Guardian Archive (4): The Missing Years

Paul Matthews has been sending me scans of Guardian articles about climate science from the mysterious “missing years” (see his comment on the previous post). I’d like to thank him and recommend everyone to look at his blog at https://ipccreport.wordpress.com/ which deals with rather more up to date material.

Some articles  are by their then science editor Anthony Tucker, and I reproduce two of them here. If the Guardian chooses to prosecute me for infringing their copyright I shall be using the Assange defence.  Either that or taking refuge in a friendly embassy.

Anthony Tucker died in 1998, so it is rather disturbing to find that , of the 47 articles recorded at http://www.theguardian.com/profile/anthony-tucker 41 were published after that date. Most of them are obituaries of scientists written ahead of their deaths, and the rest are reprints of articles from the archives. There are about ten of the latter, all on scientific subjects, but none on climate. Here’s one of the missing ones from 1974.

Space satellites show new Ice Age coming fast: By Anthony Tucker, Science Correspondent: Guardian: Jan 24 1974

Worldwide and rapid trends towards a mini Ice Age are emerging from the first long term analyses of satellite weather pictures.

Of potentially great importance to energy strategies and to agriculture, but barely observable yet in Britain because our weather is strongly buffered by the Atlantic, a preliminary analysis carried out at Columbia University, New York, by the European climatologists Doctors George and Helena Kukla indicates that snow and ice cover of the earth increased by 12 per cent during 1967-1972.

This appears to be in keeping with other long-term changes, all of which suggest that after reaching a climax of warmth between 1935 and 1955, world average temperatures are now falling. But the rate of increase of snow and ice cover is much faster than would be expected from other trends.

The technique employed, which was first described in this country last year during a conference at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, depends on the averaging of information from standard and infra-red satellite weather pictures. In spite of the newness of the technique the findings are important and it is a matter of some urgency that they should be re-examined by other groups.

It is particularly important to know whether the earth’s reflectivity is changing, for this is one of the factors in which a change tends to be self-perpetuating until some new world-wide balance is reached. An increase of snow and ice cover coupled with a decrease in cloud, or even with no change in cloud cover, means that more of the incoming energy from the sun is reflected straight out again, thus further reducing temperatures.

The Columbia University findings suggest that at present the main changes are not in the general area of winter snow and ice coverage but in the continuation of coverage later and later into the spring. This appears to be true of both the northern and southern hemispheres. 

In the highly complex dynamics of world weather patterns an interconection of some kind between major events is inevitable, but often obscure. it could be, for example, that the extraordinary occurence of a stationary low pressure area over Brisbane , with its attendant disastrous flooding, is a feature of the overall trend.

The Brisbane low pressure area appears to have started life as a normal Pacific cyclonic feature moving along a normal south-easterly curving track. But, instead of recurving towards the southwest, it was blocked by an anticyclone to the south of Australia. It happens that blocking anticyclones play an important role in the characteristics of weather in the northern hemisphere and account for some adverse changes in our own climate. The trend appears to be cyclic, fairly long-term and extremely important. It is therefore surprising that, in Britain at least, support for scientific analysis of the history of climate is almost non-existent.

 But Nottingham at least is fighting off the advancing ice age – grass is growing and seeds are sprouting there now. 

The artificial spring has been created by the underground hot water pipes which now carry heat to thousands of homes in the city. As an experiment city officials scattered grass seeds on wasteland near the central library and grass is shooting up there and in other areas where the pipes are.

*     *     *

I dont see anything to criticise here. He’s reporting the findings of a serious scientific article, and he observes that “the findings are important and it is a matter of some urgency that they should be re-examined by other groups.” (How often nowadays do you see a Guardian journalist saying that the findings need to be confirmed by other scientists? What would be the point, given that 97% are sure to agree?)

On his scientific source, I recommend  readers to refer to the Wikipaedia entry for George Kukla (I can’t find one for Helena) and in particular to an interview with him from 2007 at

http://www.gelfmagazine.com/archives/an_unrepentant_prognosticator.php 

There is no evidence in the Wikipaedia article, (or at Desmogblog, which has an article on him) that the findings of his research have been seriously challenged.

*      *      *

The second article is from two years earlier, and was one of two by Tucker published on the same day about the book “Limits to Growth”, and accompanied by a Guardian editorial and an extract from the book itself. 

This is the one quoted by Vinny Burgoo in a comment I referred to under the previous article. Of  Tucker’s two articles on the subject, this is the political one, and – curiously – it’s less dated in its expression than the scientific one. It’s a perfect example of what  Ben Pile means  at http://www.climate-resistance.org/ about the politics preceding the science. Note that climate change, either cooling or warming, hasn’t yet made it’s appearance. It’s the Fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse, the one who, in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, left before they got famous, or (in this case) who brought the whole band together and led to them conquering the world.

Scientists warn world of danger: Mar 6 1972: By ANTHONY TUCKER, Science Correspondent

A major analysis of world trends, commissioned by the Club of Rome and published in the United States today, shows that unless dramatic changes take place in economic and political policies civilisation will degrade and collapse within a century. 

The study, carried out by an international team under the direction of Professor Denis Meadows at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and to be published in this country at the end of the month, is based on the most complex computer model yet constructed of dominant interacting components of world systems. Its unavoidable conclusion is that economic and population growth must cease and be replaced by stable systems. 

The study is the first phase of a project called the “Predicament of Mankind” which was started by the Club of Rome with help from the Volkswagen Foundation in 1970. It examines the five basic factors – population, agricultural production, natural resources, industrial production, and pollution – which determine the broad limits of growth.

It extrapolates rather than predicts but, as the authors point out, if you do not believe the extrapolations, then you are assuming that major changes will take place. There is no evidence that the necessary changes are taking place.

The Club of Rome, because it is an invisible and yet apparently powerful and industrially-orientated organisation, is regarded by some as sinister. Nothing could be farther from the truth, for its members share the common conviction that the problems facing the world are so complex, so imminently serious, and so bound up with traditional policies and institutions that existing governmental and industrial structures are unable to understand them, let alone cope with them.

It was founded by Dr Aurelio Peccei, who last year addressed a meeting of the Confederation of British Industry on this subject at a special meeting at the House of Commons, and includes among its members Professor Hugo Thiemann, director of the Battelle Institute, Dr Sabiro Okita, head of the Economic Research Centre, Tokyo, Dr Alexander King, scientific director of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, Paris, and about 60 other eminent social scientists, industrialists, and economists, none of whom holds political office.  

Dr Peccei and Dr King are attending a meeting at Windsor which is to consider the limitations of the UN conference on the human environment to be held in Stockholm in June. The conveners, the Association of World Federalists, believe that the Stockholm conference, in spite of the careful preparations being made, is “likely to make a minimal and inadequate response to the environmental challenge now confronting mankind.”

The Windsor discussions are being held in camera but may lead to a statement later this week.

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3 Responses to Guardian Archive (4): The Missing Years

  1. Vinny Burgoo says:

    Geoff, did you see the Times’ obituary of Tucker? It said said something like, ‘Tucker wrote about science in clear and emphatic language that never left readers searching for an opinion’. Also something about the Guardian still (in 1998) suffering from the change of direction its science coverage had taken under Tucker, from science-is-wonderful to boffins-can’t-be-trusted. I can’t remember whether the obit hinted that this change was due to Tucker’s complete lack of scientific education. (From memory, his career went like this: Spitfire pilot –> painter –> Graun art reviews –> features editor –> science editor.)

  2. Kukla has some interesting emails in the climategate set.

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