre, sea-ice cover was at its lowest extent since satellite monitoring began in 1979, and this year the IIP have noticed "very little ­ although not an absolute minimum" level of sea-ice conditions. Yet a computer model linking sea-ice levels to the number of icebergs making it into the shipping lanes has performed "horribly" according to Murphy.

And this certainly suggests that there is another cause:

Yet, Murphy points out, that does not explain the huge discrepancy in the number of icebergs recorded in years before climate change was an issue: eg, 15 icebergs in 1952; 1,500 in 1972. After thoroughly studying and analysing data from as far back as 1900, Murphy can find no significant or consistent pattern in the number of icebergs making it into the shipping lanes.

"It's a very complicated system and there are a lot of moving parts," he says, but he claims some people are eager to ascribe meaning to the figures.

"Back in the mid-1990s, when we had thousands of icebergs, I got a call from Japanese TV who wanted to do a story on us because they believed the large number of icebergs was indicative of global warming," he says. "Then, in 1999, we had only 22 icebergs and I got a call from a European TV company who wanted to do a story because they were certain that the fact that there were only 22 bergs in the shipping lanes was a clear indication of global warming."
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