Antarctica Cooling Controversy - Origin of The Controversy

Origin of The Controversy

Some public commentators have argued that this possible cooling trend observed in the interior of the Antarctica shows the lack of reliability of the models used for global warming predictions and even of climate theory in general. These arguments are made despite the fact that the small and variable observed trends are broadly consistent with the small magnitude of model-predicted temperature trends for Antarctica. The argument was popularized in Michael Crichton's 2004 fiction novel State of Fear. This novel has a docudrama plot based upon the idea that there is a deliberately alarmist conspiracy behind global warming activism. The author advocates skepticism in this matter.

As presented in page 193 of "State of Fear": "The data show that one relatively small area called the Antarctic Peninsula is melting and calving huge icebergs. That's what gets reported year after year. But the continent as a whole is getting colder, and the ice is getting thicker". Crichton's footnote source is Doran et al., 2002.

A rebuttal to Crichton's claims was presented by the group Real Climate:

Long term temperature data from the Southern Hemisphere are hard to find, and by the time you get to the Antarctic continent, the data are extremely sparse. Nonetheless, some patterns do emerge from the limited data available. The Antarctic Peninsula, site of the now-defunct Larsen-B ice shelf, has warmed substantially. On the other hand, the few stations on the continent and in the interior appear to have cooled slightly (Doran et al., 2002; GISTEMP).
At first glance this seems to contradict the idea of "global" warming, but one needs to be careful before jumping to this conclusion. "A rise in the global mean temperature does not imply universal warming. Dynamical effects (changes in the winds and ocean circulation) can have just as large an impact, locally as the radiative forcing from greenhouse gases. The temperature change in any particular region will in fact be a combination of radiation-related changes (through greenhouse gases, aerosols, ozone and the like) and dynamical effects. Since the winds tend to only move heat from one place to another, their impact will tend to cancel out in the global mean.

The leading author of the research paper, Peter Doran, published a statement in the New York Times stating that "... our results have been misused as "evidence" against global warming by Michael Crichton in his novel "State of Fear"... 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?" He also emphasized the need for more stations in the Antarctic continent in order to obtain more robust results.

It is common to find statements that "climate models generally predict amplified warming in polar regions", e.g. Doran et al. In fact, climate models predict amplified warming only for the Arctic and not for Antarctica.

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