Sunday, January 5, 2014
Mike Butler: Antarctic ice and a ship of fools
Did anyone spot the vanishing global warming theme in the story of the ship of scientists that got stuck in Antarctic ice, requiring a rescue that eventuated on Thursday?
Expedition leader Chris Turney told TVNZ before the expedition set off from Bluff on November 28 that his team would be recording measurements of the oceans and the atmosphere. The data gathered will help scientists predict ocean trends of the future.
He said: "There's some tantalising evidence that we're now starting to see some upwelling of warmer waters around Antarctica which is leading to more melt. You're getting more fresh water coming off the continent of Antarctica and less salty water into the deep ocean, so if that's actually changed, it changes the circulation patterns all over the globe not just in Antarctica."(1)
Turney is a professor at the Climate Change Research Centre of the University of New South Wales. His assumptions appeared clear. Fresh water came from melted ice that resulted from a warmer climate that in turn came from human activity and pollution. These assumptions are detailed on the expedition’s website.(2)
Turney’s team on board the Russian vessel Akademik Shokalskiy marked Australian explorer Douglas Mawson's 1911 to 1913 voyage to Antarctica, to King George V Land and Adelie Land, to carry out geographical exploration and scientific studies, including a visit to the South Magnetic Pole.
On that expedition, members ate their dogs to survive, one member went insane, believed to be as the result of eating dog liver, one member disappeared through thin ice, and Mawson himself walked the skin off the soles of his feet.
One big and obvious difference between the two expeditions is that Mawson in a wooden ship sailed to shore while Turney and his crew were stuck 60km away.
The expedition that just ended trapped in ice was costed at US$1.5-million, which included the charter of the Akademik Shokalskiy. Eco tourists paid to go on the trip, with ticket prices starting at $8000. The expedition brought with it four journalists and 26 paying tourists. Turney displayed considerable naivete by taking his wife and two young children along for the ride into the hostile Antarctic environment.
The Akademik Shokalskiy got stuck on Christmas Eve after a blizzard pushed the sea ice around the ship, freezing it in place. A Chinese-flagged ship Snow Dragon tried to get to the ice-bound Russian ship without success. An Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis that was in the area delivering supplies to Australia's Antarctic base Casey Station picked up the 52 members of Turney's expedition that had been picked up from the Russian ship on Thursday by a helicopter from the Chinese ship.(3)
The rescue will cost Australian taxpayers $A400,000 and disrupted Australia's scientific program.(4) Both the Russian and Chinese ships remained stuck in ice.
New Zealand news media followed the Turney trip’s every step. The story changed from that of adventurous scientists collecting data that could save the planet to what looked like a ship of fools stuck in sea ice that they failed to predict.
TVNZ’s Jan 3 report w simply referred to the 52 passengers that had been stuck in ice. There was no reference to the expedition’s climate purpose. Expedition leader Turney, who commented on 6pm news every night, was conspicuous in his silence on the matter.(5)
However, in damage control in a lengthy piece written for the Guardian, Turney wrote “Let's be clear. Us becoming locked in ice was not caused by climate change. Instead it seems to have been an aftershock of the arrival of iceberg B09B which triggered a massive reconfiguration of sea ice in the area.(6)
A Guardian reporter went on the expedition.The Guardian pushes the theory of man-made global warming while questioning whether media should publish so-called climate-denialist stories.
Turney’s mishap appears to indicate more Antarctic ice today than in Mawson’s time 100 years ago. This, on top of an absence of global warming over the past 17 years,(7) further undermines fevered claims of the prospect of man-made climate doom.
1. Anniversary voyage marks great Antarctic expedition, November 26, 2013. http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/anniversary-voyage-marks-great-antarctic-expedition-5728129
2. The Spirit of Mawson Australasian Antarctic Expedition 2013-2014. http://www.spiritofmawson.com/the-science-case/
3. Rescued Antarctic passengers resume journey home, http://news.yahoo.com/rescued-antarctic-passengers-resume-journey-home-001031029.html
4. Rescued Antarctic passengers resume journey home,http://news.yahoo.com/rescued-antarctic-passengers-resume-journey-home-001031029.html
5. Ship involved in Antarctic rescue faces trouble, January 3, 2014. http://tvnz.co.nz/national-news/ship-involved-in-antarctic-rescue-faces-trouble-5790285
6. Antarctic expedition: 'This wasn't a tourist trip. It was all about science – and it was worth it' http://www.theguardian.com/science/antarctica-live/2014/jan/04/antarctic-expedition-was-worth-it-chris-turney 7. No significant warming for 17 years 4 months, http://wattsupwiththat.com/2013/06/13/no-significant-warming-for-17-years-4-months/
at 1:06 PM