Once upon a time, in the mists of time (Feb 2008), long before climate scientists had “moved on”, realclimate featured a post entitled Antarctica is Cold? Yeah, We Knew That, in which Spencer Weart, as noted by Pielke Jr, observed:
. . . we often hear people remarking that parts of Antarctica are getting colder, and indeed the ice pack in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica has actually been getting bigger. Doesn’t this contradict the calculations that greenhouse gases are warming the globe? Not at all, because a cold Antarctica is just what calculations predict… and have predicted for the past quarter century. . .
Bottom line: A cold Antarctica and Southern Ocean do not contradict our models of global warming. For a long time the models have predicted just that.
At AGU in December 2008, Eric Steig gave a preview of his January 2009 article. An RC commenter here reported on this preview as follows:
From http://blogs.nature.com/climatefeedback/2008/12/agu_2008_evidence_that_antarct.html: New research presented at the AGU today suggests that the entire Antarctic continent may have warmed significantly over the past 50 years. The study, led by Eric Steig of the University of Washington in Seattle and soon to be published in Nature, calls into question existing lines of evidence that show the region has mostly cooled over the past half-century.
To which RC coauthor Steig replied (and comments were promptly shut off):
The claim that our result “calls into question existing lines of evidence that show the region has mostly cooled over the past half-century” is wrong though. Wait until the paper is published and I’ll say more.–eric]
Upon recent publication of Steig et al 2009, coauthor Mann stated (also noted up by Pielke Jr):
“Contrarians have sometime grabbed on to this idea that the entire continent of Antarctica is cooling, so how could we be talking about global warming,” said study co-author Michael Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University. “Now we can say: no, it’s not true … It is not bucking the trend.”
Now reasonable people might well interpret that sort of statement as “calling into question existing lines of evidence that show the region has mostly cooled over the past half-century”. Clearly oracles or perhaps goose entrails are required for exegesis of these seemingly contradictory Delphic utterances. Pielke Jr has a little fun with the Team on this, observing:
So a warming Antarctica and a cooling Antarctica are both “consistent with” model projections of global warming.
This elicited a reply from Steig (who seems like pleasant fellow who’s fallen in with a rough crowd over at RC):
I have to admit I cringed when guest writer Weart wrote the article on RealClimate, which I didn’t get a chance to read first. I’m not sure what models he was talking about that said Antarctica should be cooling. A review of the literature would show you (see e.g. Shindell and Schmidt in GRL) that models have been predicting warming.
Fair enough. But this raises the usual problem of the silence of the lambs.
If Steig cringed when he read the Weart article, surely he had an obligation to correct the record at RC. But if you now turn to the thread in question and search ‘Steig’, there is nothing until the final comment (mentioned above.) At no point did Steig record his disagreement with the contents of the RC post. Nor did he record his disagreement when RC coauthors piled on to any commenters who questioned the premises of the Weart post.
Or maybe Steig did write in expressing his disagreement and, like other critics, was censored by Gavin Schmidt. 🙂
Update (Jan 24 4.54 pm): While I was writing this post, Steig added another comment at Pielke Jr
When I said that “I cringed” I don’t mean that I thought there was anything wrong with Spencer’s article. I meant that I thought he wasn’t clear enough that he was referring to the models show a slower warming in Antarctica than e.g. in the Arctic, which was and remains the correct assessment of what the model show. And I suspected that his article would be used in exactly the way Roger Piekle Jr. has used it; to give the impression that scientists are being careless and inconsistent. But as I said above, this is a red herring.
As for why I didn’t make this point at the time, I have a day job. I can’t spend all my time worrying about how blogs on RealClimate may get mis-used and misrepresented by others.
Roger replies in a new post here.
Steig observes that he has a “day job” and can’t worry about how RC gets “misrepresented by others”. But here he is, instantly contesting Roger’s amusement at the RC tangle, not just once but twice. He also had time to make an inline comment closing the past RC thread. So he has time to contest Roger’s supposed miscues, but not to say something at RC about an article that made him “cringe”. Too bad.