Archive for May, 2010

The volcano: an interesting scientific distraction.

May 27, 2010

I realise that the volcano that is currently erupting in Iceland has caused a lot of problems for a lot of people.

However, if I can see one plus side it’s all the impromptu atmospheric science that is going on around it. For example, the first paper about the volcano, which is looking at the electric charge of the ash plume from balloon measurements taken over Scotland, has just been published. [As an interesting aside, one the instruments that was used in this work uses the plastic case that holds the toy in a Kinder Egg!]

This is remarkably quick work. To collect data in April and then publish a paper in May is almost unheard of.

There’s plenty more examples of this and I’m sure lots of interesting science will emerge in the coming years as a result of this unforeseen event.

In Manchester where I work, a lot of people have put their usual work to one side to concentrate on the plume. One of my colleagues is currently in the Shetland Isles repairing an instrument that we moved up there last month to observe the plume and many others are away manning instruments on research planes that are investigating the plume or analysing the data that has been collected.

This is all an inconvenience and big projects are getting delayed but many people are working really hard to understand the ash cloud and are finding out new things along the way. So it’s not all bad.

ResearchBlogging.orgR G Harrison, K A Nicoll, Z Ulanowski and T A Mather (2010). Self-charging of the Eyjafjallajökull volcanic ash plume Environ. Res. Lett., 5

Climate isn’t just about the atmosphere.

May 20, 2010

Most of our analyses of climate change have focused on the atmosphere and mostly over land and, therefore, mostly in the Northern Hemisphere.  This is simply because that is where our best data comes from.

This is starting to change though.

A paper published in Nature this week uses relatively new ocean data to show a “Robust warming of the global upper ocean”.  Different methods can be used to analyse ocean data, and this discussion gets a bit in depth, but here is the key plot, showing the clear increase in upper-ocean heat content for the period 1993-2008.

This field still needs a lot of work but this represents some interesting and significant progress.

ResearchBlogging.orgLyman JM, Good SA, Gouretski VV, Ishii M, Johnson GC, Palmer MD, Smith DM, & Willis JK (2010). Robust warming of the global upper ocean. Nature, 465 (7296), 334-7 PMID: 20485432

Does the Today programme have an anti-Climate Science agenda?

May 19, 2010

I was listening to Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday and was quite surprised that they spent nearly 5 minutes reporting from the Heartland Institute’s International Conference on Climate Change (ICCC).  This conference is different to almost all other climate conferences as it is dominated by climate change “sceptics”.

The Today programme is one of the UK’s most influencial news programmes and I’ve never heard a report on this show from any other climate science conference despite there being many, many others every year.  (I’m not including Copenhagen here as that was a climate policy conference, not a science conference.)

So why report from the ICCC?  Well, their angle in the report was that its not just right-wingers that are climate change “sceptics”.  This strikes me a bit lame and not really news.

I’m beginning to think that the Today programme has an anti-Climate Science agenda.

My main other concern with the Today programme and its climate coverage is Justin Webb.  A relatively new host, he seems to think that his views should shape the programme’s stance on climate science.  His most notorious moment was an awful interview with Prof. Ian Plimer (geologist turned climate “sceptic”) where Webb failed to question Plimer on any of the controversial things he was saying.

Reporting the consensus view on climate science is probably getting a bit dull and maybe that is why the media like the contrary view.  I just thought that the Today programme was better than that.

[The relevant piece starts at 2:49:49 of the Today programme from 18th May 2010, which is available here for a limited period on the BBC iPlayer.]