Turney Backpedals! Now Says Getting Stuck In Sea Ice NOT Due To Climate Change”!

It appears that now even Professor Chris Turney admits blaming his expedition mishap on global warming was an astronomical stretch after all.

Yesterday I reported here, quoting flagship Swiss daily (NZZ), that his communication director Alvin Stone blamed global warming for the vessel getting trapped in ice. The whole world laughed.

I couldn’t believe it myself so I wrote an e-mail to Stone asking if they really believed this.

Stone answered circa 9 hours later:

Dear Pierre,

That is not quite the quote that I gave.

This is my understanding from talking to Chris and other glaciologists.

  • The 120km long ice berg B09B that is grounded in Commonwealth Bay broke away from the continent three years ago, very likely as a result of climate change.
  • B09B collided with the Mertz Glacier, smashing a large ice tongue that released the ice into that area.
  • It was a mix of this ice that was blown across the path of the Shokalskiy, which led to it being trapped and explains why much of the ice surrounding the ship is old ice.

Chris discusses the situation in a blog entry, here.

I believe you are probably aware of a number of papers this year that show land ice on Antarctica is in decline and that only seasonal sea ice has been expanding, likely due to the increase in westerly winds and potentially because of the decrease in salinity.

Thanks for your interest.”

Here we see that the major backpedalling had already begun. This morning in a piece where the Guardian and Turney attempt to defend the expedition, Turney retracts the claim altogether, sort of: In the Guardian article he writes (my emphasis):

Let’s be clear. Us becoming locked in ice was not caused by climate change. Instead it seems to have been an aftershock of the arrival of iceberg B09B which triggered a massive reconfiguration of sea ice in the area.”

Note here how Turney continues to blame “unforeseen” events for the vessel’s fate, when it is now clear from postings and records that they new well in advance there was ice out there and a storm was approaching. His excuses may be anough for the average Guardian reader, but I don’t expect they’ll hold much water elsewhere.

Expect bogus commissions to clear Turney

I suspect in the end that a commission, even two or three of them, are going to be set up to investigate the whole thing. Then after some months each will issue an authoritive report claiming that although Turney could have done things better, all in all no serious violations were committed and he’ll be cleared. Of course everyone will know that the commissions were bogus. And later, with no one watching, future expeditions will be carried out under far stricter oversight.

In the end the taxpayer will pick up the rescue tab and legal expenses.


35 responses to “Turney Backpedals! Now Says Getting Stuck In Sea Ice NOT Due To Climate Change”!”

  1. DirkH

    “And later, with no one watching, future expeditions will be carried out under far stricter oversight. ”

    That would require an actual capability of oversight. I’m optimistic we’ll see ongoing pwnage; for instance the yearly getting-stuck-in-the-NW-passage regatta.

  2. Ed Caryl

    The first step in his causality chain is interesting. First point, icebergs calve off glaciers all the time because ice flows downhill just like water does, just a lot slower. The fact that the burg is so large indicates that the flow is very slow and steady over a very large front over smooth rock or it was floating on the sea. For a large burg like this, the whole process takes a very long time. All that is natural and is no indication of warming, local or global. But what I really like is his “out”, “very likely as a result of climate change”. Which of many possible changes is he talking about? How can that statement be falsified? It can’t be. Therefore it has no meaning. One would be just as justified saying it was a whim of Oden the storm god.

  3. lucia

    I suspect in the end that a commission, even two or three of them, are going to be set up to investigate the whole thing. Then after some months each will issue an authoritive report claiming that although Turney could have done things better, all in all no serious violations were committed and he’ll be cleared.
    Maybe. But in this case, results of investigations might ultimately affect monetary settlements dictated by a combination of law of the sea and contractual agreements between different entities. So we may see Russian investigations favorable to Russian being reimbursed by Australia with those from Australia favorable to Australia paying less and so on. We’ll see.

  4. ES

    The 120km long ice berg B09B that is grounded in Commonwealth Bay broke away from the continent three years ago, very likely as a result of climate change.

    Wrong: B09B originally calved from the Ross Ice Shelf in 1987 and drifted round to the east of Mertz Glacier by 1992. It was grounded for many years and started moving in late 2009.

    B09B collided with the Mertz Glacier, smashing a large ice tongue that released the ice into that area.

    In mid-February 2010 a massive iceberg designated B09B collided with the Mertz Glacier tongue – a section of the glacier that protruded about 100 km from the Antarctic coastline at about 145ºE. The collision precipitated the calving of another massive iceberg, C28, from the tongue, measuring 78 km long and between 33 and 39 km wide. This calving event removed about 80% of the tongue, leaving only a 20 km-long stub. The calving had been anticipated, as rifts cutting across the tongue had been developing over many years, but the timing and collision was not.

    This report, from his own government, says nothing about releasing ice into that area.


    In 2011 ships were having trouble getting into the area.
    Giant iceberg blocks Mawson centenary tours
    December 22, 2011
    So they knew about the iceberg.


  5. BobW in NC

    Read this piece this morning from Drudge. Fascinating. If (remember, I’m a biologist) I understand the implications of the deepening thermocline reported, Antarctic sea ice will be increasing even more rapidly than it has recently (see below).

    “Antarctic ice shelf melt ‘lowest EVER recorded, global warming is NOT eroding it'” Take away: “the latest BAS research has revealed that rather than accelerating, “oceanic melting of the ice shelf into which the glacier flows decreased by 50 per cent between 2010 and 2012″.” http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/01/03/antarctic_ice_shelf_melt_lowest_ever_recorded_just_not_much_affected_by_global_warming/

    So, warmistas. what say you now?

    1. Bernd Felsche

      I’m confused. The depth of the thermocline just means indicates the amount of water at maximum density.

      The thermocline is (as I understand it) the depth at which the temperature of the water is 4⁰C or very close; the temperature at which liquid water is at its most dense. i.e. that’s why it’s almost all down there. Anything slightly colder will tend to rise, and anything warmer never sinks below except by the action of currents.

      If the thermocline is rising; getting closer to the surface; it means that there is more water at maximum density. And vice versa deeper thermocline mean more warmer OR colder water. Water that far down doesn’t lose heat through the ~700 metres of predominately warmer water above, except by slow convection caused by heating/cooling of water above the thermocline.

      By itself, the 250 metre difference in depth isn’t telling me either way if it’s colder or warmer; not without a temperature profile.

  6. DirkH

    O/T Bladethrow at an 7.6 MW propeller, type E-126, 200m high, 60 m long blade thrown 20-30m. 50 of these propellers are installed´, predominantly in Northern Germany. Bladethrow happened at Schneebergerhof. I thought those blades would travel farther. Complete blade ripped off, photo.

    1. Mike Heath

      In 2009 A wind turbine in Lincolnshire was damaged. Locals reported seeing strange lights at 4am.

      “Was it a bird? Was it a plane? Perhaps a flying cow? So far, nothing has been discounted in the mysterious case of damage to the blades of a wind turbine in Conisholme in Lincolnshire.

      Whatever it was happened at the weekend left the turbine without one of its 20m blades and another bent and gnarled. Ecotricity, the turbine’s owners, cannot yet explain what happened. ”


      There may be up to date explanations for the happening, nothing to do with swamp gas, though I have not seen it.

      The point is that it is not a one-off event. If there was no storm (as the German article said) then I guess it must be metal fatigue. If it can happen to one system surely it can happen to the others. I wonder how the existing systems get checked for metal fatigue, or if they are checked regularly as aeroplanes are.

  7. Don Penim

    Is this true when Stone says “…you are probably aware of a number of papers this year that show land ice on Antarctica is in decline.”

    Are there recent papers showing that?


    According to NASA’s Land-Ice Study published in 2012, from 1992-2008:

    “Mass Gains of the Antarctic Ice Sheet Exceed Losses.”

    During 2003 to 2008, the mass gain of the Antarctic ice sheet from snow accumulation exceeded the mass loss from ice discharge by 49 Gt/yr (2.5% of input.)

    The net gain (86 Gt/yr) over the West Antarctic (WA) and East Antarctic ice sheets (WA and EA) is essentially unchanged from revised results for 1992 to 2001.


    “Increases offsetting losses”

    …“The recent 90 Gt/yr loss from three DS (Pine Island, Thwaites-Smith, and Marie-Bryd Coast) of WA exceeds the earlier 61 Gt/yr loss, consistent with reports of accelerating ice flow and dynamic thinning.

    Similarly, the recent 24 Gt/yr loss from three DS in the Antarctic Peninsula (AP) is consistent with glacier accelerations following breakup of the Larsen B and other ice shelves.

    In contrast, net increases in the five other DS of WA and AP and three of the 16 DS in East Antarctica (EA) exceed the increased losses.”

  8. GeorgeL

    Of course Turney knew what he was heading for, here is an extract from the detailed itinerary for the second leg of the junket:

    “Because of extensive sea ice in Commonwealth Bay, we will undertake aerial reconnaissance using drones to find a safe route to Cape Denison. We will attempt to access the site using ARGO’s — specialised ATV’s ideal for this journey over the fast ice; if conditions prove unsuitable we will attempt landfall elsewhere.”

    The problem was piss poor risk management (to say nothing of excessive hubris).

    See: http://www.spiritofmawson.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/AAE_Leg2_itinerary_02.pdf

  9. Mike Heath

    “Your comment is awaiting moderation.”

    Is the commenting system changing? I don’t remember getting this message before. Is it now necessary to filter the comments?

  10. RC Saumarez

    I wouldn’t be too pessimistic about a commission. The political climate has changed in Australia and the chairman may not be a fully paid up member of the CAGW camp so he/she might be a bit more critical than you expect.

  11. David Joss of Downunder

    “…very likely as a result of climate change.”
    Why can’t they just be honest and say “we really don’t know why?”
    “I believe you are probably aware of a number of papers this year that show land ice on Antarctica is in decline and that only seasonal sea ice has been expanding.”
    “Probably” — another uncertainty so why not list of link to the papers?
    If I were in media I wouldn’t hire this bloke as a cleaner!

  12. J Martin

    Hopefully this is one Christmas turkey that will be getting a roasting on arrival back in Oz.

  13. The ‘Clitanic’ Hot Sheet – News from the #SpiritofMawson fiasco | Watts Up With That?
  14. Manfred

    Wow wow wow !

    65 degrees due to CO2 – Chris Turney is not even familiar with the very basics of climate science. And the context shows, it is not a lapsus. It his fundamental argument to brush of sceptics ! How could he miss water vapour ?

    MARK COLVIN: But a lot of scientists feel kind of somewhat besieged at the moment because of this public scepticism.
    CHRIS TURNEY: Yeah, some do certainly; those who engage a lot with the public and some individuals do struggle with that a little bit. Other people, though, I’ve met and I’ve given talks to – when you explain the science – completely understand the basic premise and at the end of the day for us, it’s so self-evident, what we see now.
    MARK COLVIN: What is that?
    CHRIS TURNEY: Well, the fundamental issue is if you didn’t have carbon in the atmosphere, the planet would be about minus 50 degrees centigrade, give or take – that’s what you’d have. So a little bit of carbon warms the planet, and that’s good, it’s where we’re at today – an average planet temperature of about 14, 15, degrees.
    If you put more carbon in the atmosphere, you’d expect the planet to warm, and basically that’s what you see…


  15. Ed Caryl

    This whole affair has focused attention on the CAGW issue like no other event could have, and it isn’t over. Now the US Coast Guard ice breaker Polar Star is officially getting in on the act. Over the next month, many questions will be asked by people that to date have not been paying attention, officials of many countries. We haven’t had an event to focus attention on ice at the south pole. This event does that, in spades. Watch for people beginning to ask pointed questions of GISS, NOAA, NCDC, and other alphabet soup government organizations. Buy popcorn futures.

    1. Mindert Eiting

      Of course, CAGW does not stand or fall with one shipload of fools. Let me make the controversial statement that many of these people are just very nice. I know several of them and some have Green children who went to University. One disturbing observation: on their arrival at University they had not read one book in their whole life. These people are incredibly uninformed and therefore we may try it with anecdotes on the internet.

  16. Leigh

    The cover up will follow the same line as the “stolen” climate gate emails.
    Even though they were true in every detail and made a mockery of peer review process we shouldn’t have read them because well , “they made us global warmists look like shifty bartards”.

  17. Paul Homewood

    Oh, Pierre, they still can’t stop lying, can they?

    The B9B iceberg broke loose in 1987, not three years ago.


  18. Casper

    Everything what you may get is WEATHER. An unusual cold in the USA in nothing more than a normal Omega-Block. It occurs sometimes, but in Germany we already have the spring. Is it something wrong? Not, it was already happened before…

    1. DirkH

      This is more a delayed onset of winter. Often, snow starts to fall on Dec 20 or so in Germany, we’re only 2 weeks past that date for now. It’s now 4 deg C at 1 AM; forecast says we’ll reach -4 deg C in a week.

  19. Leigh

    I had this exchange with comical Ali a couple of days ago.
    I’m still waiting for the second reply.
    “”Why? The emails not for you Alvin. I was directed to send any emails to Turnkey through you. With the simple understanding you’d pass it on. Because he’s trapped in the summer sea ice with his fellow tools and can’t read his emails. I’m buggered if I know why with the digital age we live in. Doesn’t seem to be able to get a weather report either. But thats another story that he’ll probably explain in person at the enquiry. So pass it on, its no skin of your nose. You’ll just be doing what you were told to do. Its not difficult. Cheers Leigh Evans.

    ▼ Hide quoted text On Jan 3, 2014 10:11 PM, “Alvin Stone” wrote: Dear Leigh,

    Please tell the turkey who wrote this that I certainly will not pass it on.


    Alvin Alvin Stone Media and Communications Manager Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science, UNSW http://Www.climatescience.org.au Phone: (02) 9385 8953 Mbl: 0418 617 366 Email: alvin.stone@unsw.edu.au Twitter: @ClimateSystem

    From: Leigh Date: Friday, 3 January 2014 8:10 PM To: Alvin Stone Subject: [-snip, I prefer not going there, sorry – PG]]

  20. Tommi Rautio

    Word “water” exsists only three times in this chain.

    Are you familiar about New Water production ?

    And secondly, how much New Water is produced per second ? For example annual meanvalue.

  21. alex

    He got stuck in ice because of climate change.. a change from a warmer to a colder climate. It’s so simple.

    The south pole defrost button is not working as it should.

  22. IanW

    I agree with an earlier comment that we should not be pessimistic about the outcome of any official inquiries. The spirit of Mawson project would have been funded and approved under the Labor government that lost office in September. Turney’s research centre at UNSW would be an activity that the new Abbott government would want to defund. So what is at issue will be not just the costs of the rescue but the future of Turney’s research centre and all the jobs in it! The Abbott government is faced with a large deficit: any mis-steps by Turney, or any finding of negligence on his part, may provide a basis for turning off the funding. Moreover, with the Australian Senate still able to block/delay the carbon tax repeal for another few months, Turney becomes a useful way for the Abbott government to embarrass the Australian Labor Party. I would expect that he will receive no mercy when he returns. If he is still a UK citizen, he may end up going back home in due course.

    1. GeorgeL


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