Strange new paper on NZ climate – Part 1

Cooling consistent with warming

Rodney Hide’s column in last week’s NBR commented on a recent article in Nature Communications:

The glaciers are retreating. The glaciers are retreating. Humans are cooking the planet! Hang on, the glaciers are advancing. They’re advancing. Humans are cooking the planet!

The paper, Regional cooling caused recent New Zealand glacier advances in a period of global warming, by Andrew Mackintosh, Brian Anderson, Andrew Lorrey, James Renwick, et al. (“MAL2017”), has some quirks.

It claims that “regional cooling” caused some of our glaciers to advance, which the authors claim is “consistent with a climate system that is being modified by humans.”

Rodney takes issue with that, suggesting more cautiously that regional cooling is “not inconsistent” with a human influence, and he makes a good point. You’d think that man-made global warming would be unquestionably inconsistent with regional cooling, since the cooling must be caused by natural factors—by definition, since the single human factor is warming.

Still, I don’t have a problem with the general idea of coexistent regions of warming and cooling, since there are always regions above the global average temperature and regions below the average. It’s not remotely remarkable—that’s what average means.

But since we cannot have caused the regional cooling, it’s quite a deception to describe cooling in terms of a human influence on climate and thus imply we’ve had something to do with it. For we had no hand in the cooling, and of course the paper did not study it.

Because these scientists side with the alarmist view of man-made global warming and, since their study made no finding on the matter, for no other reason, they exploit the study to send a message that we’re dicing with death by warming.

Which is incongruous here, because while the paper seems harmless, this addendum to its conclusion is conspicuous in its propaganda. The obsequious tone of it reeks of a desire to curry favour with those who might either prevent publication or limit future prospects.

I’ll post shortly on the credibility of the paper’s model assumptions, the astounding turnaround it represents on recent NZ warming and I ask what changes Brett Mullan will make to the 7SS as a result. It’s all taking a bit long, I’m afraid, and this first part has been lying around for a week, but the second shouldn’t be far away.

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16 Thoughts on “Strange new paper on NZ climate – Part 1

  1. Simon on 07/03/2017 at 5:22 pm said:

    It’s a nice paper, I’m not sure why you think it’s strange. NZ’s glaciers are clustered in a part of the country that is exposed to roaring 40’s weather systems and directly affected by southern Tasman Sea temperature anomalies. That’s not true for all of NZ.

    I’m not sure that Rodney’s opinions are valuable enough to warrant putting behind a paywall.

  2. Richard Treadgold on 07/03/2017 at 5:53 pm said:


    I’m sorry you’re unsure, since I explain why I think it’s strange. Let me recap. So far, there are three reasons:

    1. The authors claim cooling is “consistent with a climate system that is being modified by humans.” That is strange because our alleged climate modification is universally held to be warming and not cooling.

    2. It’s strange to encounter a deceptive description of climate cooling in terms of a human influence and thus imply we’ve had something to do with it.

    3. Though their study made no finding on the matter, indeed, it didn’t even study the causes of global warming, it is strange that they exploit it to send a message about our emissions. It also seems obsequious because it was not related to their paper’s objectives. They’re saying: “Look! We too believe! We do, we do!” I might do the same thing by posting a recipe for tomato relish; it would be as related to the purpose of this blog as human emissions are related to regional cooling at altitude over New Zealand.

    But there’s more.

  3. Richard Treadgold on 07/03/2017 at 5:57 pm said:

    Rodney’s opinions are held in many quarters to be valuable and entertaining and are quite worth the small price asked by the NBR.

  4. Andy on 08/03/2017 at 9:43 am said:

    I was under the impression that NZ is warming, and that NZ glaciers had dramatically retreated in recent years

    Therefore, this paper comes as a bit of a surprise

  5. Richard Treadgold on 08/03/2017 at 10:16 am said:

    Same here. Any suggestion of cooling or talk of advancing glaciers has been consistently denounced as climate denial, no question.

  6. Andy on 08/03/2017 at 11:50 am said:

    The paper notes that the Tasman and Murchison glaciers are retreating rapidly, but Fox and Franz were until recently advancing.

    I always thought that the advance might be due to increased precipitation, and the main conclusion from the paper would appear to imply this is not the case.

    However, the paper also notes that the rapid retreat of the Tasman is mainly due to the terminal lake causing rapid melt at the snout.

    It seems to me that the claim that NZ glaciers have had huge ice mass loss over recent decades might be skewed by the Tasman and other low angle glaciers. I wonder how the picture would look if the Tasman was removed from the result set.

  7. Richard Treadgold on 08/03/2017 at 1:28 pm said:

    Good thinking. I don’t know about the low angle angle (?), but there are many uncertainties in the paper. You mention skewed results and I agree. I also wonder what would happen if they included more than 58 glaciers — New Zealand has over 3000. Why did they choose these ones? Does the paper explain that?

    The greatest concern to me is the lack of any hint of general glacier advance for 30 years or more. Some of us have suggested imminent cooling and been severely scorned by the warmies, but now we have NIWA contradicting their own studies going back decades. I’ll have details on this shortly.

  8. Andy on 08/03/2017 at 1:34 pm said:

    The Tasman Glacier has a large terminal lake, that has been rapidly expanding over the last few years. The water is accelerating the ice melt at the snout, and this will make the glacier retreat up to the point where it starts to climb up the valley at a more pronounced angle

    The guides at Mt Cook are now offering “Glacier Sea Kayaking” trips to explore the lake

    The mechanism by which this is occurring is well documented in the literature and not necessarily anything to do with anthropogenic forcing. It is an actual case of positive feedbacks though

    I imagine that it would take a fairly large cooling to reverse this trend

  9. Richard Treadgold on 08/03/2017 at 3:07 pm said:

    The link to anthro warming is slim at best. The comment they tack on the end about “consistent with” a human influence isn’t supported by evidence. It’s an important omission yet most people don’t notice it. By now they make the link with CO2 emissions without being told to.

  10. Andy on 08/03/2017 at 3:33 pm said:

    I think the “consistent with” bit is a standard CYA clause that they put in the paper to make sure it gets published

  11. Richard Treadgold on 08/03/2017 at 3:56 pm said:

    Fitting in with the prevailing fashion of thought is the only possible reason. Oops — we’re unfashionable!

  12. Maggy Wassilieff on 09/03/2017 at 10:38 am said:

    What I find most strange about this paper is that the authors do not address/model the very obvious decline in length of Fox, Franz & Stocking glaciers that seems to commence somewhere in the mid 1930s.

  13. Ian Cooper on 10/03/2017 at 12:30 pm said:

    The 1930’s, Maggy, was a decade of real extreme’s. For Palmerston North, 1935 was both the sunniest & wettest year (until that latter title went to the infamous 2004). That would be unusual for anywhere. In ’35 when it was sunny it was ‘very’ sunny, and when it was wet, it was ‘very’ wet! We also had the two hottest summers on record since records began in 1928. They were 1934-35 & 1937-38. This is in contrast to the winters of 1931-32-33 which are all in the top ten of coldest winters on record for Palmy. I believe that Palmerston North wasn’t alone with those hot summers. That may have helped start the glacial decline that you talk of.

  14. Dennis N Horne on 12/03/2017 at 11:10 am said:

    Over a longer period, S.I. glaciers have shrunk.

    Most (93%) of the energy retained by the abrupt increase in CO2 (>40%) is going into the oceans. John Abraham. Friday 10 March 2017

    [Summary] New research has quantified how much Earth has warmed over the past 56 years. Human activities utilize fossil fuels for many beneficial purposes but have undesirable side effect of adding CO2 to the atmosphere. That increase – 40%, with most since 1980 – traps heat in Earth system, warming the entire planet.

    At any time the direct effect of this blanket is small, but the accumulated effects are huge and have consequences for our weather and climate. Over 90% of the extra heat ends up in the ocean and hence perhaps the most important measurements of global warming are made in the oceans.

    [3500] Argo floats are spread out across oceans where they rise and fall in the ocean waters collecting temperature data to 2000m. When they rise to the ocean surface, they send their data to satellites. Hence we can now map the ocean heat content quite well.

    But what about the past? Putting data from these various sensors together has been a struggle and has been a major impediment to an accurate quantification of the ocean’s temperature history … paper in Science Advances [today] uses a new strategy

    First, we corrected past data for known biases in measurements. Second, we related the temperature measurements to results calculated from advanced climate computer models. Third, we applied temperature knowledge to larger areas so that a single measurement was representative of a large space around the measurement site. Finally, we used their knowledge of recent and well-observed temperatures to show that the method produced excellent results.

    “This study shows that more heat is likely to have been absorbed by the oceans over the past 50 years than had previously been reported. With upward revisions in our estimates of the climate’s sensitivity to greenhouse gases and the associated resultant sea level rise.”

    “We know the oceans are much warmer now and they contain the memory of climate change. Higher sea surface temperatures are continually reinforced by the extra heat beneath the ocean surface. The oceans are affecting weather and climate through more intense rains. This process is a major reason why 2016 was the hottest year ever recorded at the Earth’s surface, beating out 2015 which was the previous record. Additionally 2015 was a year with record hurricanes, heat waves, droughts, and wild-fires around the world.”

    The knowledge about how the ocean has warmed, and how the warmth has spread in depth and over the different oceans is consistent with theory and models, and grounds the theories of human-induced climate change. The memory of past warming is in the oceans, and even though there are weather events that alter the details daily, the atmosphere above the oceans is warmer and moister than it used to be.

    It is these changes that affect storms, such as the deluges that have recently affected


    And talking about ocean warming:

  15. Mike Jowsey on 12/03/2017 at 8:17 pm said:

    RT check
    Muriel Newman discusses the changing US political landscape wrt CAGW. Some of her questions regarding NOAA regarding data availability and reproducibility have parallels with NIWA and the 7SS.

  16. Bill Alexander on 27/05/2017 at 3:00 pm said:

    Mr Horne says “…Additionally 2015 was a year with record hurricanes, heat waves, droughts, and wild-fires around the world…” From what sources did Dennis N Horne obtain this extraordinary statement. ?
    See “… Similar to the past three years, tornado activity across the U.S. during 2015 was below average….” , according to the NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, State of the Climate: Tornadoes for Annual 2015, published online January 2016, retrieved on May 26, 2017 from
    As for “record ” heat waves, droughts and wild fires he appears to have simply made some wild presumptions in the face of the known greening of the planet thanks to CO2. See

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