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Global Warming: The North Carolina Solution

Wed ,21/08/2013

Comedians and late-night talkshow hosts have had a lot of fun with North Carolina’s solution to the rising sea levels caused by global warming. The legislature passed a law to deal with it.

HB 819 : North Carolina lawmakers recently passed HB 819, which included a four-year moratorium on the state Coastal Resources Commission authorizing sea-level forecasts to be used as the basis for regulations while the issue is studied. “North   Carolina should not ignore science when making public policy decisions,” Governor Bev Perdue said. And then she ignored science by refusing to veto HB 819, allowing it to come become law. Any time a law forbids scientific research, you can be sure there is a special interest group behind it.

Special interests: A group called NC-20 claims that floodplains should be determined by historic trends which suggest the seas will only rise 8 inches this century, rather than the scientific data which projects three times that . Republican Rep. Pat McElraft explained,“What we have done is ask them to use a blend of models, to use historical data, to use some real science that we can all trust when we start making laws here in North Carolina”. McElraft, who is a former real estate agent, denied that campaign contributions ever influence her. However, the largest industry contributors to McElraft’s campaigns have been the North Carolina Association of Realtors, followed by the North Carolina Home Builders’ Association. And you can be sure that when politicians say “real science”, it is usually to get around acting on what is actually, real science.

Real Science: Scientists have found that the sea levels have been rising in response to thermal expansion of the ocean and the melting of glaciers. The graph below shows that sea levels have been rising about 3.2 mm per year, which is about 14 inches per century:

Sea Rise

 

The graph above represents the average rise in sea level over the Earth. However, global warming does not cause the sea levels to rise everywhere at a uniform rate and they are rising much more quickly along the Atlantic Coast of the United States. The U.S. Geological Survey recently released a study that shows the East Coast from Cape Hatteras to Boston has already seen a sea level rise three to four times higher than most of the world in the past 20 years, and will likely continue to do so. The North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission’s 13-member panel of scientists conducted a nine-month study and warned in 2010 that sea levels in North Carolina could rise by more than 3 feet by 2100 and threaten more than 2,000 square miles of coastal land.

Enter HB 819: There is some very expensive real estate on the Barrier Islands and along the coast of North Carolina that is only a few feet above sea level. Sea level rise threatens the value of that property and makes it more vulnerable to storm surges from hurricanes. Real estate developers might be prohibited from building –  or rebuilding homes damaged by hurricane Sandy and Irene – if low-lying areas were to be designated as a floodplain by the North Carolina Coastal Resources Commission. As an insurance adjuster in North Carolina explained it, “ NC has dumped the coastal flooded homes on the National Flood Insurance Program for years. They build the homes in a predicted floodplain. Lo, and behold the homes on the coast are flooded. The Feds then have to pick up the tab for NC building homes in known floodplains. They are even today rebuilding homes where they were flooded previously in the exact same spot – in an ocean floodplain.”

It’s a sweet deal, the North Carolina developers and builders profit by building homes in the floodplain, and the federal government picks up the tab when the homes flood. Apparently the legislature is not going to let a little science interfere with that sweet deal.

Note added on 1/15/2015: A recent report in Yale e360 says that the storm destruction/rebuild process is continuing. Along the East after Hurricane Sandy and across the Gulf of Mexico coast in the wake of recent hurricanes, rebuilding has taken place on dozens of vulnerable barrier islands. “This recurring reconstruction places billions of dollars of property at risk  and often means the construction of hugely expensive flood protection and storm-control projects that can harm coastal ecosystems.” The real estate developers profit while the taxpayers are responsible for the risk. In a 2014 report, the National Research Council concluded that barrier islands, as “inherently mobile” and not safe for “human facilities with a fixed position.”

Update on 01/03/2016:  Now, two years after the North Carolina legislature ordered a moratorium on state rules or plans based on changes in sea level, the Coastal Resources Commission still has not started work on the new, official sea-level prediction due in 2016. See : http://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article10298660.html

(c) 2013 J.C. Moore

 

 

Global Warming: Misguided Comments about the Northwest Passage

Mon ,19/08/2013

There was recently an article about global warming  in the Tulsa World which took an interesting approach to the topic. It was an article from two Earth scientists which started , “As climate researchers from divergent political leanings we regularly hear misguided comments about global warming. To help move the dialogue forward we offer a brief response to the top 10. ”  They went on to agree that the Earth is warming, that carbon dioxide is the main cause, that we are causing undesirable changes in the environment, and that we should leave things as best we can for future generations.

Probably the most relevant quote in the article is, “As climate researchers from divergent political leanings we regularly hear misguided comments about global warming.” Many of those misguided quotes come from anti-science websites like those of Anthony Watts, Roy Spencer, or Steve McIntyre’s. They use a little information which may be true but they do not tell you the rest of the story which puts it into perspective.

For instance, many anti-science web sites make a lot of the fact that the Northwest Passage was navigated around 1936. Satellite pictures show that since 1979, the extent of the Arctic sea ice has declined by about 40%. The claim about the Northwest Passage being open in 1936 is an effort to discount that by trying to show that in 1936he Arctic Ocean was open water. That was certainly not true, as the few early passages made then were with the help of icebreakers. You can get a better idea of how the Arctic Ocean is changing by looking at the actual shipping records:

Commercial Shipping on the Northern Sea Route 5,Table 1

Year    Cargo,Thousands of Tons   Length of Season

1935                246                               93 days

1940                289                              93 days

1950                503                              122 days

1960                1013                            128 days

1970                2400                            140-150 days

1980                4951                            year round for western section

1987                6579                            year round for western section

 

Source: Derived from figures presented at the Conference of Nordic Navigation Institute, Tromsø, Norway, March, 1992.

The data certainly paints a different picture and it is interesting that none of the anti-science websites bothered to mention it.

You may have also heard one of the many versions of the story that, “the Earth hasn’t warmed in the last 15 years”. The anti-science sites got that from a BBC interview with Phil Jones, director of the British Climate Research Unit (CRU). The BBC interviewer asked Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming?” Dr. Jones repliedYes, but only just. I also calculated the trend for the period 1995 to 2009. This trend (0.12C per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level.”  Dr. Jones went on to explain that the result was not “statistically significant” because of the short time period.

Dr. Jones is often quoted but somehow the “statistically significant part” is omitted. You can prove a lot of untrue things about the Earth’s temperature by using using carefully selected or short time periods. For instance, if I were to choose the 16 years from 1982 to 1998, I could show that global warming has gone up by a whopping 0.31°C per decade. That, of course, is not statistically significant either. It takes about 30 years to average out the effects of natural variations and, over the last 30 years, the Earth has warmed about 0.15°C per decade.

The Scientist's Consensus on Global Warming

Wed ,13/03/2013

Every major scientific society in the world has adopted a statement like that of the American Chemical Society which says,

Careful and comprehensive scientific assessments have clearly demonstrated that the Earth’s  climate system is changing rapidly in response to growing atmospheric burdens of greenhouse gases and absorbing  aerosol particles. There is very little room for doubt that observed climate trends are due to human activities. The threats are serious and action is urgently needed to mitigate the risks of climate change.”

This urgent message continues to be mainly ignored by the public and our politicians. This seems strange as scientist’s trustworthiness is  highly rated by the public, with 84% having a favorable view of scientists. A recent CNN  poll  found that 97% of scientists who are actively engaged in research in climate science agree that global warming is occurring and the primary cause is man’s activities. The strongest consensus comes from the scientists who publish articles on climate science.  A recent peer-reviewed article   in the proceedings of the National Academy of Science found that 97-98% of the scientists agree with the consensus opinion with the strongest agreement coming from those who publish the most in the climate science area. A number of surveys have been taken of different group of scientists with the results shown below:

 

729px-Climate_science_opinion2[1]

 

There is clearly a  consensus among scientists on global warming,  but the public’s opinion  continues to be divided about what scientists think. On the question of whether scientists agree that the earth is warming mostly because of human activity; 45% say scientists agree while 43% say they do not. That is because the 3% of the climate scientists who do not agree with the scientific consensus  receive an inordinately large amount of publicity.  Efforts to  discredit the climate scientist’s consensus usually involve quoting scientists who doubt the opinion of the 97%, then  claiming that destroys the whole consensus. However, those  scientists likely started out in the 3% who doubted the consensus to begin with.

Disagreements in science are usually settled by the evidence. To see what the consensus actually is, you just have to look at the peer-reviewed literature.  James Powell examined the scientific consensus in terms of the number of published articles either agreeing or disagreeing with the consensus. His search of peer-reviewed scientific articles published between January, 1991 and November, 2012 with the keywords “global warming” or “global climate change” produced 13,950 articles. He classified as “rejecting” articles that clearly and explicitly stated that the theory of global warming is false or that some other process better explains the observed warming. Only 24 articles,or 0.17%, rejected the consensus, as represented by the thin red line on the pie chart below.

 

Powell-Science-Pie-Chart

 

 

Of the 24  articles  that rejected the consensus opinion, several  were published by gaming the peer review system. An analysis by John Mashey showed fourteen articles rejecting the consensus opinion were published in Climate Research while Chris de Freitas,  a biased climate change Skeptic, was the editor. Most of the articles claiming the Earth is not warming or that man does not have a major role have been found to have errors or have  been disproven by later research.

Note added on 06/11/2013: A recent paper in the Environmental Science Newsletter in May  found that 97% of the climate scientists support the consensus opinion.
Note added on 07/15/2015: James L. Powell, director of the National Physical Sciences Consortium, reviewed more than 24,000 peer-reviewed papers on global warming published in 2013 and 2014. Only five reject the reality of rising temperatures or the fact that human emissions are the cause, with four of those papers using arguments which had been debunked. Powell found the consensus is now “99.9% plus.”

(c) 2013 J.C. Moore

The Earth Hasn't Warmed in the Last "X" Years Myth

Wed ,30/01/2013

The title has an “X”, as the number of years varies from 10 to 16 depending on who said it and when. I first heard this myth from George Will when he was attacking John McCain’s stand on global warming during the 2008 presidential campaign. Mr. Will claimed that the Earth’s temperature had not gone up in the last 10 years. When I contacted him for an explanation, he said that it was because 1998 was hotter than any year after that. Strangely, Mr. Will referred to the data from the World Meteorological Organization rather than that from NASA. Mr. Will has no use for the UN, but his statement could only be true if he used the UN data which showed that 2005 was slightly cooler than 1998. NASA’s data shows that 2005 was slightly warmer than 1998, and also that 2007 and 2010 were warmer yet. It’s a little hard to explain how the Earth reached those higher temperatures without  going up, but logic and truth are mostly irrelevant to those who say this.

As the years have gone by, “X” has been increased accordingly and the erroneous statement has been repeated on Skeptic’s blogs, newspaper articles, letters to the editor, op-ed pieces, sites like Yahoo!Answers, and by politicians such as Sen. Inhofe. The number “X” is now up to 16 and when I put “no global warming in past 16 years” in Google’s search engine, I got 114 million hits. It’s a great propaganda piece as it is simple, easily understood, and reduces people’s worry about climate change. Unfortunately, it is very comforting, and very, very wrong. The propaganda has been funded, circulated, and promoted by those who do not want us to address global warming as they have an economic interest in the issue.

So what is the truth of the matter? There are number of natural and man-made factors that affect the temperature of the Earth. The main factors are the amount of solar radiation we receive, volcanic activity, greenhouse gases, and ocean circulations such as El Niño and La Niña. Man’s main contribution falls in the area of greenhouse gases. We are now emitting 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide each year, and the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide has gone up about 40% in the last century. That increase and the ensuing feedback loops are the main factors that can be attributed to man. Though there are other contributions, most of the CO2 increase has come from burning fossil fuels.

Probably the best way to see man’s influence on the Earth’s temperature is to subtract out the factors that can be attributed to natural sources and to see what is left. That was done very nicely by climate scientist John Cook in a video which he produced and posted on YouTube. It’s only 2 minutes long, but it shows how the Earth’s temperature has responded to the increasing burden of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

 

 

If the video doesn’t load, you may access it at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=W705cOtOHJ4

Global Warming: The Role of Water Vapor

Sun ,20/01/2013

The Earth’s Temperature: Certainly, the average temperature of the Earth has varied greatly over the last million years, from about 2°C (36°F) during the ice ages to about 15°C (59°F) during the warmer interglacial periods. We are now in an interglacial periodic and the Earth’s average temperature for the last century averages 13.9°C (57°F). Much of the research on the Earth’s temperature has been an attempt to understand the coming and going of the ice ages. We now know that the Earth’s temperature is correlated with the Milankovitch cycles , which affect how much sunlight the Earth receives, but that is not the whole story. That greenhouse gases play a role in warming the Earth was shown by Joseph Fourier in the 1820s. Using the differential equations he developed for heat transfer, Fourier calculated that the Earth, considering its size and its distance from the Sun, should be considerably colder than it actually is. He proposed the Earth must be kept warmer by its atmosphere, which acts much as the glass in a greenhouse. The actual amount of warming that could be attributed to the greenhouse effect was later found from the Stephen Boltzmann law, developed in the early 1900s. If the Earth had no atmosphere, its average temperature would be 33°C  lower, at -19.0°C (-2.2°F). Without greenhouse gases, the Earth would be a frozen block of ice.

Greenhouse Gases: Heat energy leaves the Earth as infrared radiation, which makes up a part of the spectrum that is absorbed by many molecules as they vibrate. As infrared radiation leaves the Earth, it is absorbed then reemitted in all directions, some of it going back toward the Earth where it further warms the Earth. In the 1850’s, John Tyndall’s infrared research found that nitrogen and oxygen, the major components of the atmosphere, do not absorb infrared radiation. He discovered that the molecules responsible for the greenhouse effect were water vapor and carbon dioxide. Water varies from a trace up to about 4% depending on the humidity; carbon dioxide’s concentration was about 0.0028% in Tyndall’s time. In spite of their low concentration, CO2 and H2O both absorb strongly in the infrared region of the spectrum. Also, radiation leaving the Earth must traverse several kilometers of atmosphere, greatly increasing the probability of the radiation being absorbed and readmitted. Carbon dioxide plays a large role for its concentration, as it absorbs strongly in regions of the infrared spectrum where water does not.

Recent research by Kiehl and Tenebreth on the Earth’s energy budget identified five naturally occurring gases that contribute to the greenhouse effect. The gases, along with their contribution in both clear sky and cloudy conditions, are listed in the table.The infrared spectra of the major greenhouse gases can be found at http://chemlinks.beloit.edu/Warming/pdf/greenIR.pdf .

GasesEach of the greenhouse gases has several absorption bands, and there are some regions of the spectrum where the bands overlap, as noted in the table. Once clouds form, the liquid droplets absorbed broadly across most of the infrared region, so cloud formation reduces the contributions of the other gases. Overall, clouds and H2O account for about 75% of the greenhouse effect and carbon dioxide and the other greenhouse gases for about 25%. Some of the coldest nights on Earth are when the humidity is low and the night is still and clear, as the contribution of H20 is reduced far below the 60% given in the table.

The average residence time of a water molecule in the atmosphere is only about nine days. Because precipitation removes water from the air in such a short time, the concentration of water in the air varies from a trace in cold arid region up to about 4% in warm humid regions. The average residence time in the atmosphere of CH4 is 12 years, while the residence times of NO2 and CO2 are more than a century. Gases with long half-lives reside in the atmosphere long enough to become evenly distributed throughout the atmosphere.  Ozone (O3), which has a residence time of a few months, is constantly beingformed in the atmosphere from photochemical processes, many of which are initiated by methane and hydrocarbons.

The Limit of Humidity:  The pressure of the atmosphere is made up of contributions from all the molecules in the atmosphere and the share that each gas contributes is called its partial pressure. The amount of water in the air can be measured by its partial  pressure. There is a limit on the amount of water the air can hold as the humidity becomes 100% when the partial pressure equals the saturated vapor pressure, and the air can hold no more water.

VP1

The Saturated Vapor Pressure of Water

The saturated vapor pressure depends only on the temperature and is listed in the table at the right.That limit of water in an air mass can be reached by water evaporating from the surface until the partial pressure reaches the saturated vapor pressure given in the table. Alternatively, the limit can be reached when a mass of air is cooled until its saturated vapor pressure is lowered to the air’s partial pressure. Any further decrease in temperature will cause air to be oversaturated and cloud formation and precipitation is likely to occur. For example, at the equator, where the temperature averages 26°, water will evaporate until it reaches the  saturated vapor pressure of 25.2 mmHg. However, over the Arctic Ocean where the temperature averages 1°C, the air is saturated at 4.9 mmHg. Not surprisingly, the air can hold almost 5.1 times as much water at the equator. Or, on a clear night, when the temperature drops until the saturated vapor pressure is less than the air’s partial pressure, dew will form. The weatherman usually reports the temperature when that will happen as the “dew point”.

 CO2 Controls the Temperature: One of the great mysteries confronting science in the 1800’s was the cause of the ice ages. The role that greenhouse gases had in keeping the Earth warm provided a clue for Arrhenius, who thought that changes in their concentration might be the cause of the coming and going of the ice ages. He set out to find the climate sensitivity, the temperature change expected if the concentration is doubled, for the individual greenhouse gases. Arrhenius understood that the concentration of water vapor in the air was limited by its saturated vapor pressure, which is dependent on the temperature. How then, could an increase in H2O increase the temperature when it was itself limited by the temperature? Carbon dioxide has no such limitation, so Arrhenius turned his attention to finding the climate’s sensitivity to carbon dioxide. Though Arrhenius’s model was simple and the calculations were laborious, he found that doubling the carbon concentration would increase the temperature of the earth by about 5°C. However, the increase in temperature would allow a greater concentration of water vapor in the air which would amplify the warming. Thus, the concentration of CO2 acts as a regulator of water vapor, and ultimately determines the planet’s long-term equilibrium temperature. Recent work using better data and models have found that the climate sensitivity to carbon dioxide is in the range of 3 to 4°C, and carbon dioxide has been proposed as the “control knob” for the Earth’s temperature. Still, water vapor and clouds contribute the most to greenhouse warming, and their contribution is considered to be a positive feedback to the increasing carbon dioxide concentration.

No one in Arrhenius’s day could imagine how the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide concentration could possibly double, and some of Arrhenius’ contemporaries proposed setting some poor quality coal seams on fire to ward off another Ice Age. That proved not to be unnecessary as in 1900 Arvid Hgbom, a volcanologist, calculated that industrial sources were adding CO2 to the atmosphere at roughly the same rate as volcanoes. No one thought much of it as, at that rate, it would take centuries for the amount of CO2 to increase significantly. However, no one imagined that we would burn fossil fuels at today’s rate, putting 30 billion tons of CO2 into the air each year. The amount of carbon dioxide in the air has increased by 40% since Arrhenius’s day, and the temperature of the Earth has increased by about 0.85°C, well in line with Arrhenius’s predictions.

Alternate Theories: There are a number of alternate theories as to why the Earth is warming, and most of the recent ones center around water and clouds, as that is still an active area of research. The most easily dismissed one is that water vapor is responsible for global warming rather than carbon dioxide. Arrhenius showed that was false over 100 years ago, yet some Skeptics are still saying it. Another theory, credited to Svensmark, is that cosmic rays from the stars produce charged particles that promote cloud formation. There is little evidence that the cosmic rays reaching Earth have increased and there are plenty of particulates in the air to seed clouds besides the charged particles.  Another theory is Iris Effect which has been promoted by Richard Lindzen, mostly in op-ed pieces that are not peer-reviewed. His theory is that the earth’s sensitivity to greenhouse gases is low as the increasing  surface temperature at the equator will cause the rising columns of moist air to  rain out more moisture, leaving less to form high ice clouds, known to be a positive forcing. Aside from the fact that it seemed a little unreasonable to claim that more moisture in the air will lead to fewer high clouds, other climate scientists have found significant errors in Lindzen’s published works.

 A recent paper in Remote Sensing by Roy Spencer attributes global warming to cloud formation and it was claimed to “blow a gaping hole in global warming theory.” Its main theory was that clouds were driving global warming, rather than being a feedback mechanism. The paper was quickly refuted by climate scientists by pointing out that Spencer’s model of the Earth’s atmosphere was terribly inadequate. There is also evidence that Spencer’s paper gained publication by gaming the peer review system. Another theory comes from Roger Pielke Jr., who claims that hurricanes and tornadoes are becoming less frequent and destructive, based on an economic analysis of storm damage. Global warming is likely to increase the probability of severe storms, so his work has been used to discount global warming. However, his theories stand in sharp contrast to the number of events and the amounts paid out in storm damage  by Munich Re (the fourth and fifth graphs) , a large secondary insurance company, that analyzed the issue without the benefit of some of Pielke’s assumptions.

The final theory, which would be laughable if it weren’t repeated by many Skeptics to discredit climate science, is that climate scientists have created the CO2 global warming theory purely for their own economic benefit. The greenhouse gas theory was developed, and the main points understood by the end of the 19th century, long before any of today’s climate scientists were even born. Fourier, Tyndall, and Arrhenius established that H2O and CO2 were main factors in warming the earth, with changes in CO2 concentrations being the primary driving force and H2O being a feedback to changes in the CO2 levels. Research since then has confirmed their findings, and their theories have been borne out by the global warming we have experienced since their day. It is hard to believe that any credible scientist would reject such well-established theories.

Note: Much of the historical data in this article came from http://www.aip.org/history/climate/co2.htm

(C) 2013 J.C. Moore

Charlie Brown and the Climate Skeptics

Mon ,19/11/2012

 

 An article has recently been circulating around the Skeptics’ websites called  “ Four recent scientific blows to the global warming theory”. They are hardly blows and they certainly cannot be called scientific, as they contradict scientific research. They do make you wonder where Skeptics get their misinformation. Lucy spilled the beans on that in one of the Peanut’s cartoons.

 Lucy: Charlie Brown, do you want to hear some little known facts of science?

 Charlie Brown, looking puzzled: Wait a minute, if they are so little known, how do you  know them?     

  Lucy: Because I’m the one who made them up.

Being a good scientist, Charlie Brown has a healthy skepticism toward Skeptics. And, no matter who made them up, he has found a little skepticism of the Skeptics is a good idea.

The Article starts: “The science behind the anthropogenic global warming theory appears to be falling apart with each new scientific study.”  “In fact, since the Climategate scandal broke, where top climate scientists were caught manipulating data to fit the theory, polls have shown the number of global warming believers has plummeted to new lows.”

Charlie Brown:  It’s strange that there are no references to those “new scientific studies”. Op ed pieces by skeptics, maybe, but no recent scientific studies or polls say that . Also, isn’t it time to give up on Climategate? Nine independent investigations into Climategate have found no scientific misconduct?

Article: It goes on, “Czech President Vaclav Klaus, an economist who lived through the rise and fall of communism, recently said that the climate change movement is a threat to democracy.” “I consider (the global warming doctrine) a new dangerous attempt to control and mastermind my life and our lives, in the name of controlling the climate or temperature.” And environmentalists “ don’t care about resources or poverty or pollution. They hate us, the humans. They consider us dangerous and sinful creatures who must be controlled by them.”

Charlie Brown: Wow! Dangerous and sinful? Few Skeptic’s articles are complete without quoting an obscure figure with bizarre views. Environmentalists do not want to control the climate or temperature; they would just like to keep it at a level comfortable for human civilization. And, aren’t they also “humans”?

Article: Blow 1., finally. “A biologist who claimed that polar bears were drowning because of melting ice has been suspended and is being investigated for scientific misconduct following his “veracity” in emotionalizing a debunked topic.  Get ready for Polarbeargate. “

Charlie Brown:  Polarbeargate? The Polar bear has become a symbol of all we may lose by failing to address our carbon emissions problem adequately. Skeptics can’t disprove the theory so they  to attack the symbol.  The scientist’s account of the polar bears drowning was a credible account of what he observed. The extent of the Arctic sea ice has declined about 30% since 1980. Polar bears now have to swim many miles to reach the sea ice to hunt. Those who don’t want to swim that far rummage around in the garbage dumps, leading Skeptics to believe that the bears are now more numerous.

 Dr. Monnett, a biologist studying Polar bear populations, counted four bears who had drowned trying to swim to the receding sea ice to hunt. Though that happened five years ago, the Interior Department was just recently put under pressure to investigate the matter by  Sen. James Inhofe who was unhappy that the bears were put on the threatened species list.   That was done, not because of Dr. Monnett’s work, but because the bear’s habitat is declining. As their habitat disappears, so will the Polar bear. There just aren’t enough garbage dumps to feed them all.

Article: Blow 2. “Today, new NASA data blows a gaping hole in global warming alarmism: NASA satellite data from the years 2000 through 2011 show the Earth’s atmosphere is allowing far more heat to be released into space than alarmist computer models have predicted, reports a new study in the peer-reviewed science journal Remote Sensing.”(sic?)

Charlie Brown: This is about an article by Roy Spencer, “On the Misdiagnosis Of Surface Temperature Feedbacks From Variations In Earth’s Radiant Energy Balance“, which claimed that climate scientists have the role of clouds wrong . It did not have enough scientific evidence to blow a hole in anything, but the article had a remarkable ability to “ shapeshift” as it sped around. It went from a paper published in a little-known journal where was not likely to be reviewed by climate scientists, to Roger Pielke’s website, where it was given a Skeptic’s A-OK. Then it went to the Heartland Institute, where senior fellow James Taylor fixed it up a little, classified it as a news article, renamed it “New NASA data Blow Gaping Hole In Global Warming Alarmism” and sent it on to Forbes. Apparently Forbes did not realize that describing scientists as “alarmist” 15 times was suspicious, perhaps because James Taylor is also on staff at Forbes as, get this, a “contributor on energy and environment issues”. From there it went on to Yahoo! News, most other major media sources, and dozens of Skeptics blog sites.

It was amazing that it became so distorted and widely circulated just three days after publication, before legitimate climate scientists had a chance to respond. When they did, they had some rather unkind things to say about the research. Trenberth and Fasullo soon summed it up: ”The model has no realistic ocean, no El Niño, and no hydrological cycle, and it was tuned to give the result it gave.The bottom line is that this paper has NO scientific merit” Later, A.E. Dessler analyzed Spencer’s paper in detail and published a rebuttal destroying Spencer’s arguments. The editor of Remote Sensing was so ashamed of the bad publicity that he resigned, saying” the paper should never have been published”.

Article: Blow 3. “The CERN physicists conducted a cosmic ray climate experiment that is said to directly contradict the climate change debate in the political arena.  Apparently, so much so that the scientists have been gagged from discussing their findings reportedly proving that cosmic (space-based) energy has a far greater effect on the climate than previously believed.”

Charlie Brown: Who said that? A book by perennial Skeptic Nigel Calder and Henrik Svensmark, The Chilling Stars,  claimed  the number of cosmic rays from the stars that strike the Earth is increasing. And, lead to more clouds since cosmic rays produce charged particles in the atmosphere that seed clouds. It’s an interesting theory, but the  data does not show that cosmic rays are actually increasing cloud cover. Also, there are plenty of particulates in the air to seed clouds and any effect from cosmic rays would be small in comparison.  ( See Blow 4., below.)

 The CERN scientists were not “gagged”, but they were asked not to report the results to the media before the formal paper was published. Perhaps they wish to avoid the type of outrageous publicity experienced by Spencer’s article.  Climate scientists are interested in the role that charged particles play so the scientists At CERN agreed to investigate the effect of cosmic rays on nitrate and sulfate aerosols.  After the experiment, the CERN cloud chamber was found to contain contaminates, so the experiment could not have proved or disproved anything. Except perhaps, considering Spencer’s paper, that climate Skeptics really don’t know clouds at all.

 Article: Blow 4. “A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science found evidence that coal burning plants may actually be cooling the planet. The findings have been accepted to the point of suggesting using sulfur to combat global warming; ‘Sulfur’s ability to cool things down has led some to suggest using it in a geo-engineering feat to cool the planet.’  If anything, this study proves that the science behind the anthropogenic global warming theory is unproven.”

Charlie Brown:  The particulates from power plants cause cooling, as well as cancer and lung diseases. Particles soon settle out of the airwhile the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere keeps building up, warming the Earth much more than the cooling by the particles. We are now emitting 135 times as much CO2 as all the world’s volcanoes, but only about 7 times the particulates. The effect of particulates from volcanoes on the Earth’s temperature is well understood, so it is hard to see how this shows the “theory is unproven”.

The article concludes by noting that “the stakes are incredibly high” and then wanders off into some conspiracy theory. However, the stakes are high, and if we are not more skeptical of  the  Skeptics’ “little-known facts of science”, we are likely to find out just how high they are. Wouldn’t it be nice if the Earth stayed about the same for children in the future?

(c) 2012 J.C. Moore

The Link between Global Warming and Extreme Weather

Wed ,22/08/2012

A large body of scientific evidence, going back to the middle of the 19th century, links the concentration of atmospheric carbon dioxide,  the temperature of the Earth, and the Earth’s climate. Those who study the Earth and its ecosystems have found ample evidence that the climate is changing. The USDA recently acknowledge that fact by shifting the plant hardiness zones for gardeners northward, acknowledging that frosts occur later in the fall and the last freeze in spring occurs earlier. However many people still doubt climate change and point to weather events as evidence.

Theory: Climate scientists would like to clearly establish the link between climate change and extreme weather events, but that is difficult because of the natural variability of the weather.  The link between global warming, heat waves and droughts would seem unquestionable, but it is difficult to prove. Global warming has increased the energy and moisture in the atmosphere, making conditions for severe storms and floods more likely.  In the last century, the Earth’s average temperature has increased by about 0.8°C, increasing the amount of water the air can hold by about 7%.  It is a reasonable conclusion that when it rains, it will rain more and when it snows, it will snow more. So strangely enough, global warming could actually lead to greater snowfall.  (1) However, it has been very difficult to prove, and certainly even more difficult to convince skeptics that that might be the case.

Climate Models: Another approach to linking extreme weather events to global warming has been through the use of climate models. The models take into account the factors that influence climate and weather, and are often used by meteorologists for “future casting” the weather for 10 day forecasts, which is about as long as normal weather patterns last. However, the models may also be used to examine the effect of global warming on the weather events. The models are used to compare the prediction for a weather event assuming that there is no global warming with a prediction of the weather event that includes global warming. In many cases, it can be shown that the weather and rainfall will be more extreme under the global warming conditions. The results are often challenged by climate Skeptics, who claim that the models do not accurately represent the data, or that the models are “falling apart”. The models were developed to fit a century’s worth of the weather and climate data, and there is little evidence to support the Skeptics claims. However climate scientists would like to show a definite link between global warming and weather events to silence those criticisms.

Statistical Evidence: A recent NOAA report, edited by Petersen, et al. (2) , examined 6 extreme weather events that occurred in 2011 and found that there was a link between climate change and the extreme weather event. One of the most interesting reports (3) ,  found that the 2011 heat wave and drought in Texas were 20 times more likely to happen than they would have been in the 1950’s. How did they arrive at that conclusion? A recent paper by Hansen et al.  (4), shows that extreme temperatures are much more likely to occur worldwide than in the 1950’s, and over 10 times as likely to occur as in 1980. As Hansen puts it, the extreme temperatures “which covered much less than 1% of Earth in 1950, now typically covers about 10% of the land area. It follows that we can state, with a high degree of confidence, that extreme anomalies such as those in Texas and Oklahoma in 2011 and Moscow in 2010 were a consequence of global warming because their likelihood in the absence of global warming was exceedingly small.”

Those two papers are important as they have been able to establish a quantitative link between the probabilities of weather events and global warming. More importantly, the link does not depend on theory or on climate models, and relies only on a straight forward statistical analysis of the data. The method depends on computing the normal distribution of the Earth’s temperature anomalies for each decade and then comparing how the distribution of extreme weather events change with time.

Normal distributions:  Before examining how the method works for weather events, it might be useful to examine how it works with something more familiar, like the height of American men. How could we show whether the number of extremely tall men was increasing as time went by?  This could be done by taking a representative sample of men and examining a graph of the normal distribution. We could find the average, μ , and then repeat the process every 10 years to see how the average changed with time. An increase in the average height might indicate that there would be more extremely tall men, but that is not the full story.

Another piece of information that needs to be considered is the variance, or how widely the height of men vary about the mean. The variance is usually measured by the standard deviation , σ, which can be easily calculated from the measurements done to compute the mean. A  graph of the normal distribution  is shown at the right.  “Normal” means that the data has been divided by the total number of men in sample, so that the area under the entire curve represents 100%. That feature is very useful for comparing heights, and it also allows us to associate an area under the curve with  probabilities.

The average height, μ on the graph, is 5’10”, and the standard deviation, σ, is 3 inches. About 95% of the sample falls within 2 standard deviations of the mean, which also says that the probability is 95% that a man selected at random would fall between 5’4″ and 6’4″. Those over 2σ  from the mean, or 6’4″, make up about 2% of the sample and are considered very tall. Finally, those over 3σ  from the mean , over 6’7″, are considered extremely tall and make up only 0.15 %. Michael Jordan and a host of other National Basketball Association players fall into that 3σ category.

How would it be possible to tell whether the incidence of extremely tall men is increasing? One way would be to take height data collected every 10 years, plot the normal distribution, and see how the area of the graphs out past 3σ change. We could not only tell whether there were more extremely tall men, but we could calculate how the probability of finding an extremely tall man changed, just by comparing areas on the graph.

Weather events. Enough data and computing power is now available to calculate normal distributions of temperature data every 10 years for many decades. Having the normal distribution of the temperature data by decade can be used to find whether the probability of extreme temperatures is increasing or decreasing. The Earth’s temperature was fairly stable from about 1950 to 1980, making it a convenient standard for comparing changes. Rather than using temperatures, the graph uses temperature anomalies, which measure how far a temperature reading was above or below average. 

The procedure is similar to the one described for examining the height of men. Hansen, et al. used the Earth’s temperature data to graph normal distributions of the Earth’s temperature anomalies by decade, from 1950 to the present. They found that the distribution of temperature anomalies approximate a normal distribution. 

The results of their work for the summer months show that beginning in about 1970, the mean begins to move to the right toward higher temperatures. It can also be seen that the variance of the data increased and shifted to the right, showing that the probability of extreme temperatures increase greatly from 1950 to 2011.  It can be seen that the number of extreme temperatures, those out past 3 ( meaning 3σ), almost nonexistent in the 1950s, have grown significantly larger in each decade after 1980. A similar graph, using  σ for the last 30 year period (not shown), found the probability of temperatures past 3 sigma is 10 times as great as for the 198o2 to 2010 years.

It should also be noted that the left side of the graph flattens, but that the probability of extremely cool temperatures is not zero. Though  hot temperatures became more probable, that there was still a significant likelihood of cooler temperatures.

Climate Skeptics often argue that an extremely cold weather event disproves global warming. The normal distributions by decade for the winter months is given at the right.  The graph shows the average winter temperatures have increased significantly during the last 30 years and the variance in the temperature has become greater as time progressed. However, the left side of the graph shows there is still a significant probability of extremely cold weather even though global warming is occurring. This means that the skeptics argument is baseless. It is also sometimes argued that extreme snowfalls disprove global warming, but that is also a baseless argument. Extremely cold air can hold little moisture, and it is warmer air, slightly below freezing, that produces the greatest amount of snow. The Inuit know that a warm spell brings a much greater chance of snow.

So there we have it. Climate physics predicts that global warming should cause higher incidences of extreme weather. Climate models find that global warming makes increased rainfall and storms more probable. A straightforward statistical analysis of temperature data not only shows that extreme temperatures are more likely, but has allow climate scientists to calculate how global warming affects the probability of extreme temperatures. A definite link between global warming and extreme weather has been established by the research.

 (1) http://jcmooreonline.com/2011/03/22/the-case-of-global-warming-and-extreme-weather/ 

(2) http://www1.ncdc.noaa.gov/pub/data/cmb/bams-sotc/2011-peterson-et-al.pdf 

(3) http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/07/10/12665235-2011-texas-drought-was-20-times-more-likely-due-to-warming-study-says?

4) http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2012/07/30/1205276109.full.pdf+html

(C) 2012 J.C. Moore

Book Review : Resisting the Green Dragon

Tue ,10/04/2012

 

Preface: I first encountered the Green Dragon on a blog post by Publius Redux where he introduced it with: “Now, here is a novel analysis of the undercurrent of urgency and irrationality characteristic of climate doomsayers’ prophecy. This explains the haunting familiarity of the preaching and proselytizing we have endured from the climate change fearmongers.” Curious, I tracked down an article about Resisting the Green Dragon by Dr. James Wanliss, Associate Professor of Physics at Presbyterian College. Finding no religious or scientific arguments that could possibly address the issues in the article, I wrote a play about what the future might hold for Dr. Wanliss, Publius and their followers.Sometime later I received a critique of my play from Dr. Wanliss and  subsequently offered to write a proper review if Dr. Wanliss would send me a copy, which he did. Dr. Wanliss said he wrote the book in part because he had been bullied by environmentalists. That is certainly a very bad thing, however replying in kind is usually not the correct response and revenge often hurts others than its intended victims. If you identify with environmentalism, mainstream religions, or believe we should be good stewards of the Earth, you may feel bullied while reading the book.

 The book claims not “to provide scientific or economic answers” as that is done by “multiple excellent resources that appear in the endnotes.” However those resources and end notes do not accurately represent the views of scientists, economists, or environmentalists – but are carefully picked from extreme positions, as are his examples. Dr. Wanliss gives examples of vegetarians, PETA members, Eco terrorists, environmental extremists, and someone who thinks men are “useless breathers” – and tries to claim they are representative of the Christian stewardship movement. They are not. Environmentalists may want you to make responsible choices, but that does not mean they want to “control how you live, eat, drive, and even the light you use to read by .” Environmentalists may have a goal of achieving balance in nature and sustainability, but Dr. Wanliss claims sustainability places “human life directly in the crosshairs of violent men.” And, are those violent men found in the Christian stewardship movement?

 The Cornwall Alliance: The book was published by the Cornwall Alliance which has chosen the Green Dragon as a symbol of their opposition to the growth of environmentalism in Christian churches. The Cornwall Alliance describes itself as a grassroots Christian movement. It does not disclose its funding sources but many paths to it come from corporations and fossil fuel interests and its message is certainly favorable to them. Dr. Wanliss says that he did not receive an advance from the Alliance and profits only from the royalties on the book. The Alliance has produced a series of videos based upon Resisting the Green Dragon , assailing its hold on the churches. There is little truth to much of the propaganda in the videos. They seem designed more to protect the profits of the fossil fuel companies than to protect the Earth, or the people who depend on the Earth for survival.

It became apparent in the early 1980s that carbon dioxide released by burning fossil fuels was causing changes in the environment that would impact mankind, particularly those in poor and indigenous societies who do not have the resources to adjust to the changing climate. Many churches have adopted statements encouraging environmentalism based upon good stewardship, some specifically mentioning the threat of greenhouse gases. For example, the denomination sponsoring the Presbyterian University where Dr. Wanliss teaches stated in 1989 and reaffirmed in 2008, its “serious concern that the global atmospheric warming trend (the greenhouse effect) represents one of the most serious global environmental challenges to the health, security, and stability of human life and natural ecosystems.”

Dragons: The Green Dragon on the dust cover of the book is a very ugly Dragon, but Dr. Wanliss may have misjudged what is in its heart. Though some mythical dragons were portrayed as evil, Draco in Dragonheart and Sapphira in Aragon imparted their ancient wisdom to mankind and helped them in the times of crisis. And it was the flying dragons in Avatar who helped the Na’vi drive out the greedy corporation destroying their planet and their homes for the sake of ore. Perhaps the Green Dragon is being vilified by the Cornwall Alliance so that we will not heed its message.

 Science: Although Dr. Wanliss is a physicist, there is very little climate physics in the book. He seems to have arrived at many of his opinions about climate science, not from peer-reviewed literature, but by films made by Al Gore and Martin Durkin, neither of which are scientists. Dr. Wanliss points out the errors in The Inconvenient Truth, and rejects it entirely. However, Al Gore received a Nobel Peace Prize for his environmental work and his movie won an Oscar. The movie also had its day in court in Dimmock v Secretary of State for Education, a suit which sought to prevent the educational use of An Inconvenient Truth in England. The court ruled that, though the film had some errors, it was substantially founded upon scientific research and fact and could be shown.

Dr. Wanliss embraces Martin Durkin’s movie, The Great Global Warming Swindle, though it is based upon bad science and fraud. How do I know that? Mr. Durkin gives the impression he is a geophysicist but his degrees are in medieval history and financial journalism. The movie distorts the work of some of the scientists that appear in it. For example, Dr. Friis-Christensen, said, “parts of the graph were made up of fabricated data that were presented as genuine.” He should know as it was his research that was distorted to support claims that recent climate change was the result of solar activity. Also, Dr. Carl Wunsch points out that the movie uses his data but distorts it. Ihe ocean would have had to release more CO2 than they had absorbed, so impossible that he calls it fraud. The movie also distorts NASA’s temperature record, something that can be easily checked. The two graphs are below, with the screen shot on the left showing how Durkin redrew the graph to support his claim that most of today’s global warming occurred before 1940.

 A 2010 StanfordUniversity poll of 1,372 climate scientists found that 97–98% of the climate researchers most actively publishing in climate science agree that global warming is occurring and man activities are the main factor. Research shows that global warming is causing many undesirable changes in the Earth and that no natural factors are significantly responsible.

 Ecology: Dr. Wanliss does not seem aware of the principles of ecology or the interrelation among species, as he says: “There has been, in past decades, a cosmic shift towards a social climate that begins to favor the environment — polar bears, trees, and bugs — over human beings.” Well, where would we be without the bears, trees, the environment, and umm … bugs?  He thinks that “destruction of one species can enormously benefit many others” and that man had a right to hunt sperm whales to extinction if we needed the oil. However, he does not seem aware that many species depend on the nutrients that the whales distribute throughout the ocean.  Passenger pigeons, once an important source of food, were hunted to extinction. And whooping cranes and buffaloes almost disappeared forever, but were saved from extinction by chance and a tremendous effort on the part of conservationists. Would we have missed them? The book tells the story about the Canary being used to test the safety of coal mines, using it to point out that some bird lover may have objected, putting the bird’s safety above that of the miners. Ecologists now tell us that many species are beginning to disappear from the Earth and many more are threatened by global warming. Would we want our grandchildren to go into a coal mine where the Canaries are dying?

Economics: Cap and trade is considered to be the free market solutions to reducing carbon emissions. It may not be the best, but it will help and it appears to be the way the nations are heading. Dr. Wanliss argues against it because he thinks it will lead to the creation of a world government and because of its high cost. We all share the same atmosphere and it is necessary that all industrialized and developing countries cooperate, but that is not the same as establishing a world government. Dr. Wanliss claims the cost of cap and trade regulations would amount to an annual cost of “$120,000 for the average family of four”. That value is unrealistically high – and it also ignores the cost of not acting. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the cost of the cap-and-trade program by 2020 would average about $175 annually per household.

It is possible to estimate the cost of inaction on global warming. The Stern Report, using the results from formal economic models, estimates the overall costs and risks of climate change is equivalent to losing at least 5% of global GDP each year. And unaddressed, the cost could rise to 20% of GDP or more by 2050 – and increase the risk of an environmental catastrophe. Using 5% of the US GDP for 2010 would give an environmental cost of $727 billion. Reducing carbon emissions would also reduce particulates which the American Lung Association  cites as the primary cause 38,000 heart attacks and premature deaths each year as well as 1.5 million cases of acute bronchitis and aggravated asthma – which they estimate has an economic cost of $281 billion. Those two add up to about $1.01 trillion annually, and that is just for theUnited States. And what cost was should we put on premature death?

Religion: Dr. Wanliss’ view of the relationship between man, other species, and the Earth’s resources is based upon the doctrine of Dominionism. He bases this belief upon his interpretation of Genesis 1:28 “And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.” From there, he uses a number of carefully selected Scriptures to argue how  “ the humans’ filling and ruling of the Earth can release it from bondage.” It is his view this will bring about the Second Coming which will render efforts to protect and sustain the planet useless.

 But, is the Earth not growing full? There are now 7 billion people on the planet and at our present birthrate, the population will double again this century. And have we not established dominion over the Earth? We now have fish and game laws, catch limits, and international treaties to protect other species as our needs have grown until we threaten their existence? The caveat in Dr. Wanliss’ argument is that the Second Coming will not occur until man has established Christian dominion. There are many religions on the Earth, and even among Christians, there are many different interpretations of the Scriptures. What he believes is necessary is very unlikely to happen in the next 50 years, and even if it did, there is no assurance that Dominionism is the true religion.

 Those who argue for Christian stewardship think that dominion means “benevolent rule”. Does it seem reasonable that God would make the heavens and the Earth and all the species, proclaim them good, and then give man a license to destroy them if he wished? And do some men have the right to seek dominion if by doing so they damage the lives and resources of other men? Dr. Wanliss makes a special point that dominion is not domination; however, men who wish to dominate and exploit the environment for profit will certainly find his arguments useful.

Native people: The book claims that the environmental movement is” dreadfully harmful to the environment and humans, particularly the poor” and at one point claims that environmentalists may be responsible for millions of deaths. It is most cynical and wrong to claim that environmentalists are somehow responsible for deaths and damage in the poorer countries of the world. Global warming is changing the environment and increasing the probability of severe weather events, particularly droughts. Last year’s drought on the Horn of Africa led to widespread famine and many deaths among the poor. The people of Kashmir are concerned that the glaciers that feed their streams in the summer are receding – making less water available. The Sherpa of Tibet worry that their villages may be flooded by lakes that now form each summer from melting glaciers, held back by unstable ice dams.

The Inuit in Greenland cannot use their traditional hunting grounds at the ice is too thin for their dog sleds to traverse. Those in the Arctic are having to move their coastal villages to keep them from being eroded away by wave action of open seas, which used to be ice year-round. Their inland villages are threatened because the permafrost upon which they are built now becomes a quagmire in the summer. They are being forced to change a way of life that sustained them for centuries. While some may adapt, their way of life and culture will be destroyed, and many will likely end up among the poor and unemployed.

Population: Dr. Wanliss says God has commanded us to fill the Earth and that we should let God decide how many children we shall have. But do not men and women have free will and the right to decide such things?  And, what happens when the earth is full? The Earth’s population has just surpassed 7 billion people and, at our present birthrate, will reach 14 billion sometime in the latter part of the 21st century. The Earth is finite and evidence suggests that the carrying capacity of the Earth is somewhere between 10 and 12 billion. When a population exceeds the carrying capacity of its environment, there is usually a massive die off of the population. For us, this might mean the deaths of billions of people through starvation and wars over resources.

 Prudence: Dr. Wanless believes that man has a remarkable ability to reason, and that is certainly true.  God has given us science so that we may understand nature by observation and reason. Scientific research shows that carbon dioxide is a pollutant that is damaging the Earth and will do so even more in the future. The EPA has determined that CO2 is an endangerment that may be regulated under the Clean Air Act, and the Supreme Court has upheld that ruling. Dr. Wanliss opposes action to correct the problem and thinks that when the Earth is full and Christian dominion is achieved, God will make our problems disappear. What if he is wrong? We will have a very full and a very hot, inhospitable Earth through our own ignorance, and not through God’s will. The Green Dragon, though a mythical creature created by Dr. Wanliss, would be a good symbol for Prudence.

 Resist? Dr. Wanliss is advising us to resist the Green Dragon based upon his religious views and personal philosophy. His book would certainly encourage some interesting discussions about the meaning of Hebrew words, the interpretation of scriptures, the meaning of free will, and the responsibility Christians have toward mankind, other species, and the Earth itself. Those discussions should occur among scientist, theologians, and philosophers who have the knowledge to defend their ideas. However, it seems wrong to use the power and respect that people have for ministers and Scripture to criticize Christians who believe in good stewardship. The Cornwall Alliance does just that, as resisting the Green Dragon aligns with profit motives. The only time Jesus showed anger in the Bible was when he drove the money changers from the Temple. How might Jesus feel about the Cornwall Alliance using Dr. Wanliss’ book to bring their corporate interests into places of worship? Perhaps Dr. Wanliss should rethink whether he wishes for his book to be used in that way.

(c) 2012 J.C. Moore

The Skeptic's Guide to the Medieval Warm Period

Sun ,01/04/2012

“How can science claim man is the cause of global warming when the temperature of the Earth was much warmer during the Medieval Warm Period (MWP)?”

The science Skeptics are quite adept at casting doubt on climate science by using clever arguments. One of their favorites is “How can science claim man is the cause of global warming when the temperature of the Earth was much warmer in the last millennium during the Medieval Warm Period (MWP)?”  You don’t really have to be a scientist to figure out that there were no accurate temperature records during the Medieval times and that much of the world was unknown.

The Skeptics usually point to historical records such as those by H.H. Lamb, which describe record heat waves in the known world during the MWP. Skeptics rather ignore the fact that H.H. Lamb was so concerned about the effect of global warming that he founded the Climate Research Unit (CRU) to study the Earth’s temperature records. The scientific questions comes down to  (1) whether the MWP was worldwide, (2) how warm the Earth actually was during the MWP, and (3) what caused the MWP?

Since there were no thermometers and no worldwide network of weather stations during the MWP, scientists have used a variety of proxy data from ice cores, isotope ratios, sediments, geological records, and even tree rings to try to reconstruct the temperatures for the last thousand years. Though there are large uncertainties in proxy records and they require careful calibration, they do show a similar pattern as you can see in the figure below, which is made up of 10 different reconstructions. The black line is the instrumental temperature record.* (See end of article for references.)

 

Though there are wide uncertainties in the proxy temperature records, taken together they form an overall pattern which answers the scientific questions. The proxy records show that that (1) there was a warm period from  AD 1000 to 1200, followed by a cooler period from  AD 1550 to1850  NASA identifies as the Little Ice Age, though it was not a true Ice Age. The record also show that (2) temperatures during the  MWP were quantitatively lower than the temperatures during the latter 20th century. To discover the cause of the MWP, it is necessary to look at another reconstruction.

While studying the cause of the past Ice Ages, scientists have identified the three  main factors which affect the Earth’s temperature, solar irradiance, greenhouse gases (primarily H2O and CO2), and particulates from volcanic activity. Below is a reconstruction of the three main factors controlling the Earth’s temperature. There are many interesting things in the records, but they show (3) the Earth was likely warmer worldwide during the MWP because of the higher solar radiation. It also shows that the solar radiation has been relatively constant during the last century while the other factors, primarily greenhouse gases, have increased.

 

 While it is possible to dispute or argue about the meaning of any of the individual records, it is rather disingenuous to claim that scientists “ have no data” or to dispute the obvious causes of the current global warming. To emphasize that, below is data from the last century, which is based on scientific records. While H20 and clouds accounts for about 75% of the greenhouse warming, their effect has increased only slightly( about 4%) while the amount of carbon dioxide has increased by about 39% in the last century.

CO2: Man is now putting about 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air each year. About half of it dissolves in the ocean and they have become 20% more acidic in the last century. Much of the rest stays in the air, and  CO2 is building up in air:

Temperature: CO2 is one of the greenhouse gases that warm the Earth, and NASA’s graph shows how its increase is changing the Earth’s temperature. Note:  The effect of particulates from the explosion of Pinaturbo can be seen in the temperature decline from 1991 to 1995.

 

NASA GISS 2010A

 

The Sun: The current global warming is often wrongly attributed to an increase in intensity of the sun. The sunspot activity does not show up above the noise in the temperature record above. The solar irradiance increased slightly until 1960 and has declined slightly since then.

 

There is the scientific story. Disputes in science are settled by the data. Though Skeptics may dispute the evidence showing the current global warming is caused by man, the question is ” Where is the evidence?”

* References for temperature reconstructions:  The original version of this figure was prepared by Robert A. Rohde from publicly available data from NOAA and the references therein. The article stated: “For the purposes of this comparison, the author is agnostic as to which, if any, of the reconstructions of global mean temperature is an accurate reflection of temperature fluctuations during the last 2000 years. “ The reconstructions used, in order from oldest to most recent publication are:

  • (dark blue 1000-1991): P.D. Jones, K.R. Briffa, T.P. Barnett, and S.F.B. Tett (1998). “High-resolution Palaeoclimatic Records for the last Millennium: Interpretation, Integration and Comparison with General Circulation Model Control-run Temperatures”. The Holocene 8: 455-471. doi:10.1191/095968398667194956
  • (blue 1000-1980): M.E. Mann, R.S. Bradley, and M.K. Hughes (1999). “Northern Hemisphere Temperatures During the Past Millennium: Inferences, Uncertainties, and Limitations”. Geophysical Research Letters 26 (6): 759-762.
  • (light blue 1000-1965): Crowley and Lowery (2000). “Northern Hemisphere Temperature Reconstruction”. Ambio 29: 51-54. Modified as published in Crowley (2000). “Causes of Climate Change Over the Past 1000 Years”. Science 289: 270-277. doi:10.1126/science.289.5477.270
  • (lightest blue 1402-1960): K.R. Briffa, T.J. Osborn, F.H. Schweingruber, I.C. Harris, P.D. Jones, S.G. Shiyatov, S.G. and E.A. Vaganov (2001). “Low-frequency temperature variations from a northern tree-ring density network”. J. Geophys. Res. 106: 2929-2941.
  • (light turquoise 831-1992): J. Esper, E.R. Cook, and F.H. Schweingruber (2002). “Low-Frequency Signals in Long Tree-Ring Chronologies for Reconstructing Past Temperature Variability”. Science 295 (5563): 2250-2253. doi:10.1126/science.1066208.
  • (green 200-1980): M.E. Mann and P.D. Jones (2003). “Global Surface Temperatures over the Past Two Millennia”. Geophysical Research Letters 30 (15): 1820. doi:10.1029/2003GL017814.
  • (yellow 200-1995): P.D. Jones and M.E. Mann (2004). “Climate Over Past Millennia”. Reviews of Geophysics 42: RG2002. doi:10.1029/2003RG000143
  • (orange 1500-1980): S. Huang (2004). “Merging Information from Different Resources for New Insights into Climate Change in the Past and Future”. Geophys. Res Lett. 31: L13205. doi:10.1029/2004GL019781
  • (red 1-1979): A. Moberg, D.M. Sonechkin, K. Holmgren, N.M. Datsenko and W. Karlén (2005). “Highly variable Northern Hemisphere temperatures reconstructed from low- and high-resolution proxy data”. nature 443: 613-617. doi:10.1038/nature03265
  • (dark red 1600-1990): J.H. Oerlemans (2005). “Extracting a Climate Signal from 169 Glacier Records”. Science 308: 675-677. doi:10.1126/science.1107046

(c) 2012 J.C. Moore

Note added on 07/09/2013 : In a new study by the PAGES 2k project, that was  published in Nature Geoscience , 78 researchers from 24 countries worked for seven years on the most extensive climate reconstruction to date of the past 2000 years.  It is based on 511 climate archives from around the world, from sediments, ice cores, tree rings, corals, stalagmites, historical documents and measurements.  Their  graph below confirms the basic “hockey stick” shape of the graph:Pages 2K

 

 

Gaming the Peer Review System, Part III: A Hostile Takeover

Mon ,26/03/2012

A group of Skeptics once managed to take over an editorship at a peer-reviewed journal  and publish articles hostile to mainstream climate science. With the help of politicians and large funding sources, the hostilities have continued to this day.

Skeptics: Science values its skeptics as they make science strong and they sometimes make valuable contributions by opening new fields for investigation. True skeptics follow the methodologies and the ethics of science, which requires they subject their work to review by their peers and divulge conflicts of interest. There are some skeptics, particularly in the areas of climate science, who violate the ethical principles of science for money and power. To separate those from true skeptics, they will be designated here as “Skeptics”. They are usually just ignored by scientists, but there are problems when a Skeptic becomes a journal editor. 

Journal editors are almost completely responsible for seeing that articles are properly reviewed and scientifically sound before they are published. Some journals, such as  Energy and Environment, cater to Skeptics such as Sallie Baliunas, Patrick Michaels, Ross McKitrick, Stephen McIntyre, Roger Pielke Jr., Willie Soon, and Steve McIntyre; who publish articles there that would not be accepted by legitimate journals. The editor, Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen, once said “the journal I edit has tried to keep this debate [climate scepticism] alive”.  Articles published in Energy and Environment are not taken seriously, but Skeptics hostile to climate science once managed a takeover of a reputable journal. An analysis by John Mashey showed the Skeptics managed to publish fourteen articles in Climate Research before they were caught gaming the peer review system.

Takeover: The takeover began in 1997, when Chris de Freitas became an editor at the reputable journal, Climate Research. There were 10 editors for the Journal and each worked independently, so it was possible for one editor to shepherd papers through the peer review process and see that they were published. The first paper  from a Skeptic, edited by de Freitas was by Patrick Michaels. The paper seemed to agree with the scientific findings of the IPCC reports, but it cast doubt at the end by concluding “this finding, instead adds further support to the emerging hypothesis that the Earth’s climate is not necessarily changing in a deleterious fashion”. Over the next six years, Chris de Freitas edited and published a series of fourteen papers by Skeptics who were interested in developing Dr. Michael’s “emerging hypothesis”. The articles caused so many complaints from scientists that some of the other editors questioned Dr. de Freitas about the quality of the papers he edited. He replied that they were on a “witch hunt”.

Restoring Order: The hostile takeover was uncovered after the fallout over a paper written by Sally Baliunas and Willie Soon. The paper reviewed the literature on the climate science of the last 1000 years, and concluded that the global warming in the 20th century was not unusual and that natural forces, rather than man’s activities were the cause. An important piece of their evidence was the Medieval Warm Period, which they claimed was warmer worldwide than the latter 20th century. But there was obviously something wrong with the paper. There were no accurate temperature records in Medieval Times, the Americas had not yet been discovered, and much of the Southern hemisphere was unknown. Proxy records from multiple sources show that the Medieval Warm Period amounted to only a small hump in the Earth’s temperature record. Shortly after its publication, the American Geophysical Union (AGU) issued a press release from thirteen of the scientists whose work was used in Baliunas and Soon’s paper, saying Soon and Baliunas seriously misinterpreted their research. The thirteen scientists then coauthored a paper explaining exactly why the Baliunas and Soon paper was in error.

 All this caused quite a furor at Climate Research. Five members the editorial board eventually resigned in protest and the newly hired chief editor, Hans von Storch stated the paper had serious errors and should never have been published. Tom Wigley, who often reviewed papers for Climate Research, wrote, “I have had papers that I refereed (and soundly rejected), under De Freitas’s editorship, appear later in the journal—without me seeing any response from the authors.” All this was followed by an unusual public statement from the publisher, acknowledging flaws in the journal’s editorial process. Under pressure, Chris de Freitas resigned shortly thereafter, and papers from the Skeptics stopped appearing in Climate Research.

Extended Hostilities: That should have ended the matter, except that some politicians found the conclusions of Baliunas and Soon’s paper to be advantageous to the fossil fuel industry to whom they owed allegiance. Political pressure was put on regulatory agencies to accept the results of the paper, in spite of its obvious flaws and distortions. The EPA was unwilling to include the paper in its assessment of climate science, so Sen. James Inhofe (R – OK) scheduled a meeting of the Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee to examine the paper.

At the EPW hearing, Michael Mann represented the scientific viewpoint, presenting evidence from multiple sources showing that the Medieval Warm period was not uniformly worldwide and resulted only in a small hump in the Earth’s temperature record. Dr. Soon stood behind his work and, in response to a direct question about his funding sources, testified that he had not received any funds that might have biased his objectivity. However, the paper lists the American Petroleum Institute as a major source of funding. Documents received later from the Smithsonian Institution in response to FOIA requests, revealed that since 2001  Dr. Soon has received over $1 million in funding from oil and coal interests.

Sen. Inhofe was upset by the turn of events and tried to get him fired – Michael Mann that is. At Sen. Inhofe’s insistence, the University of Pennsylvania, a Quaker University, conducted two investigations into Dr. Mann’s research and found no misconduct. A 2010 Science article reviewed the investigations, declaring “Michael Mann is cleared, again. “ Dissatisfied with the ruling, Sen. Inhofe has tried to get the attorney general to charge Michael Mann with fraud. It doesn’t get much more hostile than that. Sadly, for the first time in history, scientists are collecting a legal defense fund to defend scientists against political attacks. And even worse, the scientific opinion of the senior member of our Environmental and Public Works Committee is based on a paper that would not have passed freshman English.

 (c) 2012 J.C. Moore