A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


The Skeptics Handbook

Think it has been debunked? See here.

The Skeptics Handbook II

Climate Money Paper




The nerds have the numbers on precious metals investments on the ASX



The non-disaster of 150,000 missing penguins? They just went somewhere else.

The media hype and the story of the false Penguin Panic

Image: UNSW/Chris Turney

Much fuss was made of 150,000 missing penguins in Antarctica as if climate change had killed them. A monster iceberg had washed in, stopping the cute swimming tuxedos from getting to dinner and the colony of 160,000 suddenly shrank to 10,000. Where did all those penguins go? In previous tough times, when they could be tracked they just split up and went to different colonies.

Given that the penguins have survived repeated ice ages and warming for millions of years who would have thought that they would have a strategy for dealing with the odd big iceberg?

The penguin catastrophe:

[Grist] Researchers found that a colony of Adélie penguins in Antartica’s Cape Denison has decreased from 160,000 to just 10,000 since 2011, when a huge iceberg ominously named B09B became grounded in nearby Commonwealth Bay. The penguins were once a short waddle from their food source, but the arrival of the iceberg — which is nearly the size of Rhode Island — has turned that jaunt into a 75-mile round trip. Talk about a long lunch.

Cry for those penguins:

“It’s eerily silent now,” expedition leader Chris Turney told [...]

Giant blob of superheated rock under West Antarctica

A new seismic survey shows there is a blob of superheated rock 60 miles below West Antarctica. To describe it, the researchers use the phrase “like a blow-torch”. Of course, just because the parts of Antarctica that are warming are near or over this hot blob does not mean it’s causing the melting. It could be a coincidence. ; -)

… this is the first detailed look at the Earth beneath this region.

Not surprisingly, the maps show a giant blob of superheated rock about 60 miles beneath Mount Sidley, the last of a chain of volcanic mountains in Marie Byrd Land at one end of the transect. More surprisingly, they reveal hot rock beneath the Bentley Subglacial Trench, a deep basin at the other end of the transect.

The Bentley Subglacial Trench is part of the West Antarctic Rift System and hot rock beneath the region indicates that this part of the rift system was active quite recently.

The study really highlights how little we know about heat flow in Antarctica:

While heat flow through the Earth’s crust has been measured at at least 34,000 different spots around the globe, in [...]

Australia has had megadroughts for the last thousand years says ice core study

A new study of Law Dome Ice cores tells us that droughts are common in Australia, and that there appears to be eight mega-droughts over the last thousand years, including one that lasted a whopping 39 years from 1174- 1212AD. By their reckoning the 12th Century in Australia was a shocker with 80% of it spent in drought conditions. Things weren’t so bad from 1260 – 1860, at least, as far as they can tell. The researchers are convinced theirs is the first millennial-length Australian drought record. It does seem significant.

The researchers, sensibly, think we might want to pay attention to the Pacific cycles and store a bit more water. Without fanfare the paper also suggests that droughts were worse in medieval times.

“this work suggests Australia may also have experienced mega-droughts during the Medieval period that have no modern analog. Therefore, management of water infrastructure in eastern Australia needs to account for decadal-scale droughts being a normal feature of the hydrological cycle.”

h/t to Paul Homewood at Notalotofpeopleknowthat

The ABC reported this largely as a water management story, without asking whether their past stories that blamed CO2 for droughts were less likely to be true. [...]

West Antarctica: more evidence it was the volcanoes that melted the ice

As I’ve repeatedly posted this year, there is a strange coincidence between geothermal activity and warming in Antarctica. We are still discovering volcanoes underwater, so we can’t pretend we have accurate data on their contribution in joules or the trends in that. On Antarctica almost all the headlines of doom and collapse come from West Antarctic peninsula or the ice sheet nearby which also happen to be over the West Antarctic Rift System. Most other places in and around Antarctica are cooling or staying the same, and sea ice is hitting record levels. “Must be CO2 then.” ; -)

Damiani et al looked at the crustal thickness beneath Thwaites Glacier, and finds it is quite thin, like that beneath the Pine Island Glacier. The researchers conclude that it is likely there is a major volcanic dome in Marie Byrd Land.[1]

Spot any media mention of the possibility that hot lava might be to blame instead of your SUV.[2]  Good little propaganda writers produce plenty of gloom and doom headlines of the imminent collapse of ice-sheets. Where are the journalists? For that matter — which climate scientist tries to make sure journalists present an accurate report?

h/t The HockeySchtick



Antarctic Sea Ice record high — 600,000km2 more than previous record

Despite all the “missing heat” hiding somewhere in the oceans, the extent of the Antarctic Sea Ice today is at a record high of 16.8 million square kilometers. In the Southern Hemisphere the record is 600,000 square kilometers more than has ever been recorded by satellites which began tracking the sea-ice extent in 1979 when CO2 was 336ppm. Atmospheric carbon dioxide has risen 20% globally since then and current global sea ice extent is slightly above than the average from 1978 -2008. The previous largest extent was 16.22 million km2 in 2012. This may not be the peak this year. Watch the chart with me this week.

The Antarctic Sea Ice usually reaches its annual peak the week after the Spring Equinox. Though it may peak as late as October 9th, as it did last year.

(Click to see the whole graph)

Source: Cryosphere


Antarctica – where more ice and less ice is proof of climate change

The sea ice around Antarctica is at a record high since satellites started recording, and snowfall is thumping down on the northern Antarctic Peninsula*, but alas — some glaciers on the same peninsula are continuing to melt, just like they have done for 300 years. Hence, a team of researchers-with-models conclude that this means these glaciers are especially, very, super-sensitive to air temperature changes and will “likely” melt fast, raise sea-levels, and disappear in 200 years time.[1]

Glaciers in northern Antarctic Peninsula melting faster than ever despite increased snowfall

Increased snowfall will not prevent the continued melting of glaciers in the northern Antarctic Peninsula, according to new research. Scientists have discovered that small glaciers that end on land around the Antarctic Peninsula are highly vulnerable to slight changes in air temperature and may be at risk of disappearing within 200 years. – Science Daily

“Faster than ever!”  Blame Climate Change TM:

[Prof Glasser]: “This unprecedented glacier recession, in response to climate change, will result in significant contributions to sea level rise from this and similar Antarctic Peninsula mountain glaciers and ice caps.” –

Hmm. I note that other warming parts of Antarctica are near a string of volcanoes and (surprize) [...]

Surprise, West Antarctic volcano melts ice

Who would have thought? Antarctic volcanoes are hot after all.  Having a volcano under an icesheet makes a difference, and some of the sea level rise blamed on CO2 is more likely to be because 1,000 °C lava is not far from sub-zero ice. Right now, according to scientist Dustin Schroeder and co,  it is as if the Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctic is sitting on a “stovetop burner”.[1]

Only last week I wondered if West Antarctic volcanoes had something to do with the Antarctic warming and pointed out this strange coincidence below where almost all the warming seems to occur over the volcanic area which is part of the hot “Pacific rim of fire”. I also wondered why some parts of the media don’t seem to mention the volcanoes. Wait and see if this story gets picked up. So far, Fox, and Business Insider have it.

“Using radar data from satellites in orbit, the researchers were able to figure out where these subglacial streams were too full to be explained by flow from upstream. The swollen streams revealed spots of unusually high melt, Schroeder said. Next, the researchers checked out the subglacial geology in the region and found that fast-melting [...]

That West Antarctic melting couldn’t be caused by volcanoes could it?

We’re all doomed:

West Antarctic ice sheet collapse ‘unstoppable’ [ABC]

Irreversible Changes Now Affect Antarctica and the World [Live-science]

‘Nothing can stop retreat’ of West Antarctic glaciers [BBC, By Jonathan Amos]

West Antarctic ice collapse ‘could drown Middle East and Asia crops’ [The Guardian, Suzanne Goldenberg]

Antarctica’s ice collapse threatens metres of sea level rise within decades  [The Ecologist]

Global warming: it’s a point of no return in West Antarctica. [The Guardian Eric Rignot]

“Last week saw a ‘holy shit’ moment in climate change science. A landmark report revealed that the collapse of a large part of Antarctica is now unstoppable”

What else is going on in West Antarctica? Oh. Look where those volcanoes are…

Guess which science correspondent mentioned the word “volcano”? None of the above. Did any of those responsible publicly funded climate scientists mentioned it in their press releases? (A gold star to anyone who can find one). Lucky Antarctic volcanoes are not hot.

Thanks especially to Janama, Jaypac, John, Sophocles and Tom. That is what comments are for!

Locations of volcanoes in Antarctica known to have been active since [...]

Antarctica, not warming but melting? Has the missing heat turned up in West Antarctica?

UPDATE: A newer post on Antarctica points out that there is a volcanic chain running under or near the parts of Antarctica that are warming or melting. The scientists and media forgot to mention…

The new-old scare is Antarctica and what a messy situation it is. Only two weeks ago Matthew England was saying that Ocean winds were keeping Antarctica cool, and that Antarctica was stealing Australian rain.

Now a new Cryosat study by Malcolm McMillan et al is generating headlines saying that Antarctic ice is “disappearing at twice the rate predicted”.[1] (Can someone calculate the date it will be all gone?)

Well, at least it’s worse now than it was all of three years ago when the new Cryosat data first started.

Now they finally can record “near continuous 96% coverage of the continent”, with “a fivefold increase in the sampling of coastal regions where the vast majority of all ice losses occur.”  It’s good that we have better data, but these are very short trends. Who’s leaping to hit the panic button? If there is message here it’s that ice loss is a complicated beast; it isn’t just about temperature, but also about precipitation, ablation, and [...]

Antarctica stealing Australian rain. (Prof Matthew England, ANU, UNSW, Nature, struggle to get “cause and effect”)

A miracle has occurred, climate models which have been plagued with failure and have finally been gifted with The Scientific Truth. Apparently the God of Weather has visited upon Matthew England and others. (We wonder why God didn’t visit earlier, but are grateful for this insight.)

The climate models didn’t predict Antarctic sea ice extent trends. Polar amplification was supposed to mean it would warm twice as fast at the poles, yet inconveniently after years of massive output of CO2 — above the levels assumed in the models — Antarctic sea ice has hit another record high. Finally in the eighth round of making excuses for their excuses, the Scientific Truth has emerged to sweep away the scientific untruths that went before. (After all, climate models couldn’t possibly have been expected to understand heat flow around the planet could they?)

The yellow line shows how much rain Antarctica is stealing and dumping as sea ice. If you turn on your tumble drier the penguins in Antarctica have to walk further.


Ocean winds keep Antarctica cold, Australia dry Science Daily   May 11, 2014 Source:   Australian National University

New research has explained why Antarctica is not warming as much as [...]