Thursday, May 03, 2012

More Disagreement In The Realm...

...of settled science:

 Study finds even polar bear cubs can swim huge distances in open water
"The study, published in the Canadian Journal of Zoology, tracked 52 female polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea off Alaska. Between 2004 and 2009, a period of extreme summer-ice retreat, about a third of those bears made swims exceeding 30 miles, according to the study. The 50 recorded swims averaged 96 miles, and one bear was able to swim nearly 220 miles (354 km), according to the study results. The duration of the long-distance swims lasted from most of a day to nearly 10 days, according to the study."
"Many of the polar bears in the study had young cubs with them, and it appears that at least some of the cubs – which were not collared – might have been able to keep up with their mothers in the water, USGS officials said. The scientists were able to track 10 of the studied bears within a year of collaring and found that six still had their cubs, the lead scientist said."
""These observations suggest that some cubs are also capable of swimming long distances. For the other four females with cubs, we don't know if they lost their cubs before, during or at some point after their long swims," Anthony Pagano, a USGS scientist and lead author of the study, said."
"The study simply describes behaviour that was observed, Oakley said. "It's just very interesting that in fact they can swim long distances, and cubs can swim long distances," she said. "Do all the cubs that attempt to swim these long distances survive? We don't know." Scientists do not know whether such long-distance swimming is a new behaviour, USGS officials said. The technology to track long-distance bear swims accurately was not available in the past, Oakley told Reuters. "The GPS technology, which is relatively new, is what allowed us to really do the actual in-depth analysis of this," she said."
Visionary or Vision-Impaired? Lovelock Is Both
"Just because someone has had some brilliant ideas, it doesn’t mean every word he utters shines with truth. Let’s keep that in mind in the furor about James Lovelock, inventor of Gaia theory. Lovelock finally stepped back from his doomsday interpretation of climate change last week, but he’s still got a lot of the science wrong. Lovelock is not a climate scientist, and he continues to misinterpret the climate science even in his retractions in an MSNBC article, as Joe Romm has pointed out for Climate Progress. What’s more, in his 2006 book The Revenge of Gaia, he basically invented a dire interpretation about how forests would respond to warmer temperatures with what he admitted were, in his words, “imaginary sketches. This invention was unnecessary given that there’s plenty of evidence about how forests responded to past times when the planet suffered a hothouse existence. My 2010 book Life in the Hothouse – which delves into this evidence to re-examine how Gaia theory applies to the ongoing warming – was written in part to help counterbalance Lovelock’s overly active imagination as laid out in The Revenge of Gaia. To address the climate issue first, clearly he was branching out into his own reality when he issued this claim in his book, repeated in a 2006 Independent column: “… before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable.” No other scientists supported that wild exaggeration. And who knows where he got the idea that a continuous increase in carbon dioxide should lead to a continuous increase in temperature. It wasn’t from the climate models that he blames for the supposed error. No models project the atmosphere to behave so linearly – partly for the same reasons that Lovelock identified when he proposed Gaia theory. The Earth is too big, with moving parts that include life and ocean currents, to expect it to respond with such predictable precision. Seeing the Earth as a complex living system is the crux of Gaia theory. As described in his seminal 1979 book, Gaia: A New Look at Life on Earth, Lovelock’s theory suggested that life on our planet helps keep global temperature within a survivable realm. In modern times, temperatures can range from the icy existence of penguin territory to the humid tropics where bugs thrive year-round. Life survives in every realm. In the distant past, the planet has passed though ice ages and hothouses. Life forged ahead, and here we are.
"Like many people, I was inspired by his vision of a living, breathing planet. I admire Lovelock for coming up with this vision, and for having the courage to share it with a community of skeptics. Still, I allowed my respect for his creativity and courage to keep me from directly challenging his more outrageous suggestions as much as I should have. Along with the comment that humans were heading toward extinction this century, there was another major flaw from The Revenge of Gaia that demanded an outraged response. On page 63, he featured three drawings that looked like very basic vegetation maps – one of a colder past, one of the present, and one of a warmer future. These are the drawings he rightly described as “imaginary sketches.” In his imagination, forests virtually covered the continents of the ice-age Earth, while only a few specks of forests remained near the poles in his rendition of a hothouse Earth. In fact, the opposite situation is closer to the truth, based on evidence from fossils, sediments, peats and coals, and anything else that survived time’s passage. In the distant past, albeit in the absence of widespread human civilization, forests generally expanded during hothouse periods and shrank during ice ages. In addition to my book, recent articles in Scientific American and National Geographic have described abundant hothouse vegetation in places Lovelock pictured it absent."
Sea-level rises 'may not be as high as worst-case scenarios have predicted'
"The new study, published in the journal Science on Thursday, focused on the latter effect. Moon said: "We found, contrary to conventional wisdom, that glaciers have rapid and large changes in speed."
"The new work shows the situation is not as bad as the worst possible case, but it is still serious for future sea level rise and is certainly more complex than many of the models suggest. Other recent satellite science has revealed complexities in other parts of the world, with the world's greatest peaks in the Himalayan mountain chain revealed as having lost no ice in the last decade. Another study showed the Karakoram glaciers as having grown over the last decade."

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