This seems oddly specific

Willis Eschenbach spots an assertion in Science that can’t possibly be that precise:

In their June 10th edition, in their “BY THE NUMBERS” section, they quote Nature Climate Change magazine, viz:

1,211,287: Square kilometers of ice road-accessible Arctic lands that will be unreachable by 2050, a 14% decrease, according to a report online 29 May in Nature Climate Change.

In other news, there is a publication called Nature Climate Change.

Now surely, if they can call this to the square kilometer, they ought to be able to pinpoint an exact date and time: say, 1 April 2050 at 6 am GMT. Heck, Bishop Ussher was doing that much four and a half centuries ago.

Says Eschenbach:

The idea that a hyper-accurate claim like that would not only get published in a peer-reviewed journal, but would be cited by another peer-reviewed journal, reveals just how low the climate science bar is these days. Mrs. Henniger, my high school science teacher, would have laughed such a claim out of the classroom. “Significant digits!” she would thunder.

I don’t expect to be around in 2050, but I think it’s a pretty safe bet that this guesstimate is off somewhere between 0.5 and two million square kilometers.


  1. sya »

    5 July 2011 · 4:57 pm

    Well, to be fair to the authors of the actual paper, they did state that these were theoretical averages although there is an appalling lack of error bars.

  2. CGHill »

    5 July 2011 · 6:14 pm

    Even theoretical averages have to have the proper number of significant digits, though.

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