Tag Archives: American Meteorology Society

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