Friday, March 03, 2006

"Long Term Policy, Short Term Data — A Poor Fit"

"The Commons" reports that today we were subjected to breathless news reports that — to quote the Washington Post’s page one headline — the “Antarctic Ice Sheet Is Melting Rapidly: New Study Warns Of Rising Sea Levels”. Its author, Juliet Eilperin, goes on to state that the ice sheet “is losing as much as 36 cubic miles of ice a year in a trend that scientists link to global warming, according to a new paper ...”

So what is this "trend" based upon? The trend, reported in a paper in yesterday’s Sciencexpress [1], which offers previews of coming attractions in Science magazine, is based on data collected over a 34-month period!

Sorry, Juliet, 34 months does not a “trend” make, unless you are 3-year old, in which case you can be forgiven for thinking that’s a truly long time. like ... almost forever.

Juliet, however, does go on to restore some balance to her story by quoting Richard Alley, “One person's trend is another person's fluctuation.” Bravo!

Let’s now look at the second part of the two-punch headline, namely, the warning regarding rising sea levels. It turns out that the resulting ice melt would raise sea level by 0.4 millimeters per year. Well, that works out to 1.6 inches per century. I guess I better hurry and relocate to higher ground — I have heard you can drown in a thimble-full of water (and I don’t swim).

That also means 1.3 feet in a 1,000 years. Seems I have to live longer than Methuselah to enjoy that beachfront property. Damn!"
Read the rest at


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