22. Murder on the Polar Express

A Study in Infra-Red

Part twenty-two – Murder on the Polar Express

 

“I wanted to end the world, but I'll settle for ending yours”

Professor James Moriarty – The Final Problem

 

Three deaths

The CryoSat study, measuring the severity of the loss of Arctic ice thickness and carried out by a team of scientists led by University College London in 2013, deserves to go down in the annals of history for being unique in more ways than one.

The co-author, Katharine Giles, shortly after the paper was published in early 2013, was killed in collision with a lorry when cycling to work in London.

This event, tragedy though it was, would not stand out were it not for the fact that her closest colleague and mentor, Professor Seymour Laxon, working on the same study, had died on New Year’s Day of the same year, after suffering brain damage in a fall the day before.

 

These two deaths and one other, that of Oceanographer, Dr Tim Boyd killed by a lightning strike in Argyll, Scotland on the 27th January, compelled a Cambridge Professor to make the remarkable claim that they may have all been assassinated.

This Professor was none other than Dr Peter Wadhams, the leading expert on Arctic ice, head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group at Cambridge University, and member of the AMEG group.

 

Climate Scientist Fears Murder By Hitman Date: 25/07/15 Ben Webster, The Times

 

A Cambridge professor has said that assassins may have murdered scientists who were seeking to reveal how rapidly global warming was melting Arctic ice.

 

Peter Wadhams, professor of ocean physics, said he believed that he had also been targeted but had a narrow escape after a driver of an unmarked lorry tried to push his car off the M25.

 

Professor Wadhams faced criticism this week after a study contradicted his prediction that Arctic ice was melting so fast that it could all disappear this summer. Asked by The Times for his response to the discovery that the total volume of ice grew 40 per cent in 2013, Professor Wadhams insisted that there was still an outside possibility of the Arctic being ice-free this year. He then said there were only four people in Britain who were “really leaders on ice thickness in the Arctic” and he was one. The others, he said, had died in early 2013. He said: “It seems to me to be too bizarre to be accidental but each individual incident looks accidental, which may mean it’s been made to look accidental.” He named the three as Seymour Laxon of University College London, Katharine Giles, a climate change scientist who worked with Professor Laxon at UCL, and Tim Boyd of the Scottish Association for Marine Science. Professor Laxon died after falling downstairs at a New Year’s Eve party in Essex; Dr Giles died in a collision with a lorry while cycling to work in London; and police said they believed that Dr Boyd was killed by lightning as he walked near a loch in Scotland. Professor Wadhams said that about the same time he was driving on the M25 late at night when the lorry hit his car. “This guy showed definite evidence of malevolence. He was trying to run me right off the road.” He said his car was damaged but he managed to get home and called the police the next day. He was told no action could be taken. “I just thought what is going on here? Somebody is trying to do in people who are working on ice thickness in Britain.” He said: “If it was some kind of death squad, you don’t expect that with something like climate change. I know oil companies have been giving lots and lots of money to . . . climate change denialist organisations but you don’t expect them to kill people.” Fiona Strawbridge, Professor Laxon’s partner, said that she had seen similar claims by “ridiculous conspiracy theorists” on the internet but she was certain his death was an accident. She said that she knew Dr Giles and it was clear that her death was also an accident

 

Climate Scientist Fears Murder By Hitman

 

“A Cambridge Professor has made the astonishing claim that three scientists investigating the melting of Arctic ice may have been assassinated within the space of a few months.

 

Professor Peter Wadhams said he feared being labelled a “looney” over his suspicion that the deaths of the scientists were more than just an ‘extraordinary’ coincidence.

 

But he insisted the trio could have been murdered and hinted that the oil industry or else sinister government forces might be implicated.

 

The three scientists he identified - Seymour Laxon and Katherine Giles, both climate change scientists at University College London, and Tim Boyd of the Scottish Association for marine Science - all died within the space of a few months in early 2013.

 

Professor Laxon fell down a flight of stairs at a New year’s Eve party at a house in Essex while Dr Giles died when she was in collision with a lorry when cycling to work in London. Dr Boyd is thought to have been struck by lightning while walking in Scotland.

 

He admitted it would have been "stupid" to go to the police with his concerns over the three deaths, not least because he was "suspicious" of the authorities - he cited the example of the death of the government’s weapons expert Dr David Kelly.

 

Prof Wadhams added: “I thought if it was somebody assassinating them could it be one of our people doing it and that would be even more frightening. I thought it would be better not to touch this with a barge pole.”

His suspicions drew outrage on Saturday from Prof Laxon’s partner, who was also a close friend of Dr Giles. When told what Prof Wadhams had said, Fiona Strawbridge, head of e-Learning at UCL, replied: “Good god. All of this is completely outrageous and very distressing.”

 

The couple had been staying in a friends’ converted mill in the Essex countryside when her partner fell down the stairs in the early hours of New Year’s Day. He died the next day from head injuries.

 

“It was very steep stairs and I heard Seymour fall,” said Ms Strawbridge, “It is just completely bonkers [to suggest murder].

 

"I am sure there are some climate scientists who do get trolled and pursued but Seymour wasn’t one of them. I would have known if anybody had been pursuing him.

 

“Sometimes there are tragic coincidences and you have to accept that.” Emphasis mine

 

Three scientists investigating melting Arctic ice may have been assassinated, professor claims

 

Later, Wadhams, regretting his candidness, made an official complaint that the Times had misrepresented him and that he no longer believed the scientists had been assassinated. The Times presented recorded evidence that he had indeed made such statements but there had been a misunderstanding as to whether parts of the interview had been “off the record” or not. There was no breach of accuracy.

 

Decision of the Complaints Committee 04762-15 Wadhams v The Times

We have a trio of "accidents" occurring within a few months of each other, to people who are well acquainted with each other and the top-ranking experts in the same field, one that is extremely controversial and on which a lot rides, namely the melting of Arctic ice.

The three scientists he identified - Seymour Laxon and Katherine Giles, both climate change scientists at University College London, and Tim Boyd of the Scottish Association for marine Science - all died within the space of a few months in early 2013.

 

Professor Laxon fell down a flight of stairs at a New year’s Eve party at a house in Essex.

Dr Giles died when she was in collision with a lorry when cycling to work in London.

Dr Boyd is thought to have been struck by lightning while walking in Scotland.

 

The deaths of two of the scientists are indeed tragic but when viewed as a murder investigation, are almost cliché. A fall down a flight of stairs and a collision with a lorry.

Of note is the fact that Wadhams claims he nearly suffered the same fate as Dr Giles.

Prof Wadhams said that in the weeks after Prof Laxon’s death he believed he was targeted by a lorry which tried to force him off the road. He reported the incident to the police.

 

The death of Dr Boyd is quite remarkable. In fact if you have ever read Michael Crichton's "State of Fear" you will know just how weird it is. In the story, a climate scientist is assassinated with a lightning bolt. This scientist was an AGW skeptic scientist, however.

 

Note that Boyd was thought to have been struck by lightning. This means nobody saw him get struck by lightning. One could speculate that he was simply taken out by a hitman with a Taser or similar weapon.

 

It would be a clever move to make his death appear to be the result of a lightning strike, as who could cry murder without sounding crazy?

On further examination, however, it is clear that while Dr Boyd was out walking, half an hour after setting off, a storm came swiftly without warning, covering the sky with a black cloud. It was followed by a bolt of lightning and accompanying thunder. Only one bolt of lightning occurred that day, the one that supposedly struck Dr Boyd. His body was discovered later lying on a wooden bridge.

 

“Wife Cat Newsheller, 55, said “I still can’t believe what happened, I will never get my head around it.”

“It was a grey day, but very calm. There was no indication of a storm and then this huge black cloud literally came out from nowhere.

There was only one bolt of lightning that day – only one.”

Cat recalled: “On the morning he died, he left the house at 11am to walk our dogs Skye and Ben but within half an hour the sky had clouded over and at home we heard this mighty crash of thunder.”  Emphasis mine

Grief-stricken family of Tim Boyd speak of agony a year on

Scientist Dr Tim Boyd 'killed by lightning' in Argyll

 

On the face of it, it may seem ridiculous to claim that Boyd was assassinated by means of a lightning strike. However, this is why it would be such an effective method. It is technologically possible to both create the conditions for lightning and to guide that lightning to a specific target. Weapons already exist that have been proven to do just that.

 

The Laser-Induced Plasma Channel (LIPC) is designed to hit targets that conduct electricity better than the air or ground that surrounds them.

“George Fischer, lead scientist on the project, said: "We never got tired of the lightning bolts zapping our simulated [targets]."

Mr Fischer explained how the usually unpredictable lightning bolts can be controlled.

"If a laser puts out a pulse with modest energy, but the time is incredibly tiny, the power can be huge," Mr Fischer said.

"During the duration of the laser pulse, it can be putting out more power than a large city needs, but the pulse only lasts for two-trillionths of a second."

This means, Mr Fischer said, the air could be manipulated to "act like a lens".

"We use an ultra-short-pulse laser of modest energy to make a laser beam so intense that it focuses on itself in air and stays focused in a filament," he said.

Fifty billion watts of optical power are used. By comparison, a typical filament lightbulb uses 100 watts of power.

"If a laser beam is intense enough, its electro-magnetic field is strong enough to rip electrons off of air molecules, creating plasma," Mr Fischer said.

"This plasma is located along the path of the laser beam, so we can direct it wherever we want by moving a mirror." Emphasis mine

Lightning laser weapon developed by US Army

Why The Army’s Experimenting With Laser-Guided Lightning

Triggering, guiding and deviation of long air spark discharges with femtosecond laser filament

 

Remember, a black storm cloud appearing from nowhere and a single lightning bolt, one that struck its target. A laser-guided lightning device that both creates and guides lightning to a target that conducts electricity better than the air or ground that surrounds it. Dr Boyd was on a wooden bridge, a poor conductor.

 

This death coincides with the death of two other scientists within the space of a few months, claimed by another scientist to be assassinations, who is also convinced that an attempt has been made on his own life. All four scientists are the leading experts in the field of Arctic ice and the deaths precede and follow the publication of a paper revealing a dramatic decline in ice volume.

Professor Laxon’s work encouraged the building of CryoSat.

“Seymour's scientific breakthrough was to distinguish the ice surface from the water surface in satellite radar altimeter measurements of ice-covered oceans. This led to the first detailed map of the Arctic gravity field, revealing new tectonic features beneath the seafloor, and water circulation beneath the ice. His work helped give the European Space Agency the confidence to build CryoSat, a satellite dedicated to observing the Earth's ice-covered regions, launched in 2010.

Seymour Laxon obituary

 

Laxon caused quite a stir in 2012:

 

Preliminary results from a European Space Agency satellite measuring the thickness of Arctic ice suggests it is melting faster than previously thought.

 Seymour Laxon of the Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling said the thickness of the ice could now be measured to an accuracy of 10cm (3.5in).

He said there has been a "very strong decline" in the thickness of the ice, and if the current trend continues, the Arctic could be ice-free on a summer's day by the end of the decade.”

Arctic ice: Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling

 

This ruffled the usual feathers:

 

Arctic ICE PANIC sparked by half-baked sat data

 

“Listeners to Radio 4's Today programme - and this includes much of the political elite - will have been alarmed to be told that "the Arctic could be ice-free on a summer’s day by the end of the decade". Yet the evidence for this "trend" turns out to be drawn from less than two years worth of data. Dr Seymour Laxon of University …”

 

 Laxon posted the following comment in reply:

 

Get the facts right Andrew

 The statement in this article that these new results rely on just two years of data is, quite simply, false. If you wish to know why then listen to my Today interview (news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9744000/9744378.stm) where I state that the trends are derived by combining CryoSat-2 volume estimates with earlier (2003-2008) volume estimates from NASA’s ICESat mission [Kwok, JGR, 2009].

 I also state that one must be cautious in extrapolating these trends forwards.”

Seymour Laxon

 

So it would seem he "went public" with the results a little early before peer review, the filtering process. That must have irritated some people.

 

Before the publication of this paper, Laxon died from head injuries on New Year’s day 2013, after having fallen down a flight of stairs the day before.

 

Boyd was the next one to suffer a fatality in February. He had played an influential role in the US Submarine Arctic Science Program (SCICEX) Science Advisory Committee.

 

Below is part of his previous work in Antarctica.

 

 “OBJECTIVE 2: SEA ICE PRODUCTION AND THICKNESS

Measurements of sea ice production (and melt) are closely related to heat and salt fluxes. Upward looking AUV sensors can provide sea ice thickness in conjunction with satellite data to improve estimates of sea ice production and melting during seasonal dynamics. Emphasis mine

Autonomous Vessels for International Polar Year Studies in the Ross Sea, Antarctica

It is clear why he would be a key figure in assessing Arctic ice volume.

After Laxon’s death, Katherine Giles, his protégé, was determined to see his study through to the end.

Her PhD – “Radar and Laser Altimeter Measurements over Arctic Sea

 

In 2007 Giles had been the first to observe that measuring sea ice thickness could also show how winds affected the newly exposed Arctic Ocean.

 

Recall that increasingly powerful winds, especially those modified by storm intensification technology, play a significant role in breaking up Arctic ice and enhancing the melting of the under-ice surface.

 

Under Laxon’s direction, Giles had performed some pioneering experiments to show how the same observations could be related to sea ice thickness.

 

“The brilliant young scientist had been given a lectureship at UCL last December and had recently finished working on a paper about how the volume of Arctic sea ice is affected by climate change.”

 

“She was seeing all these changes nobody had predicted, through measuring the mass of sea ice”

 

After it became clear that the amount of sea ice could be determined by satellite, Giles, under Laxon’s direction, performed some pioneering experiments to show how the same observations could be related to sea ice thickness. In 2007 Giles was the first to observe that measuring sea ice thickness could also show how winds affected the newly exposed Arctic Ocean.

 

Katharine just wanted to explain what she was doing. Part of the reason was climate-change scepticism. She wanted as many people to understand what she was doing as possible.”

“This meant “standing up in front of senior academics, when she was in her mid-twenties and telling them the retracting sea ice is impacting on the ocean”.

 

“The young scientist had become even more driven to complete the paper on the wind and the sea following the tragic events at the beginning of this year. On New Year’s Day Professor Seymour Laxon, 49, her closest colleague and mentor, died after suffering brain damage in a fall the day before.”

 

Katherine Giles was killed very shortly after completing this study.

 

“She was pronounced dead at the scene, her crushed red bike and wicker basket strewn beside her.”

 

The only people in the field able to do the work they had been doing, had all died. All, that is, except Wadhams.

 

“Wingham gave a speech. “I said we have to look to the younger generation to carry on his work. Katharine was one of the people I had in mind. Science is not just about talent, leadership is essential and she had both. We’ve lost around 40 years of accumulated experience in Seymour and Katharine. That group of scientists were the only people capable of doing the work with satellites they had been doing. That huge investment of time and human effort can’t be replaced.

 

“An inquest is being carried out into Giles’s death. A male driver of a tipper truck on Victoria street was stopped at the scene but not arrested.

 

The short, brilliant life of climate change scientist Dr Katharine Giles, who was killed in Victoria lorry crash Friday 12 April 2013|

 

It could be speculated that Laxon and Giles were "encouraged" to "emphasize" the slower decline (or even growth) of the surface ice and to "de-emphasize" the rapid decline of the ice volume as a whole. They didn’t play ball. A similar offer may have been made to Boyd and Wadhams.

 

 

 

The Twist

 

Recall that dramatic decline in volume versus the decline (and debate thereof) in ice extent revealed in the study published in early 2013. Three leading Artic ice scientists die around this period and one claims that they were assassinated and an attempt was made on his own life.

Then in 2015, “new research” on the CryoSat is published, led by Rachel Tilling, a doctoral student at the very same University College London. The results from this study make an about turn from the previous one, claiming that Arctic ice volume has miraculously increased by 41%, attributed tounusually cool conditions in 2013”.

In a confusing twist, though, new research published Monday is showing that there was a large increase in Arctic sea ice in 2013, rather than a decrease.

The study, published Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience, examines observations of sea ice volume between 2010 and 2014, derived from measurements taken by the European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 satellite. These observations indicate that there was an unexpected increase in Arctic sea ice between 2012 and 2013, when sea ice volume increased by a whopping 41 percent — a result that “was really quite surprising,” says Rachel Tilling, a doctoral student at the University College London and lead author of the study.

The sudden increase meant that, overall, there was 33 percent more ice in 2013 and 25 percent more in 2014 compared to the average amount of sea ice that was present between 2010 and 2012. The researchers attribute the surprising increase to unusually cool conditions in 2013, which caused there to be 5 percent fewer “melting days” — warm days in the summer during which sea ice is actually melting — that year.

The key thing to remember here is that conditions in 2013 were very unusual compared to the overall trend the Arctic has seen the last few decades. In fact, the authors point out that the cool conditions and fewer melting days observed in 2013 were more typical of conditions observed during the late 1990s. This means what happened in 2013 was an anomaly — an effect that is significantly different than the conditions that are usually observed. When looking at graphs that show changes in Arctic sea ice over the course of the last few decades, there’s still a definite downward trend.

“These people are not making any claim that we’re going to have some big recovery [in sea ice],” says Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center (who was not involved with the paper), adding that decreasing trends in the sea ice mean we’re still eventually heading toward a seasonally ice-free Arctic ocean. “But it’s going to occur in fits and starts because the sea ice is highly variable — we’re going to go up some years, down in others.”

Serreze does have some criticism for the paper. This study shows that “sea ice thickness, like extent, is highly variable,” he says. “Now, we’ve already known that it’s highly variable … So it’s really not saying anything new there.” He also has some concerns about the basic methods the researchers used to compute changes in sea ice volume, arguing that they made some “suspect assumptions” about certain important factors that could affect their calculations, like the thickness of snow cover on the ice.

However, Tilling argues that the study offers new information because most data up until now have only looked at sea ice extent — the area the ice covers in the Arctic — and not sea ice volume, or thickness. She says this is the first study to actually measure sea ice volume, rather than get that information from models. “Sea ice is complex —  it doesn’t just grow in area, it grows in thickness,” she says. “To see what’s really happening, you need to look beneath the surface.” And she adds that she and her colleagues performed mathematical tests to see how much these questions about the snow load could affect their results and concluded that “it wasn’t a significant source of uncertainty.

“We do not want to suggest that this is a recovery in the long term,” Tilling cautions. “If you look at the long-term temperature trend in the Arctic, it’s upward, and if you look at the long-term volume trend, it’s downward. If temperatures continue to rise, volume is going to continue to decrease.”

No, Arctic sea ice is not going to be okay

 

Note that the research is not without criticism. Mark Serreze argues that suspect assumptions were made about important factors such as the thickness of snow cover on the ice.

Remember the airborne ice nucleation and its effects on the CryoSat readings that depend upon the difference in height between surface ice and open water? Combine this with the revelation that the two lead scientists on the CryoSat study most probably were assassinated and it is not surprising, that a doctoral student in charge of the new study, has made an about turn.

she and her colleagues performed mathematical tests to see how much these questions about the snow load could affect their results and concluded that “it wasn’t a significant source of uncertainty

Of course, “mathematical teststrump actual observations every time! How could questions on snow load, not factor significantly in a study on ice volume?

Tilling even makes the same claim made by Laxon and Giles, that this study is the first to measure Arctic ice volume, only they claimed it revealed a dramatic decline whilst she claims it revealed a dramatic incline. However, she does concede that the overall trend is downward.

This lends further support to the speculation that Laxon and Giles were being “encouraged” to fudge the results on Arctic ice volume to supplement the deception carried out by Icebridge and ice nucleation on ice extent.

 

It was this study that led to the interview with Peter Wadhams, by the Times. It prompted him to reveal his suspicions, as he thought, off the record.

 

Summary and Conclusions

  • The CryoSat study was carried out by a team of scientists led by University College London in 2013. Two of the leading scientists on this study died under mysterious circumstances.

  • The co-author, Katharine Giles, shortly after the paper was published in early 2013, was killed in collision with a lorry when cycling to work in London.

  • Her mentor, Professor Seymour Laxon, working on the same study, had died on New Year’s Day of the same year, after suffering brain damage in a fall the day before.

  • These two deaths and one other, that of Oceanographer, Dr Tim Boyd killed by a lightning strike in Argyll, Scotland on the 27th January, compelled a Cambridge Professor to make the remarkable claim that they may have all been assassinated.

  • This Professor was none other than Dr Peter Wadhams, the leading expert on Arctic ice, head of the Polar Ocean Physics Group at Cambridge University, and member of the AMEG group.

  • These 3 "accidents" occurred within a few months of each other, to people who were well acquainted with each other and the top-ranking experts in the same field, one that is extremely controversial and on which a lot rides, namely the melting of Arctic ice.

  • These deaths were claimed by Wadhams to be assassinations. Wadhams was also convinced that an attempt had been made on his own life. All four scientists were the leading experts in the field of Arctic ice and the deaths preceded and followed the publication of a paper revealing a dramatic decline in ice volume.

  • It could be speculated that Laxon and Giles were "encouraged" to "emphasize" the slower decline (or even growth) of the surface ice and to "de-emphasize" the rapid decline of the ice volume as a whole. A similar offer may have been made to Boyd and Wadhams.

  • In 2015, “new research” on the CryoSat was published, led by Rachel Tilling, a doctoral student at the very same University College London.

  • The results from this study made an about turn from the previous one, claiming that Arctic ice volume had miraculously increased by 41%, attributed to “unusually cool conditions in 2013”.

  • The research was not without criticism. Mark Serreze argued that suspect assumptions were made about important factors such as the thickness of snow cover on the ice.

  • The CryoSat readings depend upon the difference in height between surface ice and open water. Airborne ice nucleation not only artificially increases ice extent, but also has the potential to affect those readings, especially if they are only taken over specific regions.

  • If the two lead scientists on the CryoSat study were assassinated it would not be surprising that a doctoral student in charge of the new study was “encouraged” to “overlook” some important factors such as the thickness of snow cover on the ice.

  • Tilling even makes the same claim made by Laxon and Giles, that this study is the first to measure Arctic ice volume. Only they claimed it revealed a dramatic decline whilst Tilling claims it revealed a dramatic incline.

  • It was this study that led to the interview with Peter Wadhams, by the Times. It prompted him to reveal his suspicions, as he thought, off the record.

  • What is also remarkable is that Wadhams himself, a founding member of the AMEG group, is an advocate of geoengineering to mitigate global warming.

  • He has even co-authored a paper on the subject of adding a layer of white granules or reflecting sheet on the Greenland ice.

  • It is difficult to believe that he is unaware of the ice nucleation program carried out under operation Icebridge. It is difficult to believe that any of the dead scientists were unaware of the ice nucleating aspect of this operation, nor its potential to distort measurements.

  • This maybe the real reason for their deaths and the threat hanging over Wadham’s life.