Ice, anyone?

A gigantic glacier

Hot Topic has just released a rant against Barry Brill’s article “Crisis in New Zealand climatology”, just published at Quadrant.

Readers here, waiting for NIWA to release the reasons for the adjustments to the official national temperature record, will be pleased to learn that Renowden has the answer so NIWA needn’t bother with all that scientific mumbo-jumbo.

First he quotes Barry’s article pointing out that the average NZ temperature in the 1860s was 13.1°C, the same as the average temperature in 2005. Renowden scoffs at this but does not refute it. I find that strange. He has no argument with those facts. He lets them stand.

Instead, he waves a book cover at us, showing melting glaciers, falsely insinuating that rising temperatures are the only reason for glaciers to recede. Everyone but he is aware that precipitation is the strongest governor of the mighty glaciers, not a piddling change of temperature down by the sea. His scientific advisers are leading him astray. I wonder where he gets them?

He says:

We can be confident that New Zealand has warmed not just because the temperature record shows that to be the case, but because the country has lost a huge amount of ice over the same period. The ice melt is confirmation that the process Jim followed when adjusting station records for moves and changes was yielding results that pointed in the right direction.

So he concludes that the reason for the temperature adjustments is the melting glaciers. So that’s all right, then. We can all stop worrying.

But remember the importance of precipitation and when you come across dear Gareth in the corridors tell him that when the snow reduces, the glacier slows down, gets smaller and the snout recedes; it has little to do with temperature.

Finally, note the big lie he tells us: “the temperature record shows [warming] to be the case.” Gareth, please cite the record that shows warming, then ask yourself: “Has NIWA adjusted these figures?”

The record shows no warming! That’s what we’ve been saying all these months. Pay attention! NIWA’s graph shows warming ONLY because they applied adjustments they won’t (and probably cannot) explain. They lied about the adjustments, saying they were made because weather stations changed altitude, when no such changes were made.

They even lied about where we could find the adjustments and their reasons. God alone knows why they did that.

You cannot use any other proxy to prove warming during a period when the thermometers have not been rising.

Renowden says the country “lost” a huge amount of ice during a period. That’s a strong point, isn’t it? Surely that seals the fact that there’s been warming?

But I would ask him to show that the ice ever existed. That is to say, if precipitation on the glacier catchment area was reduced, then less ice formed, slowing the glacier down and allowing the terminus to recede, but that means the ice wasn’t “lost”, because it was never there in the first place.

And that, dear reader, means that temperature did not have to be rising at the time the glaciers receded. Glaciers are a poor proxy for temperature.

Meanwhile, Gareth should explain why he scoffs when Barry points out the fact, the documented fact, the unchallenged fact, the historical fact that the average temperature in our land was the same in 2005 as it was in the 1860s.

Do something useful, Gareth, instead of glibly accusing others of wanting “inaction” — tell us your grounds for scoffing at this fact.

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24 Thoughts on “Ice, anyone?

  1. CEKay on 19/05/2010 at 3:03 am said:

    Hot Topic seems quite sanguine that the SSS, New Zealand’s historical temperature record, is wrong and indefensible. Renowden’s whole approach is that this record is not important anyhow!

    This contrasts rather sharply with the blog’s approach in December — when he affected to be mortally offended that ClimateConversation criticised the biased way the SSS was constructed. He (rightly) pointed out that this criticism impugned the integrity of NIWA scientists, and banished you from his blog pending an apology.

    Perhaps an apology from Renowden would now be in order?

    • You’ve hit the nail on the head, CEKay. Hot Topic (informed by NIWA scientists, without doubt), have effectively said: “We give up; we cannot defend the national temperature record because what has been done to it is indefensible. So from now on we shall maintain that it is unimportant and always was. We shall pretend that we never tried to defend it.”

      So what happened to the impugned honour of the scientists? It has not been restored.

      An apology would be nice, but I’m not holding my breath.

  2. There’s been a response from Renowden to this post. But he doesn’t write a comment here, he comments on his own blog. He must imagine that I visit there. It’s a great pity he cannot let go of the desire to throw mud at his opponent’s letterbox. First he says:

    Spot the trackback from Treadgold? Like a loyal puppy, he does his master’s bidding.

    With that out of his system he goes on:

    Here’s a flavour of his nonsense:

    But I would ask him to show that the ice ever existed. That is to say, if precipitation on the glacier catchment area was reduced, then less ice formed, slowing the glacier down and allowing the terminus to recede, but that means the ice wasn’t “lost”, because it was never there in the first place.

    Well, Richard, Julius von Haast shows us the ice existed in the 1860s. You can walk up to the Cameron Glacier and view the fresh moraines left by the retreating ice… You can repeat the exercise at many places in the Southern Alps. You could talk to the glaciologists. But that might be inconvenient…

    Nonsense? Not at all: I simply asked a sensible question. He hasn’t answered it, of course. He points out that ice existed and that some glaciers have receded, which he had already said. He does not show it was caused by atmospheric warming (much less that we caused the warming!).

    Richard is also quite correct to point out that glaciers can lose mass without warming, if snowfall in the neve is reduced to the point that mass loss at lower levels exceeds mass gained high up. But that would require evidence of a significant reduction in Alpine rainfall over the last 140 years — a reduction of major proportions, a positive drought up at the main divide. Not much sign of that in the records. But perhaps NIWA and Jim S have been adjusting the rain gauges too.

    Nice of him to acknowledge the point. Notice how he grossly exaggerates the required reduction in precipitation, but the main point is that he admits that our knowledge is incomplete. So, without data on precipitation, we cannot know that the glacier retreat was caused by temperature alone.

    Excellent. This could be the beginning of a search for truth.

  3. Renowden answers a point by Australis about the lack of documentation from Salinger when he created the NZ temperature record:

    “Retaining documentation”? That’s a red herring. What Jim S did is described in his PhD thesis. The idea that NIWA should somehow have kept Salinger’s notebooks or whatever he used when doing the calculations, 15 years before the organisation even came into being is a ridiculous construct dreamed up by Treadgold and pushed by Boscawen & Hide.

    No, it isn’t a red herring; it’s a central question we’ve asked of NIWA. They cannot justify their possession of Salinger’s work, which they still claim is his personal property. It has never been peer-reviewed, never been used by anyone else, never even been endorsed by anyone else and NIWA cannot even describe it. They certainly refuse to use it.

    So Renowden better start to keep quiet about Salinger’s “method” of deriving the national temperature time series.

    Gareth, if you’re persuaded that what Salinger did is described in his thesis, would you kindly dig it out and state what he did? Our scientists tried and they couldn’t manage it. It’s not there and what is there is incoherent.

    You have trivialised what NIWA have lost by calling them “notebooks” and so on. But what we have asked for is the reasons for the temperature readings being adjusted. That is non-trivial, because before the adjustments are made the temperatures show no warming whatsoever.

    Resorting to retreating glaciers to show warming when no warming is recorded on the thermometer can most charitably be described as desperate. It is certainly not science.

    Hot Topic and its readers seem to accept without evidence that reduced precipitation has played no part in the retreat of some South Island glaciers. That is an unscientific attitude.

    The lack of long-term warming in NZ is seen clearly in the unadjusted seven-station series, and there is support for it also in NIWA’s figures for 2005, that show the national average temperature was 13.1°C, the same as during the 1860s. That’s a fact. Will Gareth tell us why he scoffed at that fact?

  4. AndrewH on 19/05/2010 at 10:43 pm said:

    You seem to be arguing that there was no little ice age. Or rather that the little ice age was caused by increased precipitation.
    I assume you have looked at the Mt Cook rain gauge data to verify this theory – can you graph it and post it here. btw – was it increased precipitation that allowed ice skating on the Thames?
    Following your reasoning to its ridiculous conclusion will result in a temparature graph of the last thousand years that looks like……..a……..(ice) hockey stick.

    • Yes, very good, Andrew, thank you. I like the hockey stick allusion.

      No, you take too much from my argument, which didn’t mention the LIA. But thanks for acknowledging it, since the glaciers must retreat somewhat in the natural warming following about 1850. Just as they’ve been retreating for the last 18,000 years. The fact of retreat does not indicate we’re destroying them.

      Good rainfall data so long ago is even harder to come across than temp data. I doubt a rain gauge was installed on Mt Cook in 1850.

      My main concern was to refute Gareth’s incorrect insinuation that temperature was solely responsible for glacial retreat. I repeat: glaciers are a poor proxy for temperature.

  5. Gareth has made a further reply, chastising me for not following his link to an alleged rebuttal of the Inspector of Meteorological Stations temperature data, quoted by Bryan Leyland in January last year.

    I’m sorry I didn’t follow that link, Gareth, however it didn’t look relevant, being described as “Brill is here lifting “work” from none other than Bryan Leyland, which I dealt with in this post in January last year.” Whatever. It makes a weak argument and is unconvincing.

    First, the temperature was not just for a single year, that of 1867. If you look at the Inspector’s original report it is clear that this was the national average since records began, going back between 10 and 16 years. Bryan was not cherry-picking any particular year, as Renowden (or Renwick, or Salinger) would have seen if they had looked at the reference.

    Second, there was no “methodology” in reporting temperature readings back in them days. What did they do instead? Why, they simply wrote down the temperature readings — what would you expect?

    Renowden makes a big fuss about comparing apples with bananas or oranges but he overlooks the fact that NIWA created an odd sort of fruit in the first place, tinkering with the perfectly flat temperature record. Oh, you’re saying there were good reasons for that? Then tell us what they were and let scientists judge those reasons for themselves.

    Having forgotten that NIWA have adjusted them, he then mistakenly quotes those very figures as proof of warming. But we’re challenging those figures, so it’s a bit odd to quote them, hoping they somehow justify themselves.

    He presents some confused notion about the reliability of the older records without saying much, but his entire evidence for warming is the shonky NIWA graph that we’ve shot full of holes and which he has just declared is not important.

    The facts remain as I present them in this post: The national average temperature between 1851 and 1867 was 13.1°C. The national average temperature in 2005, calculated by NIWA, was 13.1°C. That’s a period of 154 years. I say that’s more than a coincidence, it means there’s been precious little warming and not nearly enough to get alarmed about.

  6. Here’s another gem from Renowden at Hot Topic:

    And for the record, I am most certainly not implying that the seven station record is somehow indefensible. In fact I expect that when NIWA’s team have finished reconstructing the series from first principles, the differences between it and Jim Salinger’s original version will be inconsequential.

    1. You say the seven-station record is defensible. So defend it. What method did Salinger use to calculate the adjustments he made to all of the readings? You talk to him, so get him to explain it to you. Better still, get him to explain it to us. Our scientists have gone through his thesis with a fine-tooth comb and can’t understand it. NIWA have never described his methods, they have simply told us to go find it where it does not exist. NIWA refuse to use his method; ask Dr Mullan how he calculated Hokitika’s adjustments.

    2. You confidently expect the new series to be virtually identical to Salinger’s, which reveals a touching trust in what Renwick tells you and raises two questions:
    a) You know that Mullan is not using Salinger’s method, instead “reconstructing it from first principles,” (whatever that means) so why won’t they use his method?
    b) If the result is indeed similar, will you ask Mullan why he didn’t use Salinger’s method?

    3. Defend the seven-station series again: why is Salinger’s method still unpublished, only submitted? Why has nobody ever endorsed it? Why has nobody ever used it? Why does David Wratt refuse to describe it? Why does Wratt refuse to use it?

    4. Finally, you misdirect rather skilfully, Mr Renowden, when you say the seven-station record is defensible, then, without defending it, say you have confidence in the reconstructed record. So which record are you defending and how? Do you realise that the “reconstructed” record is not the original, existing record, but an entirely new one? How can they be compared when the new one does not exist? Which record are you defending, when NIWA have stopped defending the old one and have repudiated Salinger’s thesis?

    It’s easy to mock us for asking questions, Gareth, now how about contributing to our knowledge of these apparently secret matters?

  7. AndrewH on 21/05/2010 at 10:19 pm said:


    Your argument, on the one hand, seems to be that there is 154 years of “precious little warming” and therefore glaciers must have retreated due to lack of precipitation (and lack of precipitation alone) and; on the other hand, that there has been a little ice age and that the world has warmed since then and the glaciers have retreated because of this warming.

    It’s a little hard to grasp exactly what you are on about. But, you do acknowledge that both warming and precipitation affect glacier volume so I think you need to put up some data about the precipitation to demonstrate that it has declined substantially.

    Good luck

    • Confusing? I agree. I throw two arguments at Gareth which to some degree could be seen to contradict each other. But that only demonstrates that glaciers are influenced by opposing forces. My purpose was to deny that any single factor controls glacial advance and retreat. I’m told that precipitation and sunshine are more important contributors than air temperature.

      Glacier retreat depends on the mass balance, which is not just a function of the temperature. For many glaciers it is more dependent on precipitation and the amount of solar radiation. Also the data on glaciers is considerably worse than temperatures so it will be very difficult to demonstrate any CO2 link. After all, we know the glaciers have been retreating for about 18,000 years.

      You hint that I will find it difficult to locate precipitation figures so long ago; I haven’t looked yet, but my guess is the same. That is, however, no reason to conclude, with Gareth, that therefore temperature alone caused the retreats. Note that some glaciers were and are advancing, which by that reasoning would indicate a simultaneous decline in temperature.

      When data are lacking conclusions should be avoided.

  8. AndrewH on 21/05/2010 at 10:21 pm said:

    oh, and where is that lovely glacier your opening picture shows…’cos it certainly isn’t in NZ

    • Yes, it’s magnificent, and far too large for us. I looked it up again; it’s in Alaska, though unnamed in my source.

  9. (not so) Silent on 22/05/2010 at 8:36 am said:

    Look I’m a supporter of what you are doing and am inclined to send an email to the Prime Minister about the ETS so I clicked on your link.
    Umm, then you lost me. The language you use is definitely rude to the point of being offensive. To the person who could change things.
    You guys say you want dialogue then how about setting the standard and tone rather than sinking to the levels of language used by gareth, cedric et al.
    Oh and wouldnt it be better to be sending peer reviewed papers to Key and Gluckman which disprove AGW. Take one brick down at a time.Afterall the theory stands until dis-proven.Instead of waiting for NIWA to review everything why dont you arrange a paper to be done on the NZ temp series and have it peer reviewed and then give it to Key and Gluckman.

    • You raise an interesting point, Not So Silent, which I hadn’t considered. I’m surprised that you see my little message as even rude, much less offensive. Here it is again, for those who haven’t seen it yet:

      I oppose the ETS. I want you to delay, disable or defeat the ETS. If the ETS goes through in its present form with your support, don’t come crying to me when you don’t get re-elected next year, because I won’t be voting for you and I won’t care if someone else gets your seat.

      Now, to me, that’s just a simple, easily-understood electoral message. “I feel so strongly about this issue that I’m prepared to abandon you.” It’s certainly not rude, although it is assertive. It avoids using scientific arguments, since our ETS isn’t there because of global warming, it’s there as a sop to our trading partners, who might otherwise criticise us, even though none of them, except the EU, are implementing their own “solution” to global warming.

      Some of us sceptics try hard to ignore the personal insults and innuendo. I’m sorry you see this one going the other way. You are free, of course, to change your email any way you like.

      Then you address the science: we do want to make a paper out of our temperature studies, but more work needs to be done. Since none of us are funded for it, and some of us have full-time jobs to attend to, it’s taking time.

      When you say: “the theory stands until disproved,” what theory do you refer to?

      Remember, too, that we have never said (of our paper Are we feeling warmer yet?) that “this replaces your temperature series”. Because of course it doesn’t.

      You must know that all that paper says is “why did you change the thermometer readings?” So far, NIWA have answered only for Hokitika but not for the other six. After only weeks of pressure from us they asked for Cabinet approval to “reconstruct” the temperature series, to be done over several months and costing about $70,000.

      Renowden and his pals have still failed to notice (or more probably deliberately ignored) the blatant abandonment of both the series and Salinger’s methods which NIWA’s astonishing decision represents. They realised they could not, using the information they had, justify and describe each of the adjustments Salinger made to the temperature readings, so they were forced to do it all over again.

      But our persistence will be rewarded with, hopefully, a better national temp record. Which our scientists will examine most carefully.

      I must say that it would be good for NIWA to either explain why they misdirected us when we asked for descriptions of Salinger’s methods or apologise for doing so. But then it might be good that pigs fly.

  10. (not so) Silent on 22/05/2010 at 3:10 pm said:

    “If the ETS goes through in its present form with your support, don’t come crying to me when you don’t get re-elected next year, because I won’t be voting for you and I won’t care if someone else gets your seat.”

    Thanks for the reply Richard.
    Phrases like “dont come crying to me” and “I wont care “etc are rude in my view. And unnecessary. But hey its your blog and you can write what you want. I just felt the language used would end up with the emails being ignored as strident.
    To me, its all about winning, so personally I would have used less strong words.

    Good to hear you are doing a paper. I would help with funding but my cheque from “big oil” is late this month.
    May I suggest you ignore Renowden, Perrot and Cedric (Watts up my Butt- that would be your head, Cedric). They are irrelevant fringe screamers.

    • It’s strange how we hear so much from the warmistas about big oil’s support for scepticism but see no evidence of it in the real world. Just like the overwhelming evidence for anthropogenic global warming is only ever talked about.

      Thanks for the (moderate) advice.

  11. Peter Fraser on 23/05/2010 at 4:30 pm said:

    While re-reading “Our Place in the Cosmos” by Fred Hoyle and Chandra Wickramasinghe (1993) recently, I came across the following:

    Rather naturally it is the ambition of most scientists to become a leading figure in such an advance. Some succeed by ability, others by luck, and still others, unhappily, by design and deception. The trick is to pretend a major advance has been made, when in fact there has been none. To achieve such a deception, a cabal of scientists, rather than an individual is usually needed. Speaking with one voice, a cabal is often able to shout down lone individuals working in other directions and eventually, by gaining control over what material is published in scientific journals and what is not a cabal can wipe out all opposition.

    Such situations cannot arise entirely by design. There must first be what in sport is called the ‘run of the ball’. Facts must at first sight appear to favour the line taken by the cabal. Design comes in when contradictory facts later appear and are deliberately suppressed through the control which the cabal has obtained over the scientific journals. When, furthermore, the cabal’s views proceed to invade the education system, becoming taught to large numbers of students, who faced by the constant burden of difficult examinations, are not in a position to defend themselves, dogma becomes established. Society becomes saddled with a false area of supposed certain knowledge, which besides the damage it causes directly impedes the development of all nearby surrounding areas of science.

    The authors were not discussing AGW but the paragraphs conclude chapter 1 of the book entitled “The tendency of human societies to depart from the truth.”

    With regard to Richard’s comments re big oil support for climate sceptics, it was the late Mr Daly who in the 1980s first said that there was a likelihood that AGW was being supported by the nuclear industry. This still seems probable to me!

    • Thank you, Peter Fraser.

      This offers credible grounds for the astounding endorsement of AGW by so many top-level scientists and scientific organisations. One of the most common questions addressed to sceptics of anthropogenic global warming is simply: “If it’s not true, why do so many scientists say that it is true?” It is a difficult question to answer — and almost as difficult to believe there could be an answer, since scientists are not known for their susceptibility to a mass delusion. One just has to add access to research funds to complete a picture of strong attraction among scientists to the hypothesis of global warming. I have only to link my research to global warming to gain access to the funds I want. Hence so many scientific papers linked to global warming. Each seems to add to the credibility of the man-made warming, when actually each is an off-shoot of the belief in it.

      The dearth of papers sceptical of AGW is because everybody is influenced by the prevailing belief, which is that AGW is a fact; so why investigate whether it is true? If your study proves it is true, it will have been a waste of money; if your study proves it is false, nobody will believe the study. So, in a natural progression, investigation of the truth of the matter almost ends.

      Whether the nuclear industry is supporting the sceptical view I do not know.

  12. Peter Fraser on 24/05/2010 at 2:13 am said:

    Gidday again Richard,
    I doubt whether the nuclear industry is supporting the sceptics. What John L Daly was purporting in 1989 in his book “The Greenhouse Trap” was that there was a strong likelihood that the Atomic Energy Commission or related parties were financing the AGW hypothesis at that time. On this basis the outrage of AGW people would appear to be a damp squib with regard “Big Oil”.

    While speaking of Mr Daly it should be noted that he was perhaps the first climate change sceptic to point out that the effects of CO2 on the cliimate declined on a logarithic scale as CO2 increased. I quote: “The CO2 and water vapour will absorb most of the wavelengths totally, but there are gaps …. In fact there are two major gaps known as ‘Radiation Windows’ where the gas molecules find it impossible to increase their vibration. Any infrared rays at these ‘window’ wavelengths will just pass straight through any CO2 or (water) vapour molecules in their way. These windows exist at 3-4 microns and 8-12 microns. ‘The importance of these Radiation Windows cannot be over-emphasised. They represent ‘The Hole in the Greenhouse.’ ” Parentheses mine.

    Keep up the good work. With the solar decline and the Greenland volcanoes it is probable that within a few years there will be no need for your work. In the meantime the major effort should be to pressure the NZ Govt to delay the Carbon Tax. New Zealand is in grave danger of shooting itself in the foot without any environmental gain and substantial economic losses.

    • Whether it’s “Big Oil” or the “Nuclear Industry”, the argument is advanced just to avoid facing the facts. I don’t know how important the “radiation windows” are in the greenhouse effect, but there seems to be general agreement of a logarithmic decline in temperature response to increasing CO2 — an inconvenient fact not heard from Greenpeace and their ilk. To listen to them, the more CO2, the more heat, like turning the stove up.

      But the ETS, now there’s the thing! It must be stopped, and the earlier the better, for the longer it goes on the harder its eradication will prove. Public opinion is the only thing the Nats are listening to. Write to your local MP, the PM, the Minister for Climate Change and the Minister for Research, Science and Technology.

      If you’d like some hints, go to my campaign page (or press the orange button at the top of this page) and it will start an email for you.

      ACT’s John Boscawen is tramping the country talking to everybody who’ll listen and he needs some encouragement. The other one needing encouragement is John Key, who thinks right now that the country wants the ETS.

      We are the only ones who can change his mind.

  13. AndrewH on 15/06/2010 at 9:47 pm said:

    Hi Richard

    It’s taken me a while but I have got rainfall records for Mt Cook. Starts in 1928 and there might be a a great deal of scatter but no discernible trend.
    (excel tells me that the trend line is 0x + 345mm on the monthly data). I’m not sure if I can post a graph here but I can email you the spreadsheet if you like.

    Anyway that is 80+ years of record……. half the time back to 1850. No significant decline in precip..but a substantial decline in glacial extent in that period.

    What could be causing it?


  14. Hi Andrew, congratulations on your determination! You show more interest in getting to the bottom of the subject than Gareth does.

    Sure, email the s/sheet to richard [at] Please state where you got the data, where it was collected, etc. Also whether we can get temperature data from the same station.


  15. AndrewH on 30/06/2010 at 9:41 pm said:

    Hi Richard – I sent the data a week or so back – did you get it?

    • Andrew, yes, I did get the data, thank you. Unfortunately, I’ve been sick since then, so I’ve had only a cursory glance at the numbers. Give me a few days and I hope to have something to say. I’d like to look for temp data for Mt Cook, too. Then I’ll talk to some people…

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