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Category — Climate models

Richard Kerr (Science) in 2009: Warming ‘Pause’ About to Be Replaced by ‘Jolt’

“Pauses as long as 15 years are rare in the simulations, and ‘we expect that [real-world] warming will resume in the next few years,’ the Hadley Centre group writes…. Researchers … agree that no sort of natural variability can hold off greenhouse warming much longer.”

- Richard Kerr, Science (2009)

That’s Richard A. Kerr, the longtime, award-winning climate-change scribe for Science magazine, the flagship publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The article, “What Happened to Global Warming? Scientists Say Just Wait a Bit,” was published October 1, 2009.

The article is important in the history of climate thought because it captures neatly the (over)confidence of the scientists who turn to models to justify their faith that past overestimation will soon be reversed. Judith Curry’s recent discovery of F. A. Hayek’s Nobel Prize Lecture in Economics, The Pretense of Knowledge, marks a new front in the mainstream climate debate. [1]

Secondly, today’s explanation for the “pause” (a term used in Kerr’s 2009 article) is not mentioned back then—ocean delay.

Third, Kerr frames the debate in political terms with Copenhagen just ahead—and fails to interview or include the contrary views about how climate sensitivity might be less than the climate models assume in their physical equations.

Here is the guts of the Kerr article as the 5th year anniversary comes this year: [Read more →]

January 14, 2014   13 Comments

Cooling Trends in Climate Model Credibility

“Given the current state of climate science, I don’t see evidence that these and other complex interacting factors stand a reasonable chance of being predicted, beyond what is possible through a basic understanding of historical variability.”

The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently released its first major global warming manifesto since 2007. Once again, the IPCC makes dramatic predictions of future warming and catastrophic consequences due to manmade carbon dioxide emissions. Typically, these predictions are reported as proven “findings” that have the same status as the readings of a thermometer.

But predictions are fundamentally different from measurements, and the more complex the system, the more difficult the prediction. The climate is a complicated combination of atmospheric, land, and ocean systems whose dynamics must be pieced together on scales from the size of a single cloud to wind streams spanning continents. Common sense should make us suspicious of any individual or group who claims a high degree of confidence in predicting it decades into the future–especially when that group doesn’t seem to acknowledge what kind of scientific breakthroughs would be necessary for such a task.

Industrial progress over the last 75 years has increased the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from 0.03% to the current value of 0.04%. It is very difficult to determine the exact impact of this change as it melds into the swirl of constant natural variability of the climate system, including changes in the intensity of solar radiation, poorly understood short and long-term thermal phenomena in the oceans, changes in the growth trends of carbon dioxide-sucking vegetation, and fluctuating volcanic emissions. 

Given the current state of climate science, I don’t see evidence that these and other complex interacting factors stand a reasonable chance of being predicted, beyond what is possible through a basic understanding of historical variability.

[Read more →]

November 12, 2013   7 Comments

Overcoming the Climate: The Case of Malaria

“Malaria already kills a million people a year and now, researchers fear, climate change could make the problem even worse.” –ABC News, April 1, 2011

“Based on the new numbers, malaria deaths have fallen by 32 percent since 2004, dropping from 1.8 million deaths worldwide to 1.2 million in 2010.” –ABC News, February 3, 2012

Malaria has been long postulated to benefit from rising global temperatures and is included near the top of most alarming lists of the bad things that will happen if greenhouse gas emissions limitations are not immediately put into place. And while this seems good in theory, real world data show little, if any, connection between climate change and malaria outbreaks. In fact, while the climate has been warming, malaria has been in decline—being beaten back by direct measures aimed at reducing the spread of the disease.

And malaria is not alone. There are many examples of positive trends in measures that climate change is supposed to worsen. The broader lesson is that directed actions trump climate change. In fact, in some cases, climate change may even hasten positive change. Yet, the recognition of such is largely absent from assessments of the impacts associated with human-caused climate changes. Consequently, the assessments present overly pessimistic and unreliable visions of our future based on overly simplistic modeling exercises.

The Case of Malaria

One of the key elements of global warming alarmism is proposing a link from rising global temperatures to the increasing occurrence of really bad things. Think of any bad thing, and almost assuredly, a Google search of “global warming” and “[insert really bad thing here]” will turn up loads of hits. Try it! It is kind of fun to see just how absurd a link you can find. “Global warming” and “shark bites”? You betcha. “Global warming” and “UFO attacks”? Ding ding! “Global warming” and “malaria”? Of course. [Read more →]

February 23, 2012   3 Comments

Gerald North on Climate Modeling Revisited (re Climategate 2.0)

 “If the models are as flawed as critics say … you have to ask yourself, ‘How come they work?’”

- Gavin Schmidt [NASA], quoted in David Fahrenhold, “Scientists’ Use of Computer Models to Predict Climate Change is Under Attack,” Washington Post, April 6, 2010.

 “[Model results] could also be sociological: getting the socially acceptable answer.”

 - Gerald North (Texas A&M) to Rob Bradley (Enron), June 20, 1998.

 The above quotation by NASA climate scientist Gavin Schmidt suggests that quite remarkable progress has been made with climate models in recent years. Such must be the case given the verdict by leading climate scientists that climate models were not nearly ready for prime time just a decade ago.

But what do climate scientists really believe behind closed doors? Will they no longer express their innermost thoughts in emails or in fear that ‘the cause’ of climate alarm/forced energy transformation will be compromised?

Climategate 2.0: Model Quotations

<0850> [Tim] Barnett:  “[IPCC AR5 models] clearly, some tuning or very good luck involved.  I doubt the modeling world will be able to get away with this much longer.”

<5066> [Gabriele] Hegerl:[IPCC AR5 models] So using the 20th c for tuning is just doing what some people have long suspected us of doing [...] and what the nonpublished diagram from NCAR showing correlation between aerosol forcing and sensitivity also suggested.”

<4443> [Phil] Jones:Basic problem is that all models are wrong – not got enough middle and low level clouds.”

<1982> [Ben] Santer:  “There is no individual model that does well in all of the SST and water vapor tests we’ve applied.”

[Jagadish] Shukla/IGES: ["Future of the IPCC", 2008] It is inconceivable that policymakers will be  willing to make billion-and trillion-dollar decisions for adaptation to the projected regional climate change based on models that do not even describe and simulate the processes that are the building blocks of climate variability.

Gerald North Quotations

Here are some quotations from Dr. Gerald North of Texas A&M, certainly a distinguished climate scientist, made during his consulting era with Enron Corp. [Read more →]

November 30, 2011   6 Comments

A Cherry-Picker’s Guide to Temperature Trends Update: Warming Crisis Not

Back in October 2009, my post “A Cherry-Picker’s Guide to Temperature Trends” examined the many different statements that could be made to describe the tendencies of global temperatures over the past 20 years. I concluded that anything from rapid cooling to a faster than expected warming could be supported by carefully picking through the available data.

Now, more than a year later, and after one of the “warmest years on record,” I’ve updated my analysis so that any new statements characterizing global temperature can be evaluated against the complete set of recent observations.

In general, I find that statements such as “global warming has stopped” should be tempered, at least for the time being. But I conclude that my original article’s summary remains more or less* applicable:

What I can say for certain, is that the recent behavior of global temperatures demonstrates that global warming is occurring at a much slower rate than that projected by the ensemble of climate models, and that global warming is most definitely not accelerating.

I say “more or less” because one could argue from the data (as we’ll see below) that the warming rate during recent years has upticked with the warmth in 2010 indicating a warming that is occurring faster than projected and is accelerating. But, I think that this represents a temporary condition.

In due course (say over the next several months), the warmth in 2010 will continue to subside as the cooling influence from a Pacific La Niña event supplants the warming influence of last year’s El Niño (see here for example). This will have the effect of flattening out recent temperature trends and returning them once again to lower-than-projected values. I imagine that we’ll see such an impact when it comes time again for me to produce an update to this update.

But until that time, I’ll describe the situation as it presents itself data available through December 2010. [Read more →]

February 7, 2011   13 Comments

Daylight Saving Time: Arrogant Central Planning

Although smart phones and computers make it easier to remember, last month Americans endured the semi-annual hassle of changing their clocks an hour. “Daylight Saving Time” (DST) was originally started during World War I to allegedly save energy. Jimmy Carter gave it to us in peacetime as part of his National Energy Plan. In practice, DST causes needless headaches—and even heart attacks!—and arguably doesn’t even save energy.

Chalk it up to yet another failed government intervention.

 The Hubris of DST

Joe Romm is not afraid to recommend society-changing government intervention in order to achieve a conservation goal, and he proposes drastic carbon legislation to prevent what he sees as “hell and high water.” Yet even this central planner hit the nail on the head when he complained: “You can’t save daylight by moving around the hands on your clock, of course. So daylight saving time remains as absurdly named as it ever was.”

For those who are skeptical of the current suite of climate models, Romm’s complaint is ironic. The same mindset that led government wartime planners to alter time, leads today’s planners to project what the global temperature will be in the year 2080.

The Harm of DST

There are many harms to DST. Most obvious, there is the hassle every household endures in actually changing the numerous clocks (microwaves, nightstand, watch, car, etc.). Although this doesn’t seem like a big deal, imagine if the federal government mandated that every U.S. citizen sit in a timeout corner for 15 minutes twice a year. Multiplied over hundreds of millions of people, that would add up to a significant waste of time, unless there were some corresponding benefit to the practice. [Read more →]

December 3, 2010   4 Comments

Rethinking Climate Sensitivity: Roy Spencer Speaks

The Holy Grail of climate change is a quantity known as the climate sensitivity—that is, how much the average global surface temperature will change from a doubling of the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration. If we knew this number, we would have a much better idea of what, climatologically, was headed our way in the future and could make plans accordingly.

Thus far, however, this prize has been elusive. Back in 1990, in its very first Assessment Report, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggested that the climate sensitivity was somewhere between 1.5°C to 4.5°C. In its latest Fourth Assessment Report published in 2007, the IPCC said the climate sensitivity was likely to be between 2.0°C and 4.5°C, and unlikely be to less than 1.5°C. Not a whole heck of a lot more certain than where things stood 20 years ago—and this despite a veritable scientific crusade to determine a more precise value.

A predominant member of the quest is the University of Alabama in Huntsville’s Dr. Roy Spencer. Dr. Spencer has, for several years now, been trying to untangle climate feedbacks from climate forcings. If apparent feedbacks are really forcings, or vice versa, then the determination of climate sensitivity is confused and prone to being wrong (and likely erring on the high side).

Dr. Spencer has long held that what has generally been taken to be a positive feedback from cloud cover changes in response to climate warming (i.e. cloud changes act to further enhance a CO2-induced warming) is actually the other way around—random cloud cover changes force temperature changes. However, trying to demonstrate that this is the case has proven challenging, and trying to convince the general climate community has been virtually impossible.

To help bring his ideas to a wider audience, Dr. Spencer has written a book about his hypothesis and his research in support of it, and has now, after years of tireless pursuit, published a paper in the peer-reviewed scientific literature.

Realizing that his findings run counter to the extant mainstream view of things, he has taken the step to ask for “physical scientists everywhere” to try to debunk his ideas. The appeal for scrutiny is intended to serve both science and Dr. Spencer in helping to solidify and illuminate a potential new way forward to finding the elusive Grail.

Recently, Dr. Spencer has written a nice summary of his on-going research and what, in his views are its implications. Rather than having me rehash his synopsis, Dr. Spencer has graciously permitted us to reprint a piece that originally appeared on his excellent website (a site well-worth checking from time to time).

Hopefully, readers of MasterResource will find this cutting-edge climate research interesting, and I am sure that if any of you have any pertinent suggestions for Dr. Spencer regarding his work, he would be happy to hear them.

Here is the excerpt: [Read more →]

September 21, 2010   9 Comments

Waving Goodbye to the 2°C Threshold: The Post-Copenhagen Reality

If your goal is keeping the earth’s temperature rise below 2°C, the only thing you have left is hope. Hope that the climate sensitivity—how much the global temperature rises from an increase in greenhouse gas concentrations—is far beneath what the climate models calculate it to be. When it comes to trying to use emissions cuts to achieve the 2°C goal, the cat is already out of the bag—maybe not in terms of emissions-to-date, but almost certainly so for emissions-to-come.

Such is the conclusion implicit in the recent analysis by Joeri Rogelj and colleagues published in a recent issue of Nature magazine.

Rogelj et al. did yeoman’s work in collecting all the varied (non-binding) efforts pledged by all of the various countries of the world to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions under the Copenhagen Accord that came out of last December’s big United Nations Climate Conference. From these pledges (which only extend to the year 2020 and of which Rogelj et al. commented “It is amazing how unambitious these pledges are”), Rogelj and colleagues kludged together a set of emissions pathways into the future.

Since some countries had a range of pledges emissions reductions, Rogelj et al. developed both an “optimistic” and a “pessimistic” emissions scenario to the year 2020.

What is supposed to happen after 2020 is anybody’s guess. [Read more →]

May 5, 2010   3 Comments

Climate Model Magic: Washington Post Today, Gerald North Yesterday (Part IV in a series)

[The other parts of this series on the activism of Texas A&M climatologists are here: Part I, Part II, and Part III]

“If the models are as flawed as critics say … you have to ask yourself, ‘How come they work?’”

- Gavin Schmidt [NASA], quoted in David Fahrenhold, “Scientists’ Use of Computer Models to Predict Climate Change is Under Attack,Washington Post, April 6, 2010.

“We do not know much about modeling climate. It is as though we are modeling a human being. Models are in position at last to tell us the creature has two arms and two legs, but we are being asked to cure cancer.”

     – Gerald North (Texas A&M) to Rob Bradley (Enron), November 12, 1999

A Washington Post piece last week, “Scientists’ use of computer models to predict climate change is under attack,” has brought attention to the importance of climate modeling in the current debate over climate sensitivity to greenhouse gases (GHGs). And not surprisingly, few mainstream IPCC scientists want to cast doubt on the current state of the art.

But what do open-minded climate scientists who are not formal modelers say behind closed doors? For part of this answer, I have collected these quotations from Dr. Gerald North of Texas A&M’s Department of Atmospheric Sciences and Department of Oceanography.

Prior to Climategate, at least, North was a straight shooter on the problems of climate models. [North's Left turn to go arm-in-arm with Andrew Dessler with regard to Climategate is examined here , here, and here.] 

North’s estimate of climate sensitivity to greenhouse gases is about one-third below that of the model average that make up the IPCC projection (about 3ºC). As he said:

“I agree that the case for 2ºC warming [for a doubling of manmade greenhouse gas forcing in equilibrium] is pretty strong.”

- Gerald R. North to Rob Bradley, email communication, August 13, 2007.

North’s error range is 1/4th of a degree, so his warming estimate for a doubled GHG forcing is between 1.75ºC and 2.25ºC, the low end of which is outside of the IPCC range of 2ºC–4.5ºC. Yet Dr. North dare not advertise his dissent or what he believes is climate realism versus model-contrived climate and the resulting alarmism.

Climate models are only as good as what goes into them and our understanding of some of the physical processes that control key aspects of the climate (for instance, cloud behavior) and their response to human alterations of the atmospheric composition is less than ideal. Models cannot magically generate the real, operative microphysics of climate to inform us what will happen when climate forcings are altered. However, a preference for a particular outcome can quickly turn a garbage in-garbage out situation into alarmism in-alarmism out.

Models are not ready for prime time and may not be for many more years if not decades. But this inconvenient fact is downplayed by the scientists involved for two reasons. One is the massive government funding of climate modeling predicated on an assumed “climate problem.”  And two, there is a widespread Malthusian virus among natural scientists–a belief that nature is optimal, man’s influence is bad. (Just the opposite might be the case.) So the happy middle of the debate has been absent.

Alarming, but Flawed, Climate Models

One of the reasons I am not a climate alarmist is because of Dr. North. I believe North points us toward the elusive happy middle of the science debate between ultra-skepticism and alarmism. [Read more →]

April 13, 2010   17 Comments