The Reliability of CO2 Ice Core Studies by Zbigniew Jaworowski

October 16, 2008 at 8:47 am | Posted in Climate change, Environment, Global warming | 3 Comments
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Shakespeare's Globe Theatre Bankside London 15 September 2007

Shakespeares Globe Theatre Bankside London 15 September 2007

There was a full house at the Energy Institute for Professor Jaworowski’s talk yesterday, 15 October 2008.

Originally advertised as “CO2: The Greatest Scientific Scandal of Our Time” scheduled to be held at the IOP, the title was updated to “The Reliability of CO2 Ice Core Studies” and the lecture was given round the corner at the EI.

Before the talk, I re-read The Golden Horseshoe Award: Jaworowski and the vast CO2 conspiracy and Jaworowski 2003: A cornucopia of misinformation, Part 1.  Both helped prepare me for what was to follow (thanks to William and Some are Boojums).  Highly recommended.

To the lecture, I took ZJ’s paper from Spring 1997 (1.4 MB PDF) titled:


Ice Core Data Show

No Carbon Dioxide


and scribbled notes on it as he covered the same twaddle, with minor variations on a theme, such as revised titles for figures and a few updated percentages.  (All detail, which I’d provide if you were interested.  Personally, I would not choose to waste time on any more nitpicking.  I include the few quotes that follow, to give you a taster.)

Suffice to say that ZJ began with the usual opener: suggesting Callendar can be regarded as the father of the man-made global warming hypothesis.  In fact, ZJ said:

“This was just invented by Callendar.”

Talk about starting as you intend to continue … 😉

Of the notion that climate change could be caused by man, ZJ chuckled:

“Everybody believes it—it is just crazy!”

He went on to tell us that this reminded him of the words written in Latin in Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, London:

totus mundus agit histrionem

which means “the whole world is a playhouse” … yet ZJ translated as:

“All the world is playing a comedy.”

He thought it funny.  How ironic is that?

At this point, I should explain that ZJ apparently does not set out to entertain his audience.  His presentation style is what I would describe as low-key, continuous delivery—very much along the lines of other speakers I have heard presenting technical topics in Eastern Europe.  There is no time for members of the audience to digest his points fully before he has moved onto another angle, which is why I read his paper beforehand 😉  Anyone looking for reasons to reject the reality of climate change would have been satisfied: our glacial expert provided ample food for thought, with no time to think, so acceptance of his ‘well-informed’ doubts would be an easy, if incorrect, natural outcome.  Questioning questions, or being sceptical of sceptics, requires more effort!

For example, this morning I found myself checking on CDIAC’s Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide Record from Mauna Loa.  Why?  Because ZJ told us the Americans built a monitoring station for military purposes in Hawai’i at Mauna Loa—on top of an active volcano!  (This does, of course, sound even more ridiculous when you hear what comes next …) Obviously, there are:

“problems with the release of CO2 from fissures so (the Americans) are rejecting much of the data by ‘visual inspection’—that’s what they say.”

Sounds pretty flaky, huh?  So what does CDIAC say about Mauna Loa?

The Mauna Loa atmospheric CO2 measurements constitute the longest continuous record of atmospheric CO2 concentrations available in the world. The Mauna Loa site is considered one of the most favorable locations for measuring undisturbed air because possible local influences of vegetation or human activities on atmospheric CO2 concentrations are minimal and any influences from volcanic vents may be excluded from the records. The methods and equipment used to obtain these measurements have remained essentially unchanged during the 50-year monitoring program.

Because of the favorable site location, continuous monitoring, and careful selection and scrutiny of the data, the Mauna Loa record is considered to be a precise record and a reliable indicator of the regional trend in the concentrations of atmospheric CO2 in the middle layers of the troposphere.

So that’s the high level explanation.  The details indicate the extent to which possible ambient sources of error are handled:

Possible ambient error sources at Mauna Loa include volcanic, vegetative, and man-made effects (e.g., vehicular traffic and industry). Daily peaks in measured concentrations occur because of complex wind currents. Downslope winds often transport CO2 from distant volcanic vents causing elevations in measured CO2 concentrations. Upslope winds during afternoon hours are often low in CO2 because of photosynthetic depletion occurring in sugarcane fields and forests. Vehicular traffic problems (since corrected) caused exaggerated elevations in 1971. Despite these sources of error and contamination, considerable effort has been made to alleviate and detect these sources.

The imprecision in measuring references gases approaches 0.1 ppmv and is rarely greater than 0.2 ppvm.

It seems to me that ZJ is deliberately stirring up distrust for science and scientists.  He simply pegs his concerns on a washing line and hangs them out to dry—forever!  He gives no indication whatsoever that scientists have already figured out how to address the same issues.

Progress in science depends on scientists trusting each other and having open and transparent communications, peer-review and professional integrity.  ZJ seeks to undermine the efforts of honest and diligent climate scientists by painting them as ridiculous.  Thank goodness very few people take him seriously.

During questions, Professor Jaworowski explained that he was not ruling out the impact of man’s activities on the environment entirely—obviously farming and forestry have changed the landscape so must have some effect.  However, he offered this reassurance to those concerned about upsetting the status quo who desire business to continue ad infinitum (or at least beyond the time when they will have shuffled off this mortal coil):

“Our contribution to the greenhouse effect is about 0.15%”

The final slide in Professor Jaworowski’s presentation is probably all you need to know, as it informed us:

Probably about 30-50% of CO2 is lost from ice inclusions.

Ice core studies are not able to provide a reliable reconstruction of CO2 levels in pre-industrial atmosphere.

Probably never will be.

Several members of the audience left before the end of questions; perhaps they’d had enough by then.  It was hardly worth bothering to challenge the speaker.  Sad really.  There was one elderly gentleman who stood up and said it was a most encouraging lecture, and others nodded in agreement.  Ugh.  They had no idea the wool had been well-and-truly pulled over their eyes by another old man.  It was for them, obviously, a very guilt-free and comforting evening … 



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  1. Hi inel,
    Working on the assumption that you’re not going to be on the top of the bonfire just yet…

    The clue to ZJ, and his audience, is the line; ‘…the reality of…’. this places whatever comes later in the same class as any piece which claims ‘…the truth about…’, ie, nine times out of ten, then one thing you are guaranteed not to get is the truth.

    It’s a sales pitch. Question is, what brand of snake-oil is being pushed here?

    The question I would ask is what the point of the presentation was meant to be?

    BTW: transition towns; any thoughts?

    thanks for visitng my blog.


  2. Hi Fergus (aka Old Man in a Cave—I hope you enjoyed my references to old men up there),

    Good to hear from you. ZJ is not a snake-oil salesman, and certainly nothing like Dick Lindzen. By that, I mean ZJ does not rely on slick persuasive techniques and charm to get his message across like a quack doctor. He is, after all, not speaking to us in his mother tongue, and has the demeanour of an elder scientist rather than a marketing guy or politician. Instead he presents a stream of sentences, not necessarily connected in a flowing narrative to help people understand what his point is. I guess it is his deliberate ploy to leave sufficient confusion in the wake of each slide to make audiences relieved when he reaches his final point which I noted up there ^^^ as:

    Ice core studies are not able to provide a reliable reconstruction of CO2 levels in pre-industrial atmosphere.

    His main aim is, of course, to convince people that climate change is not worth worrying about, except when it comes to preventing costly action to limit emissions and ruin our pleasant lifestyles, in which case his doubts come into their own. Until then: ignorance is bliss.
    He is way off track and climate scientists ignore him, but the public don’t know that. Ay, there’s the rub, as Hamlet would say.

  3. There is a very good paper on the volcanic influence on the Mauna Loa CO2 record, which, suffice it to say is about zero

    Estimating volcanic CO2 emission rates from atmospheric measurements on the slope of Mauna Loa

    Steven Ryan

    Chemical Geology
    Volume 177, Issues 1-2, 15 July 2001, Pages 201-211

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