[ RadSafe ] Scientist changes mind

John Jacobus crispy_bird at yahoo.com
Thu Jul 27 10:54:14 CDT 2006

It is seldom that one reads of a scientist who changes
his mind in public.  It is also interesting to
consider his comments that his work were taken out of
context, was misquoted, and even had words put in his


July 27, 2006
Op-Ed Contributor
Cold, Hard Facts 

IN the debate on global warming, the data on the
climate of Antarctica has been distorted, at different
times, by both sides. As a polar researcher caught in
the middle, I’d like to set the record straight.

In January 2002, a research paper about Antarctic
temperatures, of which I was the lead author, appeared
in the journal Nature. At the time, the Antarctic
Peninsula was warming, and many people assumed that
meant the climate on the entire continent was heating
up, as the Arctic was. But the Antarctic Peninsula
represents only about 15 percent of the continent’s
land mass, so it could not tell the whole story of
Antarctic climate. Our paper made the continental
picture more clear.

My research colleagues and I found that from 1986 to
2000, one small, ice-free area of the Antarctic
mainland had actually cooled. Our report also analyzed
temperatures for the mainland in such a way as to
remove the influence of the peninsula warming and
found that, from 1966 to 2000, more of the continent
had cooled than had warmed. Our summary statement
pointed out how the cooling trend posed challenges to
models of Antarctic climate and ecosystem change.

Newspaper and television reports focused on this part
of the paper. And many news and opinion writers linked
our study with another bit of polar research published
that month, in Science, showing that part of
Antarctica’s ice sheet had been thickening — and
erroneously concluded that the earth was not warming
at all. “Scientific findings run counter to theory of
global warming,” said a headline on an editorial in
The San Diego Union-Tribune. One conservative
commentator wrote, “It’s ironic that two studies
suggesting that a new Ice Age may be under way may end
the global warming debate.”

In a rebuttal in The Providence Journal, in Rhode
Island, the lead author of the Science paper and I
explained that our studies offered no evidence that
the earth was cooling. But the misinterpretation had
already become legend, and in the four and half years
since, it has only grown.

Our results have been misused as “evidence” against
global warming by Michael Crichton in his novel “State
of Fear” and by Ann Coulter in her latest book,
“Godless: The Church of Liberalism.” Search my name on
the Web, and you will find pages of links to
everything from climate discussion groups to Senate
policy committee documents — all citing my 2002 study
as reason to doubt that the earth is warming. One
recent Web column even put words in my mouth. I have
never said that “the unexpected colder climate in
Antarctica may possibly be signaling a lessening of
the current global warming cycle.” I have never
thought such a thing either.

Our study did find that 58 percent of Antarctica
cooled from 1966 to 2000. But during that period, the
rest of the continent was warming. And climate models
created since our paper was published have suggested a
link between the lack of significant warming in
Antarctica and the ozone hole over that continent.
These models, conspicuously missing from the
warming-skeptic literature, suggest that as the ozone
hole heals — thanks to worldwide bans on
ozone-destroying chemicals — all of Antarctica is
likely to warm with the rest of the planet. An
inconvenient truth?

Also missing from the skeptics’ arguments is the
debate over our conclusions. Another group of
researchers who took a different approach found no
clear cooling trend in Antarctica. We still stand by
our results for the period we analyzed, but unbiased
reporting would acknowledge differences of scientific

The disappointing thing is that we are even debating
the direction of climate change on this globally
important continent. And it may not end until we have
more weather stations on Antarctica and longer-term
data that demonstrate a clear trend.

In the meantime, I would like to remove my name from
the list of scientists who dispute global warming. I
know my coauthors would as well.

Peter Doran is an associate professor of earth and
environmental sciences at the University of Illinois
at Chicago.

>From the Slate:

Cheez Whiz In His Veins: Harry Olivieri, credited with co-inventing the 
Philly cheesesteak, died at 90. "My father is just as famous as the man 
who created the wheel," his daughter said, "except the wheel is a 
little less fattening and it won't end up on your hips."

-- John
John Jacobus, MS
Certified Health Physicist
e-mail:  crispy_bird at yahoo.com

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