I noticed something interesting in AR4 about Antarctic models, that no one mentioned in the initial commentary on Steig et al.
Speaking for myself, I went to some pains to remind those readers who were piling on to this issue that there were sui generis aspects to Antarctica modeling and, even if models missed some detail of Antarctic behavior, that certainly didn’t imply to me that models were WRONG(!), a conclusion that some readers wanted to jump to. Having said that, I agree with Lucia’s comments below:
It may well be that the Antarctic is doing precisely what models predicted. But in that case, it would have been better if Weart had written a more nuanced article that explained more precisely what they predicted, in what way the predictions were consistent or inconsistent with data as thought to exist back in Feb 2008. He could also have discussed the uncertainty in data which arises from poor spatial coverage. He could have said the models predict warming– but so slowly it would be difficult to detect. He could have said many things.
Had this more nuanced article been written, RC could now write an article that explained how the discovering that parts of the continent formerly thought to be cooling are actually warming, and told us if the new knowledge about the warming compares to model predictions.
But, as it stands, the impression given by Weart article at RC published in 2008 was this:
a) Denialists say Antarctica has been cooling.
b) Scientists believed that Antarctica has been cooling.
c) Models predicted this cooling and had done so for decades.
Now, we learn it’s warming.
I’ve no doubt we will be told the warming is also consistent with model. But, if both warming and cooling both said to be consistent, people are going to wonder what modelers mean by “consistent”.
Let’s review the press releases accompanying Steig:
Antarctica during the last 50 years, with the dark red showing the area that has warmed the most. url
(Credit: Image courtesy of University of Washington)
Or at RC:
The paper shows that Antarctica has been warming for the last 50 years, and that it has been warming especially in West Antarctica (see the figure)
In each case, note that the supposed locus of observed warming in West Antarctica includes the Ross Ice Shelf (not labelled in either cartoon, but it’s the notch to the right of the legend “West Antarctica” in the above diagram, where Steig, Mann et al discovered previously unknown warming.
Curiously, AR4 had opined on model predictions for the Ross Ice Shelf in particular, noting that models predicted a local minimum in expected warming in this area:
In 20th- and 21st-century simulations, antarctic sea ice cover is projected to decrease more slowly than in the Arctic (Figures 10.13c,d and 10.14), particularly in the vicinity of the Ross Sea where most models predict a local minimum in surface warming.
I wonder what would happen if one RegEM’ed the models.