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All IPCC definitions taken from Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Working Group I Contribution to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Annex I, Glossary, pp. 941-954. Cambridge University Press.

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robert way

Robert Way holds a BA in Geography, Minor Geomatics and Spatial Analysis and an M.Sc. in Physical Geography. He is currently a PHD student at the University of Ottawa. His current research focus is on modeling the distribution of permafrost in the eastern Canadian sub-Arctic. Previously his work examined the climatic sensitivity of small mountain glaciers in the Torngat Mountains of northern Labrador. Robert has also studied at Memorial University of Newfoundland and the University of Oslo. He has participated in course and field work in Antarctica, Iceland, Labrador, Norway, Patagonia and Svalbard. As an Inuit descendent from a northern community, he has witnessed first hand how changing ice and snow conditions have impacted traditional hunting and travel routes, making climate change omnipresent in his life.

His graduate student profile can be found at the following url:


Recent blog posts

New and Improved Ice Loss Estimates for Polar Ice Sheets

Posted on 1 October 2014 by robert way

In a previous post, several years ago, I discussed the various ways that we measure changes in the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets. Today, scientists still use these main methods for identifying ice changes but recent technological and data processing advances have improved the accuracy of these estimates. An example of this is the CryoSAT-2 satellite system which was launched 4 years ago by the European Space Agency and is now giving early results on the state of the two polar ice sheets. Before discussing the results of this study it is worthwhile to understand what CryoSAT-2 measures.

CryoSAT-2 is a radar altimeter which sends a radar signal towards the ground, this signal is then reflected back to the satellite and using information about the time, phase and geographic position of the satellite we can estimate the elevation of the surface. Repeatedly measuring the surface elevation of an ice sheet over time therefore allows us to assess whether ice is being lost (elevation decreasing) or gained (elevation increasing). The results of early radar altimetry analyses using the ERS-1 and ERS-2 platforms (e.g. Zwally et al. 2005; Wingham et al. 2006) were often misconstrued by contrarians and not provided with the appropriate context necessary to interpret the data.

The important caveats being that these early radar altimetry studies underestimated ice sheet losses due to biases in coastal areas associated with steep slopes and low sensor resolution (e.g. Thomas et al. 2008; Hurkmans et al. 2012). CryoSAT-2 by contrast has a higher resolution and a lower susceptibility to errors on high slopes making it far more suitable for measuring ice changes in the coastal areas of Antarctica and Greenland. These coastal areas, as noted in this post, are the regions most likely to encounter substantial ice losses.

Figure 1: Change in Greenland Ice Sheet elevation (m/year) as measured by CryoSAT-2 over the period covering January 2011 to January 2014. 



Climate Change Impacts in Labrador

Posted on 20 August 2014 by robert way

In 1534, famed explorer Jacques Cartier described Labrador as "the land God gave to Cain". This comparison is inevitably linked to Labrador’s rugged coastal landscapes dotted with deep inlets, fiords and rugged tundra. Culturally the region is steeped in complexity with three distinct indigenous populations intertwined with settlers and settler descendants.

In the north lies the Inuit settlement area of Nunatsiavut, where its predominantly Inuit residents are spread across 5 small communities. The Torngat Mountains National Park is located on the northern tip of Nunatsiavut where the tundra landscape forms part of the Arctic Cordillera and sustains small mountain glaciers along the coast (Brown et al, 2012; Way et al. Accepted). The Arctic treeline in the area descends as low as ~57°N due to the prevailing influence of cold polar water transported along the Labrador coastline by the Labrador Current.

In central and western Labrador, where the climate is considered subarctic, the indigenous population has historically been members of the Innu Nation who every year traveled north to George River to hunt the George River Caribou herd. Currently, there are two Innu communities (Natuashish and Sheshatshiu) which have a combined population of ~2,000 residents. The third aboriginal group in Labrador is largely made up of Inuit who have intermixed with the early European settlers and are now referred to as Nunatukavut (formerly Métis). Their traditional activities span the lands from Cartwright south along the Labrador coast where boreal forest meets coastal barrens.

Figure 1: Map depicting the Labrador region of northeastern Canada

Throughout much of the modern era of global warming (post-1950s) air and ground temperatures in Labrador cooled, contrasting with many other regions (Allard et al. 1995; Banfield and Jacobs, 1998). This cooling continued until the late 1990s when regional air temperatures begin to warm rapidly (Brown et al. 2012; Way and Viau, In press; Figure 3).

In coastal Labrador, the human impacts of recent climate change have been ubiquitous for the Labrador Inuit who are reliant on sea ice and snow for accessing traditional hunting grounds and neighboring communities. These communities are only accessible by air and sea in the summer and air and snowmobile in the winter. Recent winter warming and local reductions in sea ice/snow cover have reduced access for Inuit to traditional fishing and hunting grounds and also neighboring communities (Wolf et al. 2013).

Vulnerability assessments have identified food security as being a key area in which Labrador’s coastal communities will be susceptible to climate change in the future, which is expected to be on the order of 3°C by 2038-2070 (Finnis 2013). However, the region’s geographic location makes it intrinsically linked to climate variability in the North Atlantic, complicating future climate projections (D’Arrigo et al. 2003).

Figure 2: Photograph of me holding the Labrador flag during a field season studying glaciers in the beautiful Torngat Mountains National Park.



A Historical Perspective on Arctic Warming: Part One

Posted on 28 January 2014 by robert way

During her most recent Senate testimony, Dr. Judith Curry (Georgia Tech) repeated one of the most common misconceptions found in the blogosphere, that the Arctic was warmer than present during the 1940s. This period - known as the Early Century Warm Period (ECWP) - coincides with observations of reduced Arctic sea ice cover and allowed for more widespread ship navigation than during the late 1800s and early 1900s (Johanessen et al. 2004).

There are two elements to the contrarian views on the ECWP in the Arctic. First, they argue that during the ECWP the Arctic was warmer than present. Secondly they have used the ECWP as a means of casting doubt on the main drivers of global warming. These contrarians argue that internal climate variability caused the ECWP and that this internal variability may have contributed to recent Arctic warming, thereby suggesting that climate sensitivity to greenhouse gases may be lower than current estimates. Some of these discussion points have also somehow found themselves in the IPCC AR5's Chapter 10 where the following claim is made.

"Arctic temperature anomalies in the 1930s were apparently as large as those in the 1990s and 2000s. There is still considerable discussion of the ultimate causes of the warm temperature anomalies that occurred in the Arctic in the 1920s and 1930s."

Based on previous examination of the surface temperature record and also reading the literature on the topic, I found myself skeptical of this IPCC claim and by extension the contrarian views. Tamino expressed a similar sentiment in a recent article. In this post I will be examining the first element of the discussion and will evaluate whether "Arctic temperature anomalies in the 1930s were apparently as large as those in the 1990s and 2000s" is an accurate statement.

The challenge with describing Arctic surface air temperature changes is that the observational network is sparse, something we noted and corrected for in Cowtan and Way (In Press). Using a single observational network therefore has the potential to mislead - particularly on short timescales. However, comparison of all available long surface temperature records for the Arctic (here defined as regions North of 60°N) shows relatively strong agreement amongst the various products (Figure 1).

Arctic temps



Nuccitelli et al. (2012) Show that Global Warming Continues

Posted on 12 October 2012 by dana1981

We are very pleased to report on a new paper in press at Physics Letters A (PLA) by the Skeptical Science team and oceanography expert John Church.  In typical SkS international coordination style, the paper's authors included an American (Dana Nuccitelli), a Canadian (Robert Way), a New Zealander (Rob Painting), and two Australians (John Cook and John Church).

The paper is a Comment on another paper, Douglass & Knox 2012 (DK12).  We originally began examining this paper in a blog post which can be viewed here.  DK12 used ocean heat content (OHC) data for the upper 700 meters of oceans to draw three main conclusions: 1) that the rate of OHC increase has slowed in recent years (the very short timeframe of 2002 to 2008), 2) that this is evidence for periods of 'climate shifts', and 3) that the recent OHC data indicate that the net climate feedback is negative, which would mean that  climate sensitivity (the total amount of global warming in response to a doubling of atmospheric CO2 levels, including feedbacks) is low.

Our original draft blog post noted that DK12 had effectively been "pre-bunked," as several recent studies have reconciled global heat content data with top of the atmosphere (TOA) energy imbalance measurements with no evidence of a long-term slowdown in global warming.  Several recent studies have also concluded that it is necessary to include data from the deep ocean in order to reconcile global heat content and the TOA energy imbalance, which DK12 failed to do.  Ultimately we decided that it was worth writing up our findings and submitting them to PLA as a comment on DK12.

We used pentadal (5-year average) OHC data to a depth of 2,000 metres from Levitus et al. (2012), and land, atmosphere, and ice (LAI) heating data from Church et al. (2011).  Our results are shown in Figure 1.

Fig 1

Figure 1: Land, atmosphere, and ice heating (red), 0-700 meter OHC increase (light blue), 700-2,000 meter OHC increase (dark blue).  From Nuccitelli et al. (2012), and added to the SkS Climate Graphics Page.



Inuit Perspectives on Recent Climate Change

Posted on 27 September 2012 by robert way

This article was written by Caitlyn Baikie, an Inuit geography student at Memorial University of Newfoundland and a close personal friend of mine. I am posting this on her behalf.

My name is Caitlyn Baikie. I am a 20-year-old Inuk from NainNunatsiavut and have lived there all of my life. Nunatsiavut, in the Inuktitut language means “our beautiful land,” and what a beautiful land it is. Like Nunavut, Nunatsiavut is an Inuit self-governing territory within the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. Nain is the northernmost community on its coast, with a population of ~1200 residents, 90% of whom are of Inuit descent.

Image 1: Geographic location of Nain, Labrador (56.5°N)

My life in Nain is very different than for those who live in the city. Nain is a very isolated community, there are no roads to or from Nain, the only way to get here is by plane or boat, and in the winter by airplane or snowmobile. Though our weekdays are school and work filled as it is in the south, our recreational and sustenance activities are very different. In the winter, we go hunting for small game like partridges, which can be found locally all around the town. On weekends we often go by snowmobile on the ice to our cabins near hunting grounds where we hunt seals, caribou, ukialik (arctic hare) and migratory birds. This is when we get the bulk of our meat for the year. It is very important to get good sea ice, it provides us with the means to travel and hunt, usually for 6 months of the year.



PMO Pest Control: Scientists

Posted on 6 March 2012 by robert way

All four authors of this article are Canadian scientists and/or science students.

Recently on the comedic Canadian television program The Mercer Report, a satirical look is taken at the state of science in Canada since the Harper GovernmentTM came into power in 2006. 

The video is below:
PMO = Office of the Prime Minister (Stephen Harper)


Although depicted with humor in this video  the current state of science in Canada is no laughing matter. For example:



2000 Years of Climate Reconstructed from Pollen

Posted on 14 February 2012 by robert way

A window into climate change in North America over the past 2,000 years using pollen data

Researchers at the University of Ottawa Laboratory for Paleoclimatology and Climatology have reconstructed temperature for the for the last 2,000 years in North America using 748 pollen sites from the North American pollen database (NAPD), the Whitmore modern pollen dataset for calibration and the Modern Analog Technique (MAT). The Modern Analog Technique uses the modern distribution of pollen throughout a region and compares it to former distributions (usually collected from Lake Cores) to estimate changes in both temperature and precipitation (Figure 1). This technique allows for temperatures to be reconstructed for the warmest month of a calendar year across the many biomes of North America.

Pollen from lake sediment cores has proven to produce reliable climate reconstructions on centennial to millennial scales.  A lake sediment core contains pollen grains from different taxa (anywhere from 15 to 135 taxa are used, this reconstruction used 63 taxa) and the deeper in the core, the further back in time the pollen was deposited.  Certain vegetation assemblages and thus pollen  represent specific climate conditions (temperature and moisture).  The modern analogue technique (Overpeck, 1985) was used to find the modern site that most closely matches a fossil site in terms of pollen percentages down-core using the squared chored distance (SCD metric).  In this manner the climate can be reconstructed through time.

Figure 1: Location of samples used in this study (A) Modern (B) Fossil



Visualizing a History of CO2

Posted on 28 February 2011 by robert way

NOAA has put together a video which allows us to visually see the history of CO2 over the last 600,000 years. Upon seeing this video I began to think that it would be nice to put music in the background to compliment the video but there arose a problem with what song would be best for this endeavor.

After much deliberations I decided to go with the song "Mind Heist" from the movie "Inception". As I had never done anything like this before there was a bit of a learning curve but using Windows Movie Maker and Moyea's FLV to Video Converter I was able to create my first Youtube video.



Prudent Path Week: Polar Regions

Posted on 25 February 2011 by robert way

As discussed recently, this week is Prudent Path week where we address some of the scientific missteps and contradictions in the two skeptic documents that have recently gained some attention through being referenced in a "skeptic" letter to the US Congress.

Today’s contribution to the series will specifically address some claims concerning the Polar Regions. In particular this post discusses Arctic and Antarctic temperature trends as well as the state of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets.



Monckton Myth #12: Arctic Temperature Changes

Posted on 16 February 2011 by robert way

The Warming Arctic

Monckton Myths (200 x 70 pixels)A common misconception that is found to exist within the blogosphere is that the Arctic (hereby defined at 64 to 90 °N) was warmer than present during the early-to-mid 20th century. In particular this claim has been supported by anecdotal evidence of reduced sea ice cover and pronounced warming at *some* Arctic stations at that time. This argument is brought forth by Lord Monckton in April of 2009 whereby he claims that "Temperatures in the Arctic and in Greenland were warmer by up to 3 Fahrenheit degrees (~1.6°C) in the late 1930s and early 1940s than they are at present". Monckton provides no evidence that he conducted an Arctic-wide analysis of air temperatures but rather seems to suggest that he selected a few stations which supported his narrative rather than examining all of the evidence. As real scientists tend to be very skeptical beasts, it is important that we assess his claim for quality to ensure that it is not based solely on a cherry-pick. 



Monckton Myth #2: Temperature records, trends and El Nino

Posted on 17 January 2011 by robert way

Recently John addressed some of the issues with Christopher Monckton’s paper targeting Michael Steketee’s column in The Australian, where Monckton asserted that the oceans are not accumulating heat. John showed that when you consider the full body of evidence, it is evident that the oceans are indeed accumulating heat thereby contributing to global sea level rise. In the spirit of consulting the full body of evidence, I will address Monckton's claims regarding temperature records, temperature trends and the intensity of 2010’s El Nino.

Mr. Steketee noted that 2010 had the warmest January to September recorded, which Monckton highlighted as cherry-picking for not including a full year of data. Now that the data is in for most indices - what does it show?

To answer this question I looked at more than just the traditional Hadley, NASA and NOAA datasets, but also the measurements of the lower troposphere processed by Remote Sensing Systems (RSS) and the University of Alabama-Huntsville (UAH) as well as the 5 major reanalysis datasets which incorporate station data, aircraft data, satellite data, radiosonde data and meteorological weather modeling. In hopes of being able to demonstrate robustness I have compiled data from the 10 different sources, with these, and 2010’s year-end temperature ranking summarized in Table 1.

Table 1: Summary of primary data sources.

From the table it is readily apparent that 2010 was a warm year as every data source that includes it has concluded that it was either the warmest or 2nd warmest year on record. However, it seems that the devil of a year in 1998 still was atop the global temperature records for HadCRUT, RSS and UAH. There is one important caveat countering this: the 3rd column shows that all the datasets that include 1998 as the warmest year on record do not have global coverage. In fact amongst datasets with global coverage at least reaching to 2005, there is only one dataset which has 1998 in its top 2 and this record does not include 2009 or 2010. The global coverage identifier is key because it is well known that the exclusion of parts of the Arctic is the reason that Hadley has been undersampling the warming. Furthermore since the satellite records do not include much of the polar regions they cannot be considered to have global coverage either. This is an important caveat particularly because the Arctic climate system has experienced the fastest rate of warming out of anywhere on the planet. Neglecting a region such as this has undoubtedly forced 1998 into a position that it should not be in, as the warmest year in an incomplete record.



A basic overview of Antarctic ice

Posted on 29 November 2010 by robert way

Skeptic arguments that Antarctica is gaining ice frequently hinge on an error of omission, namely ignoring the difference between land ice and sea ice.

In glaciology and particularly with respect to Antarctic ice, not all things are created equal. Let us consider the following differences. Antarctic land ice is the ice which has accumulated over thousands of years on the Antarctica landmass itself through snowfall. This land ice therefore is actually stored ocean water that once fell as precipitation. Sea ice in Antarctica is quite different as it is generally considered to be ice which forms in salt water primarily during the winter months.



Are ice sheet losses overestimated?

Posted on 15 November 2010 by robert way

There has been a significant degree of commentary on various blogs and across the scientific community regarding uncertainties in measuring ice sheet changes in Greenland and Antarctica. The majority of this discussion has been ongoing within the field for years but a recent paper (1Wu et al. 2010, Nature Geoscience) has invigorated the debate amongst not only those within the subfield of glaciology, but also among the general public. Several prominent skeptic websites have already featured stories on Wu et al’s (2010) results, using them as ‘supposed’ confirmation that ice sheet losses are significantly less than previous estimates have concluded.



Is Greenland losing ice? (psst, the answer is yes, at an accelerating rate)

Posted on 28 September 2010 by robert way

Confusion caused by anecdotes of structures being buried by accumulating snow on Greenland's ice sheet leads some skeptics to believe Greenland is Gaining Ice. As always, the best way to tease out the truth here by following the research of scientists investigating Greenland's ice mass balance.



What's happening to glaciers globally?

Posted on 16 September 2010 by robert way

Although Glaciologists measure year-to-year changes in glacier activity, it is the long term changes which provide the basis for statements such as "Global Glacier Recession Continues". Some Skeptics confuse these issues by cherry picking individual glaciers or by ignoring long term trends. Diversions such as these do not address the most important question of what is the real state of glaciers globally?



Station drop-off: How many thermometers do you need to take a temperature?

Posted on 24 August 2010 by robert way

An oft-cited skeptic argument is that the decrease in available temperature measuring stations during the 1990s introduces an increased bias towards warming. The argument is based upon the premise put forward by some climate change skeptics that stations which show more warming were kept and ones that show less warming were dropped. The reason this assumption is made is because during the 1990s there was a large reduction in the number of meteorological stations being used for global temperature analyses.

In order to test this theory, several independent researchers (Tamino, Ron Broberg, Zeke Hausfather, Joseph at Residual Analysis and others at the Clear Climate Code Project) and have calculated whether the stations dropped showed less warming than the ones kept. The results? Several find no difference and several find that dropped stations show more warming.

Furthermore, it is also important to note that the methods used in global temperature analyses make them robust to the loss of stations because they use techniques which incorporate multiple nearby stations into analysis of any individual region.

So to conclude: Independent researchers have shown that there is no truth to the claim that cooling stations were removed, in fact evidence suggests that if these stations were included, warming would be shown to be slightly greater.



Medieval Warm Period: rhetoric vs science

Posted on 23 August 2010 by robert way

One of the most often cited arguments of those skeptical of global warming is that the Medieval Warm Period (800-1200 AD) was as warm as or warmer than today. Using this as proof to say that we cannot be causing current warming is a faulty notion based upon rhetoric rather than science. So what are the holes in this line of thinking?



Part Three: Response to Goddard

Posted on 16 July 2010 by robert way

Guest post by Robert Way

Back to the past:

“Recently it became all too clear that Steven Goddard and his camp were going to be hauling out a new argument from their cupboard and that they had every intention of using it as much as possible. The argument which is shown here and has been used again here is that absolute air temperatures throughout most of Antarctica are below 0°C (and will likely remain that way) therefore significant ice losses on the Continent cannot occur. This sort of argument might work well with those already positioned to believe whatever the disinformation factory (WUWT) churns out but for fear of the unsuspecting public becoming tainted, it needs to be addressed.”



Part Two: How do we measure Antarctic ice changes?

Posted on 15 July 2010 by robert way

Guest post by Robert Way

This post summarizes the three key methods through which ice sheet losses are measured using satellite data. Although there are indeed some on site measurement techniques which are used by glaciologists, it has become the norm to use satellites for large scale measurements because of their cost-efficiency and coverage compared to on the ground measurement techniques. With regards to understanding Antarctic ice changes, these techniques are all the more important because of the continent’s size, climate, and isolation. Of all the different methods out there, it has become clear that there are three predominant techniques for accurate measurement of ice sheet changes. These consist of measuring elevation change, mass change and flux components.



Part One: How do ice sheets lose ice?

Posted on 14 July 2010 by robert way

Guest post by Robert Way

Some individuals have a distinct predisposition towards creating illogical arguments. Certainly most of you are now familiar that Watt’s Up With That (WUWT) is often the mechanism through which these faulty arguments are delivered. Recently it became all too clear that Steven Goddard and his camp were going to be hauling out a new argument from their cupboard and that they had every intention of using it as much as possible. The argument which is shown here and has been used again here is that absolute air temperatures throughout most of Antarctica are below 0°C (and will likely remain that way) therefore significant ice losses on the Continent cannot occur. This sort of argument might work well with those already positioned to believe whatever the disinformation factory (WUWT) churns out but for fear of the unsuspecting public becoming tainted, it needs to be addressed. I must begin by asking for your patience as we go back in time to a world where bloggers read papers and supported their ideas with critical appraisal and this weird group of things called facts…



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