"Researchers and scientists who study the Antarctic Peninsula
cautioned that there was little evidence to directly link the ice
shelf collapse to the effects of global warming."
--Eric Pianin, The Washington Post, 20 March 2002

"Although climate model predictions do indicate an enhanced response
to future global warming in some parts of the polar regions, the
Antarctic Peninsula is not one of these areas. The lack of a clear
modelled association between Peninsula warming and global warming
means that it is premature to attribute warming in the Peninsula to an
enhanced "greenhouse" effect."
--British Antartic Survey, November 2001

"There is reason for optimism, if not here then in the next world.
Milloy notes that in his Inferno, Dante "placed the diviners,
astrologers, magicians, sowers of scandal and discord, alchemists, and
liars in the eighth and next-to-most damned level of hell."  Now that's a
health risk the junk scientists should worry about."
--James K. Glassman's book review of "Junk Science Judo"

    The Washington Post, 20 March 2002

    Andrew Yee <>

    John Daly, 20 March 2002

    Smater Times, 20 March 2002

    British Antartic Survey, November 2001

    Andrew Yee <>

    Theodor Landscheidt

    CO2 Science Magazine, 20 March 2002

     Timo Niroma <>

     The New York Times, 10 March 2002

     Tech Central Station, 20 March 2002


>From The Washington Post, 20 March 2002
By Eric Pianin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 20, 2002; Page A03

An Antarctic ice shelf the size of Rhode Island recently shattered and
collapsed into the sea after an unusual warming period, stunning some
scientists who said they had never seen such a large loss of ice mass in the
remote Antarctic Peninsula.

The disintegration of the ice shelf -- 1,260 square miles in area and 650
feet thick -- was most alarming to some because of the extraordinary
rapidity of the collapse. The shelf is believed to have existed for as long
as 12,000 years before regional temperatures began to rise, yet it
disintegrated literally before scientists' eyes over a 35-day period that
began Jan. 31.

"We knew that it would collapse eventually, but the speed of it is
staggering," said David Vaughan, a glaciologist with the British Antarctic
Survey, which announced the event yesterday in London and released vivid
video images of the breakup.

Researchers and scientists who study the Antarctic Peninsula cautioned that
there was little evidence to directly link the ice shelf collapse to the
effects of global warming, which is induced by carbon dioxide and other
man-made "greenhouse" gases. Rather, they are blaming a localized warming
period that allowed melt water to seep into cracks and trigger massive
fracturing of the ice when temperatures dropped.

"What we see is climate warming regionally," said Ted Scambos, a researcher
with the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado in
Boulder. "Ice shelves that have been there for centuries, maybe thousands of
years, are responding to climate they haven't seen in the past. Very quickly
they shatter."

But some scientists, including Princeton University geoscience professor
Michael Oppenheimer, believe that more sophisticated and localized global
warming models eventually will show a direct relationship between Earth's
rising temperatures and the vanishing ice shelves.

"Ascribing a temperature trend in a small region like that to the broader
global trend is difficult," said Oppenheimer, one of the hundreds of
scientists who helped research a seminal United Nations-sponsored report on
global warming. "Nevertheless, the collapse of the ice shelf in my opinion
can be partially ascribed to human-induced climate change."

Experts said the loss of the ice shelf will not result in a rise in sea
level because the ice was already floating. One of the most significant
predicted results of global warming is a rise in sea level as ice on land

Ice shelves are thick plates, fed by glaciers, that float in the ocean
around much of Antarctica. In recent months, with the polar summer just
beginning, temperatures were already creeping above freezing in the
peninsula region. Scientists said there has also been a 50-year warming
trend in the peninsula, averaging approximately 0.5 degrees Celsius per
decade, which is considered a sensitive, early indicator of global climate

But the overall climate picture in the peninsula, nearest to southern
Argentina and Chile, is complicated and hard to generalize. Glaciers
elsewhere on the continent are both thickening and thinning as temperatures
show conflicting climate trends. In January, for example, researcher Peter
Doran said scientists working in the McMurdo Dry Valleys of eastern
Antarctica have found temperatures dropping since 1986.

The Larsen B ice shelf, as it was called, located on the eastern side of the
peninsula, collapsed into a plume of small icebergs and fragments. The
amount of ice released in a month's time was enough to fill 29 trillion
five-pound bags. The collapse was first detected on satellite images this
month by the National Snow and Ice Data Center. A British research vessel,
the RRS James Clark Ross, was in the area just as the event was occurring
and provided vivid images of the vanishing ice from the ocean's surface.

It was the largest single event in a series of retreats by ice shelves in
the peninsula over the past three decades. "We're all simply astounded by
the uniqueness of the event," said Christina Hulbe, a geology professor at
Portland State University in Oregon who collaborated on research into
Antarctica's breaking ice.

Some environmental groups seized on the breakup to renew their plea to
President Bush to take more aggressive action to reduce emissions that
contribute to global warming. Bush has disavowed the Kyoto global warming
treaty concluded last November by Japan, European countries and Russia,
which would force deep cuts in carbon dioxide emissions. Instead he recently
announced proposals to encourage industry to reduce emissions voluntarily.

"This stunning development warns of the dangers of governments doing too
little to halt global warming," said Lara Hansen, a climate scientist for
the World Wildlife Fund. "The visibility and sheer scale of what is
happening in Antarctica should provide a wake-up call to policymakers

© 2002 The Washington Post Company


>From Andrew Yee <>

Office of News Services
University of Colorado-Boulder
3100 Marine Street, 5th Floor
584 UCB
Boulder, Colorado 80309-0584
(303) 492-6431

Ted Scambos, (303) 492-1113
Mark Fahnestock, (301) 405-5384
Christina Hulbe, (503) 725-3388
Annette Varani, (303) 492-5952
Jim Scott, (303) 492-3114

March 18, 2002


Recent satellite imagery analyzed at the National Snow and Ice Data Center
at the University of Colorado at Boulder has revealed that the northern
section of the Larsen B ice shelf, a large floating ice mass on the eastern
side of the Antarctic Peninsula, has shattered and separated from the
continent in the largest single event in a 30-year series of ice shelf
retreats in the peninsula.

"This breakup gave us the information we need to reassess the stability of
ice shelves around the rest of the Antarctic continent," said glaciologist
Ted Scambos. "They are closer to the limit than we thought."

The shattered ice has formed a plume of thousands of icebergs adrift in the
Weddell Sea, east of the Antarctic Peninsula. A total of about 3,250 square
kilometers or 1,250 square miles, of shelf area has disintegrated in a
35-day period beginning on Jan. 31 of this year.

Over the last five years, the Larsen B shelf has lost a total of 5,700
square kilometers -- 2,200 square miles -- and is now about 40 percent the
size of its previous minimum stable extent.

Scientists worldwide have monitored the Larsen B shelf since November 2001,
when a researcher at the Instituto Antártico Argentino warned the community
of an impending breakup in the wake of warm spring temperatures and a
dramatic 20 percent increase in the ice shelf's flow rate.

International cooperation between Argentinian, American, British, Austrian
and German scientists has resulted in detailed information on the breakup
from field observations, shipboard studies and a variety of satellite

Scientists attribute the retreats to strong regional climate warming.
Antarctic temperatures have increased about 2.5 degrees Celsius since the
late 1940s. Since 1974 ice shelf extent in the Antarctic Peninsula has
declined by about 13,500 square kilometers, or 5,200 square miles.

Scambos and colleagues Mark Fahnestock at the University of Maryland and
Christine Hulbe of Portland State University have theorized that once melt
water appears on the surface, the rate of ice disintegration increases. They
say melt water ponding on the surface in late summer magnifies fracturing by
filling smaller cracks. From there, Scambos said, the weight of the water
drives the cracks through the ice, making it shatter.

"The next shelf to the south, the Larsen C, is very near its stability
limit, and may start to recede in coming decades if the warming trend
continues," he said. "More importantly, regions of the giant "Ross Ice Shelf
are just a few degrees Celsius away from being overtaken by the same
processes that have destroyed the Larsen."

Ice shelves are thick plates of ice, fed by glaciers, that float on the
ocean around much of Antarctica. The Larsen B was about 220 meters thick.
Based on studies of shelf ice flow and sediment thickness beneath the ice
shelf, the Larsen B is thought to have existed for at least 400 years prior
to current events.

The breakup of peninsular ice shelves has little direct consequence for
sea-level rise. However the shelves act as buttresses, or braking systems,
for glaciers on the continent.

"Loss of ice shelves surrounding the Antarctic continent could have a major
effect on the rate of ice flow off the continent," Scambos said. "The Ross
ice shelf for instance, is the main outlet for the West Antarctic Ice Sheet,
which encompasses several large glaciers and contains the equivalent of 5
meters of sea level in its perched ice."

For more information and graphics on this event and Antarctic ice shelves,


>From, 20 March 2002

[In the past couple of days], the panic mongers were in full cry, from CNN
to the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC). An ice shelf, `Larsen B', on the
eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula has broken up into a mosaic of
smaller icebergs.

The ABC incorrectly claimed the Antarctic had warmed 2°C during the last
century. Wrong! Only the 2% of the Antarctic poking out into the Southern
Ocean warmed (the part where this ice shelf is located). The other 98% has
actually been cooling and accumulating ice. Then the ABC claimed that
`scientists' blamed it all on `global warming' - and then gave a filmed
comment by one just to prove their point - the British Environment Minister!
So environmental politicians are now regarded as `scientists'?

The West Australian newspaper 20th March (p.5) claimed - "The scientists
were reported as being "astounded at the speed of the break up" . "It is
hard to believe that 500 million billion tonnes of ice sheet has
disintegrated in less than a month" the scientists are quoted as saying."

Which `scientists'?  As with the ABC, we don't know. But a floating ice
shelf is like the crust of the earth floating on the earth's plastic mantle.
Stresses build up, cracks open, and all of a sudden out of the blue -
earthquake!  When the quake happens, it is sudden and catastrophic.  No
`scientist' should find it `hard to believe' that an ice shelf would behave
any differently given the similar dynamics involved.

The Larsen break-up has been coming for years, and its demise has long been
expected.  An `ice shelf' is simply a glacier which reaches down all the way
to the coast and then spills out over the sea, pushing it's way further and
further from land, floating on the sea, until tidal forces, water erosion
from beneath, and sunlight from above, finally weaken the floating mass and
breaks it off.  It's dramatic, happens on a grand scale, but also very,
very, natural.

It happens all the time.

This one is bigger than most, that's all. But that does not stop the media
circus from attaching this event to `global warming', even though the
British Antarctic Survey says it is premature to attribute warming in the
Peninsula to an enhanced greenhouse effect.

According to this BBC report, "As far as global implications are concerned,
there are few as far as the present event is concerned." Which is about
right, as there will be no sea level rise resulting from the break-up of
this ice shelf because the ice was displacing its own weight anyway as it
was floating on the sea. Since the warming of the Peninsula is a purely
local anomaly, it too has no global significance beyond the immediate
effect this may have on the local environment. Yahoo News in a story titled
`Cool and Warm' also took a more balanced view of the event.

The Peninsula is only a tiny part of the whole Antarctic (part of it is not
even within the Antarctic Circle), and recent studies show that the great
mass of the Antarctic is both cooler and amassing, not losing, ice.  All ice
shelves which project themselves out into open water must break up
eventually, simply due to contact with the warmer water and the tidal
stresses.  It's evolution.

Or perhaps the greenhouse industry has forgotten about evolution, not just
of living things, but of the whole earth. Where did they get this idea that
natural evolution events must now stop and all new events be blamed on
mankind's activities?


>From Smater Times, 20 March 2002

The top of the front page of today's New York Times carries four photographs
of an Antarctic ice shelf that appears to have broken up. "The speed of the
breakup stunned scientists," the Times reports on its front page. Inside,
the Times has a news article that reports, "researchers said this was the
first time in thousands of years that this part of Antarctica -- the east
coast of its arm-shaped peninsula -- had seen so much ice erode and
temperatures rise so much."

The Times reports that "many experts said it was getting harder to find any
other explanation" of the ice-shelf breakup other than the buildup of
greenhouse gas emissions "that scientists believe are warming the planet."

Well, just to put the matter in context, have a look at John Muir's 1879
essay "The Discovery of Glacier Bay."

Muir writes: "Glacier Bay is undoubtedly young as yet. Vancouver's chart,
made only a century ago, shows no trace of it, though found admirably
faithful in general. It seems probable, therefore, that even then the entire
bay was occupied by a glacier of which all those described above, great
through they are, were only tributaries. Nearly as great a change has taken
place in Sum Dum Bay since Vancouver's visit, the main trunk glacier there
having receded from eighteen to 25 miles from the line marked on his chart.
Charley, who was here when a boy, said that the place had so changed that he
hardly recognized it, so many new islands had been born in the meantime and
so much ice had vanished. As we have seen, this Icy Bay is being still
farther extended by the recession of the glaciers. That this whole system of
fiords and channels was added to the domain of the sea by glacial action is
to my mind certain."

Maybe it was greenhouse gas emissions back in 1879 that caused the creation
of Glacier Bay in Alaska. After all, the antipollution rules were a lot less
strict then than they are now. And maybe the developments in Antarctica are
indeed unprecedented and worthy of top-of-the-front-page treatment by the
New York Times. It certainly has been a warm winter here in New York. But a
bit more skepticism and historical perspective is probably in order here.

Copyright 2002, Smarter Times


>From British Antartic Survey, November 2001

Is a changing Antarctic climate signposting more ominous changes to come
elsewhere? Like the ozone hole is it giving humanity early warning that more
precipitous changes are to come? Or do the observations of ice retreat and
warming temperatures lie within expected bounds in a highly variable
climatic regime? These are the questions that spur on the meteorologists,
glaciologists and atmospheric physicists who study the Antarctic
environment. They summarise here their current views on these important
issues. This statement, first issued in October 1999 , was last updated in
November 2001 .

The polar regions are an important part of the Earth's climate system and
can exert strong controls on how global climate may change as a result of
the accumulation of "greenhouse" gases in the atmosphere. The presence of
ice, particularly sea ice, makes the climate of the polar regions
particularly sensitive to warming by introducing a strong "feedback"
mechanism into the climate system. Warming of Antarctica is of concern
because the continental Antarctic ice sheets contain vast reserves of water
and increased melting of this ice in a warmer climate could contribute to
global sea level rise.

Global climate model predictions of how the Antarctic climate may change
over the next 100 years differ in detail from model to model. Most models,
however, indicate relatively modest temperature rises around Antarctica over
the next 50 years and, over this time period, increased snowfall over the
continent should more than compensate for increased melting of Antarctic ice
and will thus partially offset the rise in sea level resulting from thermal
expansion of the oceans and melting of icecaps and glaciers elsewhere in the
world. However, many processes occurring in the polar regions are not well
represented in climate models at present and further research is needed to
improve our confidence in these predictions. This is particularly true for
predictions beyond 50 years, when Antarctica may start to warm enough to
have a significant impact on the ice sheets.

Few Antarctic stations have climate records extending back longer than 40
years so it is difficult to say whether temperature changes in Antarctica
reflect those in the global record, which shows an overall warming trend of
about 0.5°C between the late nineteenth century and the present. Antarctic
temperature records are characterised by a very high level of interannual
variability that makes the determination of trends from short records
problematical. Over much of Antarctica, warming trends are very small and
there has even been a small cooling in recent years at the South Pole. The
extent of winter sea ice around Antarctica is thought to be a very sensitive
indicator of climatic change but it has only been possible to observe this
since suitable instruments were deployed on satellites in the early 1970s.
Like the temperature records, the sea ice record exhibits a great deal of
interannual variability. In recent years, reducing sea ice extent in some
regions has been balanced by increasing extent in others and there is no
evidence for a decline in overall Antarctic sea ice extent.

One region of Antarctica where detectable climatic change does seem to be
occurring is the central and southern parts of the west coast of the
Antarctic Peninsula. Climate records from this region extend back 50 years
and, over this period, annual mean temperatures have risen by about 2°C - a
far larger rise than seen elsewhere in the Southern Hemisphere. Although
climate model predictions do indicate an enhanced response to future global
warming in some parts of the polar regions, the Antarctic Peninsula is not
one of these areas. The lack of a clear modelled association between
Peninsula warming and global warming means that it is premature to attribute
warming in the Peninsula to an enhanced "greenhouse" effect. However,
climate models are currently unable to reproduce the warming observed over
the past 50 years in the Peninsula (while they simulate global changes over
this period quite well). Given this weakness in current model performance,
future climate scenarios for the region must be treated with some caution
and a link between Peninsula warming and the enhanced "greenhouse" effect
cannot be ruled out completely at present. Whatever the case, we know that
the climate of the region is highly sensitive as a result of complex
interactions between atmosphere, oceans and sea-ice and studying it can tell
us much about polar climate processes. Recent research also shows that the
climate of this region is strongly influenced by climate variations in the
subtropical and tropical South Pacific, such as those associated with El
Niño - Southern Oscillation (ENSO). While such "teleconnections" are
responsible for much of the short-term variability in climate seen in this
region, their role in driving longer-term (decadal to century scale) change
remains to be clarified.

The observed warming has already had a significant impact in the region and
is believed to have caused the disintegration of both the Wordie Ice Shelf
and the northern part of the Larsen Ice Shelf. Warmer conditions in recent
years have also led to increased colonisation by plants at certain sites in
the region. The collapse of the ice shelf that formerly occupied Prince
Gustav Channel provided BAS scientists with a unique opportunity to study
seabed sediments from beneath the former ice shelf and reconstruct a history
of its extent. The sediment record suggests that an ice shelf has existed in
this area for much of the past 10,000 years. However, there is evidence from
iceberg-rafted rock debris in sediment cores that the ice shelf
disintegrated about 5,000 years ago and re-formed some 2,000 years ago. The
recent disintegration (and, by inference, the recent warming) is thus
unusual, but not unprecedented in the context of the past 10,000 years.

Changes have also occurred in the upper atmosphere over Antarctica.
Measurements made over the Antarctic Peninsula and the Falkland Islands show
that the level of peak electron concentration in the ionospheric F-region
(at about 300 km altitude) has fallen by about 8 km over 38 years. Unlike
the surface temperature trends, these changes can be attributed to increased
greenhouse gas concentrations with some level of confidence. While the lower
atmosphere warms in response to increasing concentrations of greenhouse
gases, the upper atmosphere cools. Theoretical studies indicate that the
observed fall in the height of the F-region is compatible with expected
temperature changes in the thermosphere.

Some of the issues covered in this position statement are discussed at
greater length in a recent review paper by BAS staff: Vaughan, D. G., G. J.
Marshall, W. M. Connolley, J. C. King, and R. M. Mulvaney, 2001: "Devil in
the detail" . Science, 293, 1777-1779.

Dr John King and members of the Physical and Geological Sciences Divisions
of the British Antarctic Survey.
© Copyright Natural Environment Research Council - British Antarctic Survey

(6) SUN-EARTH DAY 2002

>From Paal Brekke <>

The second annual Sun-Earth Day will "Celebrate the Equinox" on March 20
with programs and activities at NASA Centers and a two-hour televised webcast
featuring discussions on the Sun's connection to the Earth through images,
cultural parallels and activities that Native Americans have used to share
Sun-Earth science through several generations.


>From Andrew Yee <>

Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics

For more information, contact:

David A. Aguilar, Public Affairs
Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics
Phone: 617-495-7462 Fax: 617-495-7468

For Release: March 19, 2002

Release No.: 02-08

Scientists Predict Calmer Weather Ahead

Cambridge, MA -- Astronomers at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for
Astrophysics (CfA) may have good news for the Earth: calmer weather in space
is ahead. When the Sun is more active and space weather gets "stormy," it
has bad effects on our planet. Energy from solar eruptions changes the
orbits of satellites, causing them to spiral back to the Earth. The
intensified solar radiation and streams of electrically charged particles
can directly damage satellites and increase radiation doses to astronauts.
Solar eruptions perturb the Earth's magnetic field, causing communications
disruptions especially to cell phone and other wireless devices. Magnetic
storms also cause current surges in power lines that destroy equipment and
knock out power over large areas.

The predictions of calmer weather are the result of analyzing observations
from a CfA instrument called the Ultraviolet Coronagraph Spectrometer, or
UVCS. These first-of-a-kind observations by UVCS and other instruments
aboard the international Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) are
providing the best descriptions yet of the workings of the Sun from its core
to its surface. The observations also are leading the way to better
long-term predictions of how and when the Sun's gusty particle emissions are
released to affect spacecraft and life on Earth. Improved predictions are
expected after next-generation instruments come on line later in the decade.
"We need these better predictions as we become more dependent upon
satellites and reliable long-distance communications," says CfA's Dr. Mari
Paz Miralles.

Solar activity varies over an 11-year cycle. Every eleven years the Sun
undergoes a period of low activity called solar minimum that ascends to a
period of high activity called solar maximum and then back to solar minimum.
One way of tracking the solar activity is by observing sunspots. Sunspots
are regions of intense magnetic field that are cooler and darker than the
surrounding areas of the Sun's surface. These active regions can erupt and
cause solar flares and
coronal mass ejections, which hurl energetic, electrically charged particles
toward the Earth. During solar minimum there are only a few sunspots on the
Sun's surface, while during solar maximum there are about 20 times more spots.

Space weather is influenced not only by the presence of active regions, but
also by coronal holes -- open magnetic field regions of the corona that have
low density and brightness. At solar minimum, the Sun generally has a
coronal hole at each of its poles and none near its equator. As solar
activity increases, the coronal hole at the Sun's north pole shrinks, other
smaller coronal holes emerge near it, and they appear to migrate toward the
solar equator and eventually to the
south pole. The same happens in reverse at the Sun's south pole. At solar
maximum, the coronal holes are found near the equator along with active
regions. As the Sun spins, coronal mass ejections and high-energy atomic
particles from solar flares are sprayed at the Earth like water from a
twirling garden sprinkler. As the solar cycle continues, the coronal holes
complete their migration to the opposite pole, causing the Sun's magnetic
poles to reverse. The changes in the magnetic field that lead to the
flipping of the Sun's magnetic poles is the major reason for long-term
variations in space weather.

These observations above the solar surface reveal the workings of the solar
"dynamo" that operates in the Sun's interior and generates the solar
magnetic field. Unlike the Earth, which has a molten iron core, the Sun is
gaseous throughout its interior. The Sun's magnetic field is created solely
by electrical currents similar to the way an electromagnet operates. In the
Sun, these currents are produced by the circulation of extremely hot,
electrically charged gas or plasma. A combination of the interior
circulation of the plasma and the Sun's rotation creates the magnetic field.
The dynamo action takes this initially weak field and builds it up to a much
stronger magnetic field.

The main driver of this dynamo is the solar differential rotation: the Sun
is not a rigid body, but rotates faster at the equator than at the poles.
This differential rotation causes any north-south magnetic field inside the
Sun to be stretched out in the east-west direction. This stretching
contributes to the birth of new active regions, which then drive the
movement of magnetic flux to the poles, eventually leading to a reversal of
the Sun's entire magnetic field.

The UVCS is valuable for studying the Sun because it is the only instrument
able to measure atomic particle speeds and temperatures in the region of the
solar corona where the primary accelerations of the solar wind and coronal
mass ejections occur. The UVCS has observed the solar corona -- the faint
outer atmosphere of the Sun visible from the Earth during a total solar
eclipse -- for six years and has recorded drastic changes in this hot,
tenuous layer. During this period, the Sun's activity increased from its
lowest level in 1996 to its maximum in 2000, then decreased again only to
rebound in 2001. This second increase in the Sun's activity level created a
double- peaked activity maximum.

Another instrument called LASCO from the Naval Research Laboratory makes
images of the solar corona and determines particle densities. Together,
these two instruments have seen, for the first time, how the densities,
temperatures, and speeds of charged particles in the expanding solar wind
vary as solar activity changes. In 1996-1997 at solar minimum, UVCS observed
a simpler solar wind structure, with fast, hot flows from polar coronal
holes that remained open over long periods of time. Around solar maximum,
UVCS also observed coronal holes at other places as well, like at the Sun's
equator and middle latitudes. When comparing UVCS measurements of coronal
holes at solar minimum and maximum, scientists discovered intriguing
differences. The wind at solar minimum accelerates faster from coronal holes
that are both hotter and less dense than those at
solar maximum. These results were reported by Mari Paz Miralles and Steven
Cranmer at an international meeting on "SOHO Observations Over Half a Solar
Cycle" held in Davos, Switzerland earlier this month. The results are also
reported in two articles published in the March 10 and October 20, 2001
issues of Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Understanding the variation of the solar corona and its wind over the solar
cycle is vital for our comprehension of the Sun's role in our daily lives.
As we approach solar minimum, only five years away, the Sun will produce
fewer solar flares and fewer coronal mass ejections. But the coronal holes
at the solar poles will fan out and their magnetic fields will reach
downward toward the solar equator, allowing high-speed wind from the solar
poles to reach the Earth. During this relatively peaceful time ahead, we
will still need to be mindful of the approach of these high-speed wind
streams and their associated high-energy electrons and magnetic disturbances
that will still pose a threat to all of our satellite based essentials and

Headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Harvard-Smithsonian Center
for Astrophysics (CfA) is a joint collaboration between the Smithsonian
Astrophysical Observatory and the Harvard College Observatory. CfA
scientists organized into seven research divisions study the origin,
evolution, and ultimate fate of the universe. The Solar and Heliospheric
Observatory (SOHO) is a mission of international cooperation between the
European Space Agency and NASA.

Note to editors: A high-resolution image of a coronal mass ejection is
online at


by Dr Theodor Landscheidt

Schroeter Institute for Research in Cycles of Solar Activity, Belle Côte,
Nova Scotia, Canada

1. Background of ENSO Forecast

On 11 January 1999, my paper "Solar Activity Controls El Niño and La Niña"
was published on this web site. It included a forecast of the next El Niño
around 2002.9 (End of November 2002). As this date is approaching, it seems
to be in order to give a short delineation of the background of this
forecast for those readers who are interested in an explanation of the
general concept, but shun technical details. This all the more so as there
are first indications that an El Niño is in the making.

My forecast is exclusively based on cycles of solar activity. This does not
conform to the dominating trend in official science. The Third Assessment
Report, published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC),
continues to underestimate the Sun's role in climate change: "Solar forcing
is considerably smaller than the anthropogenic radiative forcings", and its
"level of scientific understanding" is "very low", whereas forcing by
well-mixed greenhouse gases "continues to enjoy the highest confidence
level" as to its scientific understanding. The Third Report considers it
"unlikely that natural forcing can explain the warming in the latter half of
the 20th century." There are also frequent assertions in the literature that
there was only a negligible effect of solar activity on temperature in
recent decades.

2. Effect of solar eruptions on climate stronger than variations in

The IPCC's judgement is based on the observation that the Sun's irradiance
changes only by about 0.1 percent during the course of the 11-year sunspot
cycle. It turns out to be untenable when the Sun's eruptional activity
(energetic flares, coronal mass ejections, eruptive prominences) as well as
solar wind contributions by coronal holes are taken into consideration. The
total magnetic flux leaving the Sun, dragged out by the solar wind, has
risen by a factor of 2.3 since 1901 (Lockwood et al., 1999), while
concomitantly global temperature increased by about 0.6°C. The energy in the
solar flux is transferred to the near-Earth environment by magnetic
reconnection and directly into the atmosphere by charged particles.

Energetic flares increase the Sun's UV radiation by at least 16 percent.
Ozone in the stratosphere absorbs this excess energy which causes local
warming and circulation disturbances. General circulation models developed
by Haigh (1996), Shindell et al. (1999), and Balachandran et al. (1999)
confirm that circulation changes, initially induced in the stratosphere, can
penetrate into the troposphere and influence temperature, air pressure,
Hadley circulation, and storm tracks by changing the distribution of large
amounts of energy already present in the atmosphere.

The strongest contributors to the intensity of the solar wind are solar
eruptions which create the highest velocities in the solar wind and shock
waves that compress and intensify magnetic fields in the solar wind plasma.
Indirectly, they modulate the strength of galactic cosmic rays that
conceivably have an effect on cloud cover, attributed to cloud seeding by
ionized secondary particles (Svensmark et al., 1997; Pallé' Bagó et al.,

Figure 1 after Egorova et al. (2000) provides evidence of this connection.
>From 1981 to 1991,  Egorova, Vovk, and Troshichev (2000) observed surface
temperature (lower panel) and atmospheric pressure at 10 km altitude (upper
panel) at the Russian Antarctic station, Vostok.  Tiny open circles indicate
superimposed daily observations during the winter season. The solid line
describes the 10-winter average. Fat circles mark Forbush events. These are
sharp decreases in the intensity of galactic cosmic rays caused by energetic
solar flares. As can be seen from Figure 1, temperature was nearly always
above the mean after Forbush events, often reaching departures around 20°C.
These 51 experiments performed by Nature and observed by man show a clear
connection between solar eruptions, a decrease in cosmic ray intensity, and
a strong rise in temperature, not to mention the strong decrease in air
pressure. It would be a redundant exercise to assess the statistical
significance of this distinct result.  It is consistent to assume that the
rise in temperature was linked to shrinking cloud cover because of less
intense cosmic rays, though the microphysical details of the effect are not
yet clear. This link is confirmed by Pudvokin and Veretenenko (1995) who
observed marked shrinking of local cloud cover by 3 % after Forbush events.

4. Solar eruptions have an impact on tropical circulation

El Niños occur in the tropical Pacific, far away from Antarctica. There is
cogent evidence, however, that the Sun's eruptional activity, too, has a
strong effect in the tropics.  Fig. 2 after Neff et al. (2001) shows a
strong correlation between solar eruptions, driving the solar wind, and
tropical circulation and rainfall. The dark profile represents oxygen
isotope variations ( 18O) in a dated stalagmite from Oman. The 18O record,
covering more than 3000 years (9.6 to 6.1 kyr before present), serves as a
proxy for change in tropical circulation and monsoon rainfall. The bright
14C profile shows radiocarbon deviations derived from the analysis of dated
tree rings. The level of radiocarbon production in the atmosphere depends on
the changing strength of cosmic rays. Because of the reverse relationship of
cosmic rays with solar activity, the radiocarbon record serves as a proxy of
the Sun's activity.  Most scientists think that this proxy is related to the
activity of sunspots and faculae linked to relatively weak changes in

Actually, the radiocarbon data are a proxy of the Sun's eruptional activity
driving the solar wind. Energetic solar eruptions do not accumulate around
the sunspot maximum.  In most cycles they shun the maximum phase and can
even occur close to a sunspot minimum.  

The upper panel in Fig. 2 covers the whole investigated interval, whereas
the lower panel shows the nearly perfect synchronicity in detail.

Lake bottom cores from the Yucatan Peninsula show a similar correlation,
covering more than 2000 years, between recurrent droughts and the
radiocarbon record linked to the Sun's eruptional activity via cosmic rays
(Hodell et al., 2001). These results and many less recent ones document the
importance of the Sun's eruptional activity for climate change in the
tropics. So it suggests itself to see whether other tropical climate
phenomena show similar connections with solar eruptions.


>From CO2 Science Magazine, 20 March 2002

Schilman, B., Bar-Matthews, M., Almogi-Labin, A. and Luz, B. 2001. Global
climate instability reflected by Eastern Mediterranean marine records during
the late Holocene. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 176:

What was done

The authors analyzed foraminiferal oxygen and carbon isotopes and the
physical and geochemical properties of sediments contained in two cores
extracted from the bed of the southeastern Mediterranean Sea off the coast
of Israel.

What was learned

The authors note that "late Holocene climatic instability was clearly
demonstrated" by their high-resolution study. Over the past millennium, they
make particular mention of two extreme climatic events: one centered at
about 1200 AD, which they describe as "the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) global
climatic event," and one centered at about 1730, which they describe as "the
cooling global event known as the Little Ice Age."

What it means

In discussing their findings, the authors note there is an abundance of
other evidence for the existence of the Medieval Warm Period in the Eastern
Mediterranean, including "high Saharan lake levels (Schoell, 1978;
Nicholson, 1980), high Dead Sea levels (Issar et al., 1989, 1991; Issar,
1990, 1998; Issar and Makover-Levin, 1996), and high levels of the Sea of
Galilee (Frumkin et al., 1991; Issar and Makover-Levin, 1996)," as well as
"a precipitation maximum at the Nile headwaters (Bell and Menzel, 1972;
Hassan, 1981; Ambrose and DeNiro, 1989) and in the northeastern Arabian Sea
(von Rad et al., 1999)."  In addition, they remark that their Little Ice Age
data paint a picture of "the coldest conditions prevailing in the SE
Mediterranean during the past 3.6 ka [3600 years]."

The evidence for a global Medieval Warm Period and a global Little Ice Age
keeps getting stronger by the day (see both headings in our Subject Index).
Clearly, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change should never have
abandoned their original climate history of the world - which accurately
depicted these significant climatic excursions (Houghton et al., 1990) - in
favor of the flawed "hockey stick" plot of Mann et al. (1998, 1999).


Ambrose, S.H. and DeNiro, M.J. 1989. Climate and habitat reconstruction
using stable carbon and nitrogen isotope ratios of collagen in prehistoric
herbivore teeth from Kenya.  Quaternary Research 31: 407-422.

Bell, B. and Menzel, D.H. 1972. Toward the observation and interpretation of
solar phenomena.  AFCRL F19628-69-C-0077 and AFCRL-TR-74-0357, Air Force
Cambridge Research Laboratories, Bedford, MA, pp. 8-12.

Frumkin, A., Magaritz, M., Carmi, I. and Zak, I.  1991.  The Holocene
climatic record of the salt caves of Mount Sedom, Israel. Holocene 1,

Hassan, F.A. 1981. Historical Nile floods and their implications for
climatic change.  Science 212: 1142-1145.

Houghton, J.T., Jenkins, G.J. and Ephraums, J.J. (Eds.)  1990.  Climate
Change: The IPCC Scientific Assessment. Cambridge University Press,
Cambridge, UK.

Issar, A.S. 1990. Water Shall Flow from the Rock.  Springer, Heidelberg,

Issar, A.S. 1998. Climate change and history during the Holocene in the
eastern Mediterranean region. In: Issar, A.S. and Brown, N. (Eds.), Water,
Environment and Society in Times of Climate Change, Kluwer Academic
Publishers, Dordrecht, The Netherlands, pp. 113-128.

Issar, A.S. and Makover-Levin, D. 1996. Climate changes during the Holocene
in the Mediterranean region.  In: Angelakis, A.A. and Issar, A.S. (Eds.),
Diachronic Climatic Impacts on Water Resources with Emphasis on the
Mediterranean Region, NATO ASI Series, Vol. I, 36, Springer, Heidelberg,
Germany, pp. 55-75.

Issar, A.S., Tsoar, H. and Levin, D. 1989. Climatic changes in Israel during
historical times and their impact on hydrological, pedological and
socio-economic systems. In: Leinen, M. and Sarnthein, M. (Eds.),
Paleoclimatology and Paleometeorology: Modern and Past Patterns of Global
Atmospheric Transport, Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, The
Netherlands, pp. 535-541.

Issar, A.S., Govrin, Y., Geyh, M.A., Wakshal, E. and Wolf, M.  1991.
Climate changes during the Upper Holocene in Israel. Israel Journal of
Earth-Science 40: 219-223.

Mann, M.E., Bradley, R.S. and Hughes, M.K. 1998. Global-scale temperature
patterns and climate forcing over the past six centuries.  Nature 392:

Mann, M.E., Bradley, R.S. and Hughes, M.K. 1999. Northern Hemisphere
temperatures during the past millennium: Inferences, uncertainties, and
limitations. Geophysical Research Letters 26: 759-762.

Nicholson, S.E.  1980. Saharan climates in historic times. In: Williams,
M.A.J. and Faure, H. (Eds.), The Sahara and the Nile, Balkema, Rotterdam,
The Netherlands, pp. 173-200.

Schoell, M.  1978. Oxygen isotope analysis on authigenic carbonates from
Lake Van sediments and their possible bearing on the climate of the past
10,000 years.  In: Degens, E.T. (Ed.), The Geology of Lake Van, Kurtman. The
Mineral Research and Exploration Institute of Turkey, Ankara, Turkey, pp.

von Rad, U., Schulz, H., Riech, V., den Dulk, M., Berner, U. and Sirocko, F.
1999. Multiple monsoon-controlled breakdown of oxygen-minimum conditions
during the past 30,000 years documented in laminated sediments off Pakistan.
Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology 152: 129-161.
Copyright © 2002.  Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change



>From Timo Niroma <>

Dear Benny,

The discussion about global warming needs more perspective than it has
today. IPCC reports are nowadays rapidly turned into politics and have gone
a big step away from pure science.

First there is the question of the validity of the supposed 0.6 degrees C
rise during the past hundred years. There are many biases in that figure.

1. The measurements are made mostly on densely populated areas, the spacely
inhabited areas are underrepresented.

2. Most measurements are made on land areas, the warer areas (over 2/3 of
planets area) are underrepresented. Besides the temperatures of the surface
waters should also be measured, separately. It is very significant that the
measuring points are not the same accurate points during the hundred years.

3. Antarctica, Siberia, rainforests are besides the oceans underrepresented.
The temperatures are not calibrated according to the height (although high
mountains are also underrepresented).

4. The various ways of measuring the temperature are not standardized: how
many times during the 24 hours, what kind of places, what kinds and in which
way calibrated instruments.

If these biases were random, we could trust the rise 0.6 degrees, but
because they actually contain systematic errors, it is very dangerous to
make this figure something like an absolute measure of warming of the last
hundred years.

Still more dangerous is it to estimate - to base on these studies - the
temperature hundred years from now, but that is just what has been done. The
Kyoto protocol is based on it. Some very poorly based suggestions to reduce
the so-called greenhouse gases are made. Suggestions are good for the health
of the people, but their effect on the climate of earth is very
questionable. So if we are prepared to pay huge amounts of money to reduce the temperature of
the earth, that's pure waste. But if Kyoto protocol is to clean the
atmosphere, it is welcome . Corals bleed, but if it is caused by for example
el Nino, let it be. Corals die because mankind poisons its environment.

But I take the challenge of IPCC. My material are proxies that also have
their biases, the most serious being that the data are mostly from Northern
hemisphere and proxies are not calibrated. The last hundred years use partly
the same data as IPCC has had. Let's see what we get.

After having studied tens of studies by different methods there begins to
emerge a picture of the previous occasion of similar climatic conditions as
today are prevailing. After the cold 9th century (most probably at least as
cold the 17th century) there was the oscillating 10th century that lead to
the first settlements in Iceland (about 930), in Greenland (about 980) and
the Newfoundland occupation (about 1000). This warming led to the socalled
Medieval warming, that according to my calculations led at three occasions
(980-1040, the 12th century plus the latter part of the 13th century). These
periods were at the top about 0.9 degrees C warmer than the 1990's, so there
is still room to warm to achieve the same temperatures as prevailed at times
during the Medieval period.

The Medieval Warm Period (MWP) came to an end about 1300 (there was a short
very warm period about 1350-1380). But after that, especially after 1400
began a long-lasting cold period (including the very cold Sporer and Maunder
minima). After the coldest decade of 1690's in 800 years, began the Modern
Global Warming after 1700. It has had two cold periods, the colder but short
Dalton minimum 1800-1830, and a longer but not as cold a period about

Since 1925 there has been something that can be called global warming.
However there was a colder period from about 1965 to 1985. This is easily
explained by the activity of the Sun, but not by socalled greenhouse gases.
Similarly the warm decade of 1990's is easily explained by the high
activity of the Sun. After the minimum of 1986 Sun activated very quickly
and held a very high and prolonged activity in 1989-1992. Albeit the ongoing
maximum is lower, it is two-topped. The primary maximum was in 2000, and the
second maximum is there at the moment (2002). But there are indications that
the next minimum will be delayed, which causes the next maximum to be low.
This means a global cooling beginning in 2015-2020.

As the temperatures before about 1800 have to be estimated by proxies, the
sunspots before Maunder minimum also must use proxies. One such are the
aurorae observations. Both can also be approximated by known historical

I would suggest that IPCC chooses an amount of measurement points that are
calibrated individually. This means that we see the differences between
places and times instead of taking an average or a median of very different
places. And if there is global warming (or cooling) it should be studied as
divided geographically, monthly and by time of day (night/day). I have
chosen Helsinki. Besides being my home town, it has an over 173 year long
continuous record of temperatures. Helsinki is interestingly between the
Arctic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea in north-south direction and between
the Russian Plains and the Atlantic Ocean in east-west direction.

If we use a half-a-century division, we get immediately an interesting
result: although both winters and summers have been in the first part of the
20th century warmer than in the latter part of the 19th century (winters by
1.3 degrees C and summers by 1.5 degrees C measured by medians), in the
latter part of the 20th have summers been 1.0 degrees C colder than during
the first part (winters have continued their warming by 1.8 degrees C).

So the winters have warmed during 100 years by 3.1 degrees C, but summers
only by a net of 0.5 degrees C. This kind of difference cries for an
explanation. And that should happen before we make any predictions of the
coming temperatures.

Timo Niroma

>From The New York Times, 10 March 2002

UNITED NATIONS, March 8 - For decades, experts assumed that the world's
biggest developing nations, the home of hundreds of millions in big
families, would push the global population to a precarious 10 billion people
by the end of this century.

Now, evidence is now coming in that women in rural villages and the teeming
megacities of Brazil, Egypt, India and Mexico are unexpectedly proving those
predictions wrong. Next week, demographers from around the world will meet
here to reassess the outlook and possibly lower the estimate by about a
billion people this century.

In India alone, by 2100 there may be 600 million fewer people than

The decline in birthrates in nations where poverty and illiteracy are still
widespread defies almost all conventional wisdom. Planners once argued - and
some still do - that falling birthrates can only follow improved living
standards and more educational opportunities, not outrun them. It now seems
that women are not waiting for that day.

A few demographers are venturing to say that the trend may have little to do
with government policies on family planning or foreign aid.

Since the United Nations conference on population and development in Cairo
in 1994, women in many countries have said that if they had control over
their reproductive lives, lower fertility rates would be a given. Women's
health organizations now say that is happening.

"From Delhi to Rio, women's health advocates have stood fast against
top-down population policies, and have stood for women's rights - and
abilities - to make decisions about their bodies," said Cynthia Steele, vice
president for programs at the International Women's Health Coalition in New
York. "Whether they live in villages or high-rises, women have always known
what's best for them and their families. Now we're seeing the results of
their own choices to have fewer children."

Joseph Chamie, the director of the United Nations population division, said:
"A woman in a village making a decision to have one or two or at most three
children is a small decision in itself. But when these get compounded by
millions and millions and millions of women in India and Brazil and Egypt,
it has global consequences."

Mr. Chamie said it had been assumed that the fertility rates in big
developing countries - the number of births, on average, per woman - would
fall at best only to what is known as replacement level. That number is 2.1,
or a little more than one child for each parent. But in big countries, even
that pace would add a huge number to an already large population base before
the trend eventually moderates.

Demographers may now be willing to go out on a limb and say that the
fertility rates in the big developing countries may even drop below the
replacement level, and sooner than most of them would have thought possible.

That would follow the trend already established in industrial countries,
where the population slowdown has caused concerns about shrinking labor
forces and aging populations.

Just as women are pushing for a larger role in economic life around the
world, they are also apparently becoming more assertive within families.
"We're breaking both the fertility floor and the glass ceiling," Mr. Chamie

In India, Gita Sen, professor of economics at the Indian Institute of
Management in Bangalore, said in a telephone interview that there were
important cultural factors at work.

"Fertility in India is declining and it is declining faster than many people
had expected," she said. One reason, she said, is "that with increasing
awareness on the part of women, they are being able to control their own
fertility much better."

"It seems to start in one village and then spread to other places around
that area," she said. "Attitudes are changing, and people are watching what
their neighbors are doing."

With declining infant mortality, mothers become more confident that their
babies will survive, Ms. Sen added, and so they can have fewer children. She
and other experts say that urbanization also eases some family controls on
women, and makes contraceptive pills or devices easier to find.

Both family pressure and lack of access to reproductive health care limit
many women.

Ms. Sen said a family survey in 1999 in India, where the fertility rate is
still about 3.0 per woman, underlined the change in attitudes. "It was a
very detailed survey that interviewed close to 90,000 married women all
across the country," she said. "One of the most striking things in that was
that even in the poorer northern states if you ask women about the number of
children that they want, it's much lower than the number that they actually

In Brazil, women have reduced fertility levels without an official national
family planning policy, Ana Maria Goldani of the department of sociology and
Latin American studies at U.C.L.A. wrote in a paper for next week's
conference. Brazil's fertility rate has tumbled, to 2.27 from 6.15 in the
last half century, and it continues to fall for reasons that Ms. Goldani
says are only now being analyzed.

Gelson Fonseca, Brazil's ambassador to the United Nations, said that
television was important. Brazilians see small and apparently happy families
in television programs and think about emulating that example.

In Bangladesh, family planning experts noticed a decade ago that in some of
the remotest areas, information gleaned from satellite television was
influencing contraceptive choices. In one case, a certain intrauterine
device was rejected by many women in an area where one of them had seen it
described as hazardous in a Western television program.

There are 74 countries in what the United Nations calls the
intermediate-level fertility group, with births between 2.1 and 5 per woman.

This group includes very populous countries like Bangladesh, Brazil, Egypt,
India, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, the Philippines and Vietnam.

Some demographers question whether any one trend will fit them all, and ask
whether it may not be as mistaken to herald a general population decline to
below replacement levels as it was to pronounce that the larger developing
nations would never reach this stage.

John C. Caldwell of the Australian National University urges caution. In a
paper prepared for next week's meeting, he writes of a "loss of fervor" in
the developing world for further fertility decline.

Countries are not homogenous, he argued, and there are some large ones in
Africa and Asia where there will continue to be a preference for more

But Ms. Sen says that she is not concerned about India backsliding in the
movement toward ever-lower fertility rates, arguing that education and
cultural factors are becoming catalysts for change.

"For a very long time we've had a huge problem in terms of 50 to 60 percent
of the female population being illiterate," she said. "The most recent
census, the 2001 census, shows the biggest increases in literacy happening
in some of the poor northern states - big jumps in literacy - and that means
girls going to school.

"Those same girls are going to be making the fertility decisions in another
10 years or so," she said, "and I don't think they are going to make them in
the same way that their illiterate mothers may have."

Copyright 2002, The New York Times


>From Tech Central Station, 20 March 2002

By James K. Glassman 03/20/2002 
Junk Science Judo is not your typical self-help snorer. Unlike Chicken Soup
for the Soul, or Who Moved My Cheese?, Steven Milloy's new book provides
something all of us can actually use. And it's entertaining to boot.

A Fox News contributor and the publisher of the popular web
site, Milloy aims to help you protect your family and your business from
junk science, the latest weapon wielded by interest groups to advance their
agendas. It is the perfect tool in a world where ends justify means, and is
wielded with equal expertise in courtrooms, political campaigns, the
marketplace, and the media.

Milloy warns of political activists who turn their activism into
organizations that operate under benign banners like "physicians committees"
or "public-interest" groups. "Activists often place their agendas ahead of
the facts," he writes. "They will say and do virtually anything to promote
their cause. If a health scare will help, then a health scare can be

But it's not just political activists for whom junk science is prized. It
comes in handy for many others. It's a useful tool for the rapacious trial
lawyer buckraking for class-action contingency riches; for the politician
striving for election; for the business that wants to harm competitors or
promote its own products; for the regulatory agency bureaucrat who wants his
authority expanded; for the obscure scientist hoping to make a name for
himself; and for the journalist hungry to make news.

Junk science is a new term for an old concept - fraud. The phenomenon of
this kind of fraud in recent decades, however, has infected many of our
institutions, and at great costs to the economy. The pervasiveness of junk
science Milloy catalogs is quite simply shocking. What's more shocking is
the likelihood that even the most skeptical customer has at one time or
another unwillingly bought into - i.e., fallen victim to - junk science

Are silicone breast implants dangerous? How could they not be? After all,
they were banned by the Food and Drug Administration. Do cell phones cause
brain cancer? Cellular phone companies are being forced to defend themselves
in court on that very charge. Are apples with Alar unhealthy? 60 Minutes
seemed to suggest so. Does fen-phen heighten the risk of heart disease?
That's what the nightly news reported. Shouldn't pregnant women avoid sodas
and coffee? The word is that caffeine can cause birth defects. Same with
plastic baby bottles, which are alleged to leach toxins into a vulnerable
child's bloodstream. Are organic foods healthier than non-organic? Of
course, right?

The answer to each of these questions is no, but you can't fault the casual
observer for thinking otherwise. Thanks to the efforts of environmental
groups, scheming politicians, and media enablers willing to pass along
spoon-fed alarmism without subjecting it to scrutiny, many Americans are
convinced that the world (and the marketplace) is a lot more dangerous than
it is.

Most junk science claims use evidence that is (at best) weak, employing
dubious statistical associations using suspect data. Which is why it would
be smart to note Milloy's point that statistics is not science. Neither is
epidemiology. That's just statistics. And it is important not to assume that
something that is scientific sounding - like a parade of statistics - is
scientific. After all, stats don't prove cause and effect.

Next time a television anchor peddles the latest "disturbing statistics"
suggesting a new health concern, keep in mind the conversation between Homer
Simpson and Smartline's pompous TV newsman Kent Brockman.

Brockman: Mr. Simpson, how do you respond to the charges that petty
vandalism such as graffiti is down eighty percent, while heavy sack-beatings
are up a shocking nine hundred percent?

Homer: Aw, people can come up with statistics to prove anything, Kent. Forty
percent of all people know that.

The Simpsons might be a cartoon, but that exchange isn't so far off the
mark. Junk science is a cartoon discipline that might be funny if it weren't
for the severe consequences. Included in these are mind-boggling legal
judgments, personal and corporate bankruptcies, and the other societal costs
associated with scaring the bejesus out of everyday people. (And if you are
a baseball fan, there is the sad case of Baltimore Orioles owner and trial
lawyer Peter Angelos, who wrecked the once-proud franchise after buying it
with the ill-gotten gains from junk-science asbestos litigation.)

But all is not black, and there are ways to combat the tide of cynical junk
science. The key to learning junk science judo is developing a healthy
skepticism and a willingness to question conventional wisdom. Question
everything, including the prestigious medical journals. There are too many
parties that often have vested interests that can be advanced by dubious
science, too many people for whom science is merely a tool and never an end
in and of itself.

There is reason for optimism, if not here then in the next world. Milloy
notes that in his Inferno, Dante "placed the diviners, astrologers,
magicians, sowers of scandal and discord, alchemists, and liars in the
eighth and next-to-most damned level of hell."

Now that's a health risk the junk scientists should worry about.

Copyright 2002, Tech Central Station

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