Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What Will You Wear To The Frost Fair? An Inconvenient Challenge

Met Office releases new figures which show no warming in 15 years

By David Rose (Mail on Sunday, UK)

Last updated at 5:38 AM on 29th January 2012

The supposed ‘consensus’ on man-made global warming is facing an inconvenient challenge after the release of new temperature data showing the planet has not warmed for the past 15 years.

The figures suggest that we could even be heading for a mini ice age to rival the 70-year temperature drop that saw frost fairs held on the Thames in the 17th Century.

Based on readings from more than 30,000 measuring stations, the data was issued last week without fanfare by the Met Office and the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit. It confirms that the rising trend in world temperatures ended in 1997.

A painting, dated 1684, by Abraham Hondius depicts one of many frost fairs on the River Thames during the mini ice age

Meanwhile, leading climate scientists yesterday told The Mail on Sunday that, after emitting unusually high levels of energy throughout the 20th Century, the sun is now heading towards a ‘grand minimum’ in its output, threatening cold summers, bitter winters and a shortening of the season available for growing food.

Solar output goes through 11-year cycles, with high numbers of sunspots seen at their peak.

We are now at what should be the peak of what scientists call ‘Cycle 24’ – which is why last week’s solar storm resulted in sightings of the aurora borealis further south than usual. But sunspot numbers are running at less than half those seen during cycle peaks in the 20th Century.

Thames freeze in Oxford, 1890

Analysis by experts at NASA and the University of Arizona – derived from magnetic-field measurements 120,000 miles beneath the sun’s surface – suggest that Cycle 25, whose peak is due in 2022, will be a great deal weaker still.

According to a paper issued last week by the Met Office, there is a  92 per cent chance that both Cycle 25 and those taking place in the following decades will be as weak as, or weaker than, the ‘Dalton minimum’ of 1790 to 1830. In this period, named after the meteorologist John Dalton, average temperatures in parts of Europe fell by 2C.

However, it is also possible that the new solar energy slump could be as deep as the ‘Maunder minimum’ (after astronomer Edward Maunder), between 1645 and 1715 in the coldest part of the ‘Little Ice Age’ when, as well as the Thames frost fairs, the canals of Holland froze solid


Yet, in its paper, the Met Office claimed that the consequences now would be negligible – because the impact of the sun on climate is far less than man-made carbon dioxide. Although the sun’s output is likely to decrease until 2100, ‘This would only cause a reduction in global temperatures of 0.08C.’ Peter Stott, one of the authors, said: ‘Our findings suggest  a reduction of solar activity to levels not seen in hundreds of years would be insufficient to offset the dominant influence of greenhouse gases.’


Frost frolic at Bank Side, Thames, 1920s

Thames freeze in London, 1855

These findings are fiercely disputed by other solar experts.

‘World temperatures may end up a lot cooler than now for 50 years or more,’ said Henrik Svensmark, director of the Center for Sun-Climate Research at Denmark’s National Space Institute. ‘It will take a long battle to convince some climate scientists that the sun is important. It may well be that the sun is going to demonstrate this on its own, without the need for their help.’

He pointed out that, in claiming the effect of the solar minimum would be small, the Met Office was relying on the same computer models that are being undermined by the current pause in global-warming.

CO2 levels have continued to rise without interruption and, in 2007, the Met Office claimed that global warming was about to ‘come roaring back’. It said that between 2004 and 2014 there would be an overall increase of 0.3C. In 2009, it predicted that at least three of the years 2009 to 2014 would break the previous temperature record set in 1998. 

So far there is no sign of any of this happening.  But yesterday a Met Office spokesman insisted that its models were still valid. 

Frost Fair Mug, glass with engraved silver mount, made in London, perhaps Southwark, (museum no. C.156-1997). Victorian & Albert Museum, 1684.  A miraculous survival, this tiny glass mug is a souvenir of the Frost Fair, bought from a stall erected upon the Thames ice when the river froze during the winter of 1683-4. 


‘The ten-year projection remains groundbreaking science. The period for the original projection is not over yet,’ he said.

Dr Nicola Scafetta, of Duke University in North Carolina, is the author of several papers that argue the Met Office climate models show there should have been ‘steady warming from 2000 until now’.

‘If temperatures continue to stay flat or start to cool again, the divergence between the models and recorded data will eventually become so great that the whole scientific community will question the current theories,’ he said.

Artist’s rendering of future Frost Fair conditions 

He believes that as the Met Office model attaches much greater significance to CO2 than to the sun, it was bound to conclude that there would not be cooling. ‘The real issue is whether the model itself is accurate,’ Dr Scafetta said. Meanwhile, one of America’s most eminent climate experts, Professor Judith Curry of the  Georgia Institute of Technology, said she found the Met Office’s confident prediction of a ‘negligible’ impact difficult to understand.

‘The responsible thing to do would be to accept the fact that the models may have severe shortcomings when it comes to the influence of the sun,’ said Professor Curry.  As for the warming pause, she said that many scientists are not surprised.’

She argued it is becoming evident that factors other than CO2 play an important role in rising or falling warmth, such as the 60-year water temperature cycles in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.

‘They have insufficiently been appreciated in terms of global climate,’ said Prof Curry. When both oceans were cold in the past, such as from 1940 to 1970, the climate cooled. The Pacific cycle ‘flipped’ back from warm to cold mode in 2008 and the Atlantic is also thought likely to flip in the next few years .
Pal Brekke, senior adviser at the Norwegian Space Centre, said some scientists found the importance of water cycles difficult to accept, because doing so means admitting that the oceans – not CO2 – caused much of the global warming between 1970 and 1997. 

A regular feature of Frost Fairs was a printing press where, as a souvenir, the visitor could have his name set in type and printed on a leaflet bearing a picture of the fair and some doggerel verse.  These souvenirs are now extremely rare and this one had been bought by William Hogarth when he visited the Frost Fair on 16 February, 1740 and instead of his own name he had the name of his dog “Trump” printed on it.  Copyright © The Peter Jackson Collection


The same goes for the impact of the sun – which was highly active for much of the 20th Century.

‘Nature is about to carry out a very interesting experiment,’ he said. ‘Ten or 15 years from now, we will be able to determine much better whether the warming of the late 20th Century really was caused by man-made CO2, or by natural variability.’

Meanwhile, since the end of last year, world temperatures have fallen by more than half a degree, as the cold ‘La Nina’ effect has re-emerged in the South Pacific.

‘We’re now well into the second decade of the pause,’ said Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation. ‘If we don’t see convincing evidence of global warming by 2015, it will start to become clear whether the models are bunk. And, if they are, the implications for some scientists could be very serious.’


Not entirely unexpected, I’m thinking. 

   I’m neither a climatologist nor even particularly science-minded, but I’m generally distrustful of shotgun conclusions regarding long-term (and especially multi-millennial) problems and science that is intimately tied to politics, government-funding and “public-private partnerships” (à la Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac).  Also, when a yutz like Al Gore assumes lectern position and starts in with the damn laser-pointer about anything other than where to find superior grits, biscuits and gravy (a subject on which I would not question his authority and judgement), I become skeptical.

   I reprinted this article from the Sunday Mail (UK) because I am a believer in the scientific method and the patient, systematic search for truth over time, and it’s refreshing to note the careful, calm, qualified and considered speech of the scientists quoted in the article. 

   The story, which has been widely reported, also allowed me to research these atmospheric Thames Frost Fair and other chilly London illustrations. (The final Frost Fair was held in 1814, but two of the pictures here – one above showing Tower Bridge and one below showing the Houses of Parliament -- clearly reflect a vision that a revival might be imminent.)  The story about William Hogarth’s Frost Fair gift for his dog Trump is really charming and gives  us another way to reach back and connect with this great artist.

   My own suspicion, for which I’ve been called a soft-head (and worse) many times, is that global warming/climate change alarm is an indisputable example of cyclical millenarian apocalypse obsession, fueled largely by our fear of mortality and reluctance to accept our relative insignificance in the universe.  We cannot believe the world can or would dare to go on without us, so we’ve drawn a line in the sand stating as law, headline, broadside and symposium  title, that it cannot.  Then, into this fear vacuum sweep large cohorts of Elmer Gantrys (like Al Gore, who really fits the bill in most respects, except for being really good looking like Burt Lancaster) ready to charge a buck, steal a buck, loot, pillage, lecture, demean the polis and its citizens, and degrade the language with neologisms.  

     All of this of this was on full display during the ridiculous and heavily ridiculed 2009 Copenhagen global warming summit held under United Nations auspices, which predictably accomplished absolutely nothing, apart from allowing the enormous U.S. delegation of senior legislators and their lackeys the opportunity conspicuously (like a bonfire) to burn vast amounts of fossil fuel in round-trip unnecessary international travel, expel hot air on the ground and run up astronomical limousine, hotel, restaurant and bar bills at taxpayer expense. 

  At the time, I was doing some consulting work for a start-up "virtue venture," a nascent media company planning to film a documentary about the conference, focusing on an art project called the Carbon Cube, which was a site-specific sculpture created by the architect Christophe Cornubert, seated in St. Jorgens Lake, near Copenhagen's Tycho Brahe Planetarium.  The Carbon Cube represented the amount of space one metric ton of carbon dioxide would occupy if stored at standard atmospheric pressure -- specifically, a space that is the equivalent of 27 feet cubed, or 19,683 cubic feet.


   My company was being engaged to film the art project in order to educate and edify students all over the world.

   I’m genuinely happy to report that the United Nations people we met with were all terrific – civilized, articulate, bearing exceptional expense accounts and good taste in wine and restaurants.  So were the sculptor’s San Francisco-based representatives. 

   But the sculpture itself was boring and leaden -- a clear example of the limits of political art conceived as argument by another means, rather than an affair of the head, heart and Heaven. 

   Like the conference, it was a damp squib, earthbound, not celestial (or even airborne), a complete waste of space.

  A Frost Fair?  Sounds nice.  Especially with an Ice Palace.

Grays Inn Mask by Pyewackett

Final Frost Fair, 1814

Future Frost Fair site?


  1. Provocative information here, Curtis. I'll take a closer look at the research later when I have some down time. I didn't see An Inconvenient Truth, but I am persuaded through my own reading that there is enough convincing data to conclude that climate change has been/is underway. However, I'm always open to reading empirical data which challenges an accepted hypothesis. Thanks for posting this. Nell

  2. You may well be correct. Many intelligent people agree with you and you probably know more and are better trained to process what you read. However, the science being discussed here has been a counter-influence and/or weight to the politically almost hegemonic view for some time and, frankly, watching the commercial horde pile in and pile on, as we've all seen happening for years, raises suspicions. Years ago (I probably still have the article; I'll send it to you if I can find it), the Financial Times ran a long analysis about the false and phony nature of the aborning and no longer nascent Carbon Credits industry. The fact that such an incisive analysis and attack came from the left (the FT, a paper I like, definitely leans left) added weight and credibility to its analysis, I think. Personally (and not only because it interests me), I feel the millenarian hypothesis I advance has a great deal of truth to it. People often set themselves up to tear themselves down; assistance is always available, I've found, in the form of sneaks and creeps anxious to relieve you of your dignity and your possessions. That was grim! I'd rather think of the Frost Fair, which sounds gay. Curtis