Further comments on Scott’s ‘suicide’

5 Nov

Some years ago, on this blog, we had an animated correspondence on the subject of Scott’s ‘suicide’ – this was mostly centered on Professor Sienicki’s assertions in his paper ‘The Weather and its Role in Captain F. Scott and his Companions’ Deaths’, that Scott, having realised that there was no hope of him returning alive, decided on ‘a slow suicide’. Having reached this decision he was fearful that critics in Britain (who had previously slandered him and Lt.Royds, over the latter’s meteorological records from the ‘Discovery’ expedition), would pounce again, so, to gain public sympathy for himself and his own and his companions’ families, he and Bowers falsified their meteorological data and recorded abnormally low temperatures.
Professor Sienicki repeated these assertions in his book on the subject and was critical of other expert conclusions, mentioning particularly, Susan Solomon, the award winning atmospheric chemist.
As would be expected there was much argument about this conclusion and on this blog Bill Alp, an I.T. and software expert, persistently asked for details that would support Professor Sienicki’s data.
Now the American Meteorological Society has published a paper, which, without mentioning Sienicki,appears to refute his thesis.(http;//journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.1175/BAMS-D-17-0013.1)

The paper shows that whilst several studies have focussed on the exceptionally cold conditions that Scott and his party suffered in the end of the Antarctic summer of 1912, both Scott and Amundsen experienced exceptional meteorological conditions – there were unusually WARM conditions in the interior of the Ross Ice Shelf and Amundsen’s party also experienced unusually high temperatures on the plateau as they approached the South Pole. At the same time Scott (well behind Amundsen) experienced these warmer than average temperatures on the Barrier. Scott also had higher-than-usual temperatures as his party descended the Beardmore Glacier. This warm period was followed by a colder than average temperature on the Ross Ice Shelf in early March. It is suggested, amongst other things, that the period of warmth may have lulled Scott into a sense of security before the temperatures dropped unusually and dramatically, sharply. There was no manipulation of the data — Scott’s cold weather observations were no more extreme than the high temperature observations.

Bill Alp has written the following:

It is great to see that a new research article, An Exceptional Summer during the South Pole Race of 1911-1912, has been published by the prestigious American Meteorological Society. It may be viewed at: http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/pdf/10.1175/BAMS-D-17-0013.1
I like the article and recommend it to others because:
1. It provides an even-handed non-partisan analysis, including Amundsen’s meteorological observations, and it addresses the exceptionally warm period that Amundsen experienced in December 1911.
2. It does not propose any bizarre theories about Scott falsifying his temperature records in order to pave the way for his own suicide. Fogt et al simply show that most of the extreme temperature and pressure observations during this exceptional season are about two standard deviations above or below the mean value in the climatology model they used, called ERA-Int. Scott’s cold March temperature observations are no more extreme that Amundsen’s high December temperature observations. [Noting that observations of under-sledge temperatures were excluded because pooled cold air could cause a cold bias].
3. With a lifetime of experience in IT and software project management, I have wide personal experience in reviewing and probing the adequacy of testing that has been carried out in development of complex systems. Fogt’s article rings true for me.
4. The article has been through the peer review process of a respectable research institution.

So there we are. There will probably be more to follow


One Response to “Further comments on Scott’s ‘suicide’”

  1. Kristoffer November 6, 2017 at 7:30 pm #

    “There will probably be more to follow.”
    And so there shall be.

    Fogt et al.’s temperatures are similar to Sienicki’s retrodicted temperatures (http://klimatolodzy.pl/pkp/pkp_21/Sienicki-pkp21.pdf as well as Figure 7.13 on page 300 of Sienicki’s book). Here is a link to a figure Sienicki made, in which he compares his old retrodictions (black squares) to Fogt’s Figure 4b (red circles) and Scott’s data (blue triangles): https://i.imgur.com/uz3T2Iw.gif

    The remainder of the paper can be brought under distrust immediately, because Solomon is one of the coauthors. In her 2001 book, Solomon misrepresented the nature of Amundsen’s meteorological data to make it appear warmer than it actually was. With Sienicki’s permission, I am reproducing a section from subsection 4.2.2 of his book that explains this:
    “Dr Solomon placed words in Captain Scott’s mouth by saying that “Scott noted that they were all feeling the cold,” and makes a junction that it was due to low temperatures. Captain Scott in his Jan. 14th journal entry was rather direct about the reason for feeling cold

    Again we noticed the cold; at lunch to-day (Obs.: Lat. 89°20′53″ S.) all our feet were cold, but this was mainly due to the bald state of our finnesko.

    Dr Solomon’s most glaring suggestion comes from the statement that the minimum temperature –19°F was “considerably colder than the conditions Amundsen had experienced a month earlier”. To support her observation, Dr Solomon produced Fig. 49 (see Fig. 4.10 above), a bizarre mixture of temperature data: minimum daily temperatures (Captain Scott), temporary temperatures (Captain Amundsen), average minimum daily temperature (modern data for the South Pole), and variability of minimum daily temperatures at the South Pole (modern data). In Dr Solomon’s presentation, the data depicted on this figure confirm her concealed thesis that Captain Scott’s team experienced significantly worse conditions than Captain Amundsen’s team, and thus Captain Scott was against the elements.
    Dr Solomon gives no reference to where temperature data was taken. However, one can make an educated guess for all data sources, except for the temperature data attributed to Captain Amundsen’s expedition.
    The data points, as well as the caption of Fig. 4.10, make reference to daily minimum temperature. However, Captain Amundsen never reported minimum temperature records, as the respective minimum temperature thermometers for unclear reasons were not taken by the expedition.462 Moreover, at the time of Dr Solomon’s book publication in 2001, the only source of Captain Amundsen’s expedition temperature data was available from his two volume published account of the journey, none of which was from his polar journey.463 In Tab. 4.2, I summarized the temporary temperature records found in Captain Amundsen’s printed account of the South Pole Journey in Dec. 10th through 20th, 1911. In the same table, I also added the temperature data attributed to Captain Amundsen by Dr Solomon. This data was obtained by careful digitization of Dr Solomon’s figure. Not even one of Dr Solomon’s data overlaps with Captain Amundsen’s actual record. Additionally, for Dec. 13th, 15th, 16th, 18th and 20th Captain Amundsen did not record temperatures in his printed record. I have no answer to the question of from what original source Dr Solomon assembled the temperature data for the just mentioned dates in December 1911.
    It was Olav O. Bjaaland who, similar to Lt Bowers, kept meteorological records during the South Pole journey. His journal was not published until recently. Certainly Dr Solomon did not have access to it, and she did not make reference to Bjjaland’s diary. The respective temperature entries from Bjaaland’s journal are added to the previously mentioned Tab. 4.2. The gaps present in Captain Amundsen’s record are filled with false temperatures by Dr Solomon! Bjaaland’s temperatures are temporary records at different times of the day, and are not minimum temperatures as incorrectly suggested by Dr Solomon. As we are certain of Captain Amundsen’s and Bjaaland’s figures, one must conclude that Dr Solomon, not having original data sources, deliberately fabricated Captain Amundsen’s temperature figures to produce the impression that Captain Scott faced conditions at the South Pole much colder then Captain Amundsen did while there.
    Provided that the most frequently recorded minimum temperature is during the night hours, as I have shown on Fig. 3.5, one, by looking at Captain Amundsen and Bjaaland’s entries in Tab. 4.2 can make an educated speculation that the respective minimum temperatures were substantially lower than the day temperatures, and in reality were closer to long-term averages obtained from modern data recorded at Amundsen-Scott Base and depicted by the solid line on Fig. 4.10. Therefore, both Captain Amundsen’s and Captain Scott’s minimum temperature data are uniformly scattered around long term averages of minimum temperature at the proximity of the South Pole. This is contrary to the false conclusion by Dr Solomon that the difference between Captain Amundsen and Captain Scott’s minimum temperatures was ‘more than ten degrees’.”

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