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 Post subject: Himalayan melting by 2035? Scientists make typo error
PostPosted: January 22nd, 2010, 5:11 pm 
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Location: Ontario
Chris Hastings & Jonathan Leake, Sunday Times, London, 18 January 2010, 12:04am IST

A warning that climate change will melt most of the Himalayan glaciers by 2035 is likely to be retracted after the United Nations body that issued it admitted a series of scientific blunders.

Two years ago, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a benchmark report that was claimed to incorporate the latest and most detailed research into the impact of global warming. A central claim was that the world's glaciers were melting so fast that those in the Himalayas could vanish by 2035.

In the past few days, the scientists behind the warning have admitted that it was based on a news story in the New Scientist, a popular science journal, published eight years before the IPCC's 2007 report.

It has also emerged that the New Scientist report was itself based on a short telephone interview with Syed Hasnain, an obscure Indian scientist then based at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. Hasnain has since admitted that the claim was ``speculation'' and not supported by any formal research.

If confirmed, it would be one of the most serious failures yet seen in climate research. The IPCC was set up precisely to ensure that world leaders had the best possible scientific advice on climate change.

Murari Lal, who oversaw the chapter on glaciers in the IPCC report, said he would recommend that the claim about glaciers be dropped: "If Hasnain says officially that he never asserted this, or that it is a wrong presumption, than I will recommend that the assertion about Himalayan glaciers be removed from future IPCC assessments."

The IPCC's reliance on Hasnain's 1999 interview has been highlighted by Fred Pearce, the journalist who carried out the original interview for the New Scientist. Pearce said he rang Hasnain in India in 1999 after spotting his claims in an Indian magazine.

Pearce said: "Hasnain told me then that he was bringing a report containing those numbers to Britain. The report had not been peer reviewed or formally published in a scientific journal and it had no formal status so I reported his work on that basis.

"Since then I have obtained a copy and it does not say what Hasnain said. In other words it does not mention 2035 as a date by which any Himalayan glaciers will melt. However, he did make clear that his comments related only to part of the Himalayan glaciers. not the whole massif.''

The New Scientist report was apparently forgotten until 2005 when WWF cited it in a report called An Overview of Glaciers, Glacier Retreat, and Subsequent Impacts in Nepal, India and China. The report credited Hasnain's 1999 interview with the New Scientist. But it was a campaigning report rather than an academic paper.

Despite this it rapidly became a key source for the IPCC when Lal and his colleagues came to write the section on the Himalayas.

When finally published, the IPCC report did give its source as the WWF study but went further, suggesting the melting of the glaciers was "very likely". The IPCC defines "very likely" as having a probability of greater than 90%.

Glaciologists find such figures inherently ludicrous, pointing out that most Himalayan glaciers are hundreds of feet thick and could not melt fast enough to vanish by 2035 unless there was a huge global temperature rise.

Julian Dowdeswell, director of the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University, said: "A small glacier such as the Dokriani glacier is up to 120m thick. A big one would be several hundred metres thick and tens of kilometres long. The average is 300m thick so to melt one at 5m a year would take 60 years."

Some scientists have questioned how the IPCC could have allowed such a mistake into print. Perhaps the most likely reason was lack of expertise. Lal himself admits he knows little about glaciers. "I am not an expert. The comments in the WWF report were made by a respected Indian scientist and it was reasonable to assume he knew what he was talking about," he said.

The IPCC last week refused to comment so it has yet to explain how someone who admits to little expertise on glaciers was overseeing such a report. Perhaps its one consolation is that the blunder was picked up by climate scientists who rushed to make it public.

The lead role in that process was played by Graham Cogley, a geographer from Trent University in Ontario, Canada, who had long been unhappy with the IPCC's finding.

He traced the IPCC claim back to the New Scientist and then contacted Pearce. Pearce then re-interviewed Hasnain, who confirmed that his 1999 comments had been "speculative", and published the update in the New Scientist. ``The reality, that the glaciers are wasting away, is bad enough. But they are not wasting away at the rate suggested by this speculative remark and the IPCC report," Cogley said.

"The problem is that nobody who studied this material bothered chasing the trail back to the original point when the claim first arose."

Pearce said the IPCC's reliance on the WWF was "immensely lazy". Hasnain could not be reached for comment. ... 459848.cms ... robrf.html

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Oslo, 10 December 2007
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
and Albert Arnold (Al) Gore Jr.
were awarded of the Nobel Peace Prize
"for their efforts to build up and disseminate greater
knowledge about man-made climate change, and to
lay the foundations for the measures that are
needed to counteract such change".

ipcc-delegation-nobel-peace.jpg [ 27.56 KiB | Viewed 6993 times ]

IPCC statement on the melting of Himalayan glaciers1 - 20 January 2010, Geneva

The Synthesis Report, the concluding document of the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change
(page 49) stated: “Climate change is expected to exacerbate current stresses on water resources from population growth and economic and land-use change, including urbanisation. On a regional scale, mountain snow pack, glaciers and small ice caps play a crucial role in freshwater availability. Widespread mass losses from glaciers and reductions in snow cover over recent decades are projected to accelerate throughout the 21st century, reducing water availability, hydropower potential, and changing seasonality of flows in regions supplied by meltwater from major mountain ranges (e.g. Hindu-Kush, Himalaya, Andes), where more than one-sixth of the world population currently lives.”

This conclusion is robust, appropriate, and entirely consistent with the underlying science and the broader IPCC assessment.

It has, however, recently come to our attention that a paragraph in the 938 page Working Group II contribution to the underlying assessment2 refers to poorly substantiated estimates of rate of recession and date for the disappearance of Himalayan glaciers. In drafting the paragraph in question, the clear and well-established standards of evidence, required by the IPCC procedures, were not applied properly.

The Chair, Vice-Chairs, and Co-chairs of the IPCC regret the poor application of well-established IPCC procedures in this instance. This episode demonstrates that the quality of the assessment depends on absolute adherence to the IPCC standards, including thorough review of “the quality and validity of each source before incorporating results from the source into an IPCC Report” 3. We reaffirm our strong commitment to ensuring this level of performance.

1 This statement is from the Chair and Vice-Chairs of the IPCC, and the Co-Chairs of the IPCC Working Groups.
2 The text in question is the second paragraph in section 10.6.2 of the Working Group II contribution and a repeat of part of the paragraph in Box TS.6. of the
Working Group II Technical Summary of the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report.
3 This is verbatim text from Annex 2 of Appendix A to the Principles Governing IPCC Work

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Last edited by JPMTURF on January 22nd, 2010, 6:25 pm, edited 3 times in total.

 Post subject: Local Trenton Scientist Finds Mistake with Himalayan melting
PostPosted: January 22nd, 2010, 6:06 pm 
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Joined: October 20th, 2009, 6:19 pm
Posts: 79
Location: Ontario
Local Trenton Scientist Finds Mistake with Himalayan melting

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Graham Cogley is a physical geographer with interests in glaciology, climatology, geomorphology and geographical information science. He is responsible for the maintenance of Trent's long-standing programme of mass-balance and other glaciological measurements at Expedition Fiord, Axel Heiberg Island, and of a database of worldwide mass-balance and hydrographic measurements, which have been the basis for several of his published papers in recent years. He has also done work on glaciological remote sensing, land-surface climate modelling, map projections and the glacial geomorphology of the Peterborough area.
Prof. Cogley's teaching interests parallel his research interests. His current undergraduate courses include GEOG240-Geology, GEOG256H-Large-scale Geomorphology, GEOG341H-Climatic Change, and GEOG351H-Glacial and Quaternary Geomorphology and he occasionally teaches GEOG246H-The Global Climate System, GEOG353H-Hydrology and GEOG440-Research in Physical Geography. The supervision of theses by senior undergraduates is an important part of teaching in the Trent Geography

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