A ship adrift in the ocean

10:54 am - July 26th 2008

by Aaron Murin-Heath    

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The Guardian is reporting that senior ministers are imploring the PM to stand down. It’s hard to envisage Brown resigning the post he coveted for so long, and I suppose this is cruel irony, considering the way he repeatedly attempted regicide while he was chancellor. The blogosphere, naturally, is raging. Feel free to post links to your own rants below. You know you want to…

Dave Osler – The infrastructure just isn’t there to resuscitate Labour if it slips into a political coma. The base is crumbling, and British socialism “remains organically incapable of serious politics.”

Dreaming of Simplicity – Chronicling New Labour’s demise is all the rage. This example features much doom-mongering and hyperbole, but then, things are pretty bad, no?

Craig Murray – Wow. Murray has a whole belly-full of bile for Labour in East Glasgow. His bitterest gall is reserved for New Labour Candidate, Margaret Curran.


Total Politics – Charles Crawford writes about how new ministers should approach their first days in office, and recalls some of the best operators he’s experienced. It’s unsurprising to see the late, great Robin Cook’s name appear. *wipes tear from eye*

Bishop Hill – The Bish believes a recent climate change “scare story” in the Guardian may be a crock. Looking at the data, he may have a point. One for Ben Goldacre to tear apart? Can’t see it happening somehow.

Political Betting – Morus asks if Hillary’s run has helped ambitious woman politicians who covet the Presidency?

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About the author
Aaron Murin-Heath is an occasional contributor. He is a writer based in Newark-on-Trent and Tallinn, Estonia. He is both socially and economically liberal. Aaron blogs at tygerland.net.
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Reader comments

Oh, this too.

Dave Cole has one of those “dudes, take a chill pill” posts ::

It’s a shame there weren’t blogs around circa 1995; I’d be able to see how similar this is to what Tories were saying back then.

Yay for lining up on the side of the denialist nutjobs.

The Bish believes a recent climate change “scare story” in the Guardian may be a crock.

Oh, what a surprise!

Yay for lining up on the side of the denialist nutjobs.

How so?

How so?

Erm, because that is what BH is.

Erm, because that is what BH is.

Maybe I misread. I thought John B referred to myself. As for the article in question, BH seems to have a point. Whether we like it or not.

The PM is great man he has saved millions of lives in Afrcia with his massive increases in aid to the continent he is the white mandela.

@john b, is it you or Aaron who sounds most like the relgious fanatic denouncing the unconvinced as heretics?


Gentlemen, thank-you for your words of appreciation! And your opinions on the temperature chart of Urumqi are…?

10. douglas clark

Bishop Hill,

The article you link to mentions that the glacier itself is now darker, dirtier, than it used to be, probably through direct pollution. This would effect the glaciers albedo and speed up it’s melt rate, which seems to have been independently confirmed. It’s the old idea that you shouldn’t wear dark clothes on sunny says as they don’t reflect heat the way lighter colours, ideally white, do. Leaving you more prone to heat stroke.

What is perhaps more interesting is that the H2O is falling as rain rather than snow, so you could expect the process to accelarate. Fresh snow might have slowed the process down, don’t you think?

Perhaps if you asked your question on somewhere like Real Climate, you’d get a more satisfactory answer.

john b, is it you or Aaron who sounds most like the relgious fanatic denouncing the unconvinced as heretics?

Sounds like you’ve been reading Spiked online a bit too much QT. Get Brendan O Neill out of your head before you start calling for the Dalai Lama’s head.

As for the unconvinced, it seems to me that BH is sceptical of anything that might suggest man made activity is causing global warming. After all, that would show up cracks in what him and DK have been blogging for years. Can’t have that now can we? More than anything, that sounds like dogma to me.

Now, BH could ask on the website douglas mentioned. As we’re not scientists, it would be difficult to tell the impact of pollution versus other factors, or even some local factors that no one knows of. All I can see is that BH has managed to pull one set of stats that justify his pre-determined ideas, and then tries to cast doubt on what the article says. That is what the old FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) tactic is all about, isn’t it?


What you have written seems to agree pretty much completely with what I wrote – the glacier melt is due to local pollution rather than global warming. The article’s author is wrong to make a link to temperature, because the temperature in the area doesn’t seem to have risen.


You seem to be accusing me of cherry-picking data. This is not really a supportable position until you can show some data that suggest that temperatures in Urumqi have risen. This may exist – I looked only at GISS – but until you can show it to me, you’re just indulging in hand-waving.

Bishop Hill’s temperature graph shows surface temperatures of Urumqi. The Guardian article states that the the CAREER scientists have been tracking changes in temperature at 3,800 metres altitude.

Is Jonathon Watt’s 1% increase not referring to the altitude temperatures? Either way, perhaps a graph of the recorded altitude temps would be more helpful.

For the deniers, courtesy of George Monbiot:
1. Does the atmosphere contain carbon dioxide? 2. Does atmospheric carbon dioxide influence global temperatures? 3. Will that influence be enhanced by the addition of more carbon dioxide? 4. Have human activities led to a net emission of carbon dioxide?

If you answer “no” to any of the questions then, as Monbiot rightly says, you’ve chosen to part with basic physics.

14. douglas clark

Bishop Hill,

You said this in your link:

Now, you don’t have to look at this graph for very long to realise that what has happened in Urumqi is not the result of a gradual warming of the globe due to industrialisation, but a sudden change in the recorded temperature in 1961, whether caused by a change in station location or a some other factor.

As far as I can tell the data has been collected from the same weather station, Daxigou, that is located at 3450m above sea level and about 2kms South of Glacier No 1, since 1958. See here, it’s in the third paragraph.


Which would suggest at the very least, that moving the station is not the issue.

You also say:

What you have written seems to agree pretty much completely with what I wrote – the glacier melt is due to local pollution rather than global warming.

Well, it seems to be only a partial explanation, at least according to the scientists on site. See here:



“Abstract: Current glacier recession under climate warming has drawn widely attention around the world. Initiated from 1958, the observations of Urumqi Glacier No. 1 at the headwaters of Urumqi River in eastern Tianshan promise the best datasets of glacier and climate changes in China. Taking Urumqi Glacier No. 1 as an example, this paper has analyzed the response of the glacier to the climate change. The results show that during the past 50 years, remarkable changes occurred on the glacier, including snow-firn stratigraphy, glacial zone, glacial temperature (borehole temperature), glacier area, and glacier terminus position etc. These changes are found to be closely related to temperature rise in this area. The glacier retreat appeared throughout the entire observed time period and has shown an accelerated tendency during the last 20 years, particularly after 1995. In addition to summer temperature increase, other two reasons may also be responsible for the acceleration of glacier melting: one is the glacial temperature rise, which reduced the cold reserve in the glacier and thus increased the sensitivity of the glacier to air temperature rise; the other is the decrease of albedo on the glacier surface, which evidently enhanced absorption of radiation.”

Meantime, I’ve asked over at Real Climate if they can shed any further light on this fascinating subject.

Not that it is likely to be particularily relevant, but Urumqi is very close to the Continental Pole of Inaccessibility, which is quite interesting too, given that it is about as far as it is possible to get from the oceanic thermostat.

Heather – spot on.


Much though it pains me to agree with George M, the answer is “yes” to all four. That said, there is almost nobody on either side of the debate who would disagree with any of these statements. It’s a question of degree (pun intended) which divides the two sides.


That’s very interesting. If it’s not a station move, then something else has caused the sudden rise in temperature. As I noted in the original piece, the rise looks very much as if it happened in March 1960, so it is likely to be something to do with the microclimate. The scientists don’t seem to mention global warming – only change in climate, which can, of course, be due to lots of different things.

18. douglas clark

Bishop Hill,

My enquiry to Real Climate seems to have disappeared into some sort of vacuum. I’ll try again sometime today.

Frankly, I think this is probably some sort of microclimate artifact. What you are looking at is an extreme, in terms of geographical location. I, too, would like an explanation of the temperature jump in 1960/61. That is not me denying it is a global warming artifact, it is just puzzling how come?

BTW, the arguement pro global warming doesn’t rest on this climate station alone, and the otherwise measured effects on Glacier No 1. retreat, melt rate, etc, ought to worry the hell out of the good people in the neighbourhood who seem to rely on glacial melt for their water supply. As does a surprisingly high proportion of our species. I’m also thurled to the notion that scientists who have devoted their careers to investigating this phenomena are quite likely to have a lot more insight into what is going on than thee or me. Which is why I referenced their paper.

I thought this was an interesting, humane, and practical article about impact. Is it a weakness of the human brain to be unable to plan in hundred year terms?


He talks here about adaptation to change, underground resevoirs and such, rather than addressing the cause. Building enormous golf course complexes seems to me to be just a tad ridiculous. Given the circumstances.

I agree that Urumqi alone is pretty much irrelevant to the AGW debate – which is kind of the point of my original post, and the point I’ve made subsequently. My beef is with the journalist who tried to make the link to AGW, when it seems fairly clear that it was nothing of the sort.

One interesting thing I found though, which potentially dents our newly minted consensus, is that some (but not all) nearby stations also show a jump in temperature in the same year.

Where’s there a climatologist when you need them?

20. douglas clark

Bishop Hill,

As I said, I did ask on Real Climate. To which I got this kind reply. He does confirm the point you made that this is not a uniquoe reading from a single station, others in the area also show a similar spike. (I must have asked prior to determining that the station had not, in fact, moved)

Response: This isn’t anything I know much about, but I very much doubt that the Chinese scientists are relying on the GISTEMP website to determine local temperature rise. Looking at the temperatures without any context (i.e. what are regional temperatures doing), and simply assuming that any short term change is due to a move without any evidence for it, is foolish. I looked at some of the other records closest to this station, and in fact a bunch of them show a very similar change in 1960-1963 so I wouldn’t automatically assume that there is a problem in that Station. But on the face of it, if the glacier is retreating at 9 meters per year, that is prima-facie evidence that you’ve had some local warming. Pollution dirtying the ice is also conceivable but most local pollution is lower down in the atmosphere, and the dominant winds take pollution to the east – but you’d have to look more closely. If this was just one glacier then you’d probably leave it at that, but mountain glaciers are receding almost everywhere and that can’t be because of one towns industrial output. – gavin

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