Climate fears decrease with increasing scientific literacy

Who’da thunk it? The more you know about science, the less likely you are to worry about “global warming”. One of the great myths is that people are sceptical of the global warming scare because they are scientifically ignorant – people like me for example, with a degree in Engineering from the University of Cambridge.

So they assumed that as scientific literacy increased, fear of climate catastrophe would similarly increase:

Dumb sceptics, right?

So it was a bit of a blow when the results were precisely the opposite:

Oops. Maybe not.

The abstract reads:

Seeming public apathy over climate change is often attributed to a deficit in comprehension. The public knows too little science, it is claimed, to understand the evidence or avoid being misled. Widespread limits on technical reasoning aggravate the problem by forcing citizens to use unreliable cognitive heuristics to assess risk. We conducted a study to test this account and found no support for it. Members of the public with the highest degrees of science literacy and technical reasoning capacity were not the most concerned about climate change. Rather, they were the ones among whom cultural polarization was greatest. This result suggests that public divisions over climate change stem not from the public’s incomprehension of science but from a distinctive conflict of interest: between the personal interest individuals have in forming beliefs in line with those held by others with whom they share close ties and the collective one they all share in making use of the best available science to promote common welfare.

Paper here.

Arctic freshening not due to sea ice melt

Pure fiction then, and still is now

From The Science is Settled Department. Environmental activists and climate scientists on the AGW gravy train are so desperate to keep the scare afloat that they will find evidence of climate-induced changes in our planet wherever they look.

Everything can be attributed to climate change – it is the unfalsifiable hypothesis to end all unfalsifiable hypotheses. Once our scientist finds a plausible explanation that links a particular phenomenon (freshening of the Arctic waters, for example) to a man-made cause (melting sea ice caused by global warming, for example), he/she can stop looking for any other.

Especially when the consequences are potentially so dramatic – changes in salinity are thought to affect a major ocean current, the North Atlantic Conveyor, which, if interrupted, could “flip” the climate past a “tipping point” into a new Ice Age. They even made a film about it, The Day After Tomorrow, in which the special effects team went completely overboard to create the most terrifying images of what “might” happen if you keep driving your SUV and Australia doesn’t pass the carbon tax legislation:


Faced with such a possibility, who in their right mind could possibly disagree with taking urgent and drastic action to “tackle climate change”? Once the AGW box is ticked, job done.

Except that if our scientist had behaved as a proper scientist should, he/she may have looked deeper, and found that there might be other, more likely or convincing explanations. But taking that path runs the risk of missing out on the AGW angle, which would be a disaster for PR and funding. So that job is put on hold. For a while. Until the day after tomorrow, perhaps.

At least someone was brave enough to do it, however:

A new NASA and University of Washington study allays concerns that melting Arctic sea ice could be increasing the amount of freshwater in the Arctic enough to have an impact on the global “ocean conveyor belt” that redistributes heat around our planet. 

Lead author and oceanographer Jamie Morison of the University of Washington’s Applied Physics Laboratory in Seattle, and his team, detected a previously unknown redistribution of freshwater during the past decade from the Eurasian half of the Arctic Ocean to the Canadian half. Yet despite the redistribution, they found no change in the net amount of freshwater in the Arctic that might signal a change in the conveyor belt.

The team attributes the redistribution to an eastward shift in the path of Russian runoff through the Arctic Ocean, which is tied to an increase in the strength of the Northern Hemisphere’s west-to-east atmospheric circulation, known as the Arctic Oscillation. The resulting counterclockwise winds changed the direction of ocean circulation, diverting upper-ocean freshwater from Russian rivers away from the Arctic’s Eurasian Basin, between Russia and Greenland, to the Beaufort Sea in the Canada Basin bordered by the United States and Canada. The stronger Arctic Oscillation is associated with two decades of reduced atmospheric pressure over the Russian side of the Arctic. Results of the NASA- and National Science Foundation-funded study are published Jan. 5 in the journal Nature.

“Changes in the volume and extent of Arctic sea ice in recent years have focused attention on melting ice,” said co-author and senior research scientist Ron Kwok of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., which manages Grace for NASA. “The Grace and ICESat data allow us to now examine the impacts of widespread changes in ocean circulation.”

Kwok said on [the] whole, Arctic Ocean salinity is similar to what it was in the past, but the Eurasian Basin has become more saline, and the Canada Basin has freshened. In the Beaufort Sea, the water is the freshest it’s been in 50 years of record keeping, with only a tiny fraction of that freshwater originating from melting ice and the vast majority coming from Russian river water. 

“To better understand climate-related changes in sea ice and the Arctic overall, climate models need to more accurately represent the Arctic Oscillation’s low pressure and counterclockwise circulation on the Russian side of the Arctic Ocean,” Morison added. (source)

You’re saying the models aren’t perfect? Who’d have thought.

Link to Nature abstract here.

(h/t The Register)

Climate sensitivity and Climategate 2.0

Climate sensitivity distribution. 3 C is the upper limit (click to enlarge)

Some break this is turning out to be! Climate stories are breaking every day, and they deserve some coverage here. Two articles in The Australian today are of particular interest.

Firstly, the publication of a paper in Science that questions the high-end climate sensitivity probabilities put forward by the IPCC. Remember, climate sensitivity is the KEY question. If the climate isn’t sensitive to CO2, then “man-made global warming” is a non-problem. It’s the fact that the climate models project that there is a real possibility of significant climate sensitivity, leading to substantial and dangerous warming, which is enough, the IPCC would argue, to justify drastic emissions cuts based on the precautionary principle. The problem is that it may not be true:

DRAMATIC forecasts of global warming resulting from a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide have been exaggerated, according to a peer-reviewed study by a team of international researchers.

In the study, published today in the leading journal Science, the researchers found that while rising levels of CO2 would cause climate change, the most severe predictions – some of which were adopted by the UN’s peak climate body in its seminal 2007 report – had been significantly overstated.

The authors used a novel approach based on modelling the effects of reduced CO2 levels on climate, which they compared with proxy-records of conditions during the last glaciation, to infer the effects of doubling CO2 levels.

They concluded that current worst-case scenarios for global warming were exaggerated.

“Now these very large changes (predicted for the coming decades) can be ruled out, and we have some room to breathe and time to figure out solutions to the problem,” the study’s lead author, Andreas Schmittner, an associate professor at Oregon State University, said.

Professor Schmittner said taking his results literally, the IPCC’s average or “expected” value of a 3C average temperature increase for a doubling of CO2 ought to be regarded as an upper limit. (source)

Wait for the warmists to start the smear campaign on that poor guy. And at the same time, more explosive Climategate emails show the extent to which uncertainty was minimised within the climate science community in order to avoid any possible damage to “The Cause”.

In one 2009 email exchange between British government advisers and climate scientists, including Professor Phil Jones from the University of East Anglia who was a key figure in the first Climategate saga, one adviser writes: “I can’t overstate the HUGE amount of political interest in the project as a message that the government can give on climate change to help them tell their story. They want the story to be a very strong one and don’t want to be made to look foolish.” The exchange concerns a project called Weather Generator that forecasts heatwaves and extreme rainfall events across Britain.

In a 2003 email to colleagues, the UEA’s Irene Lorenzoni writes: “I agree with the importance of extreme events as foci for public and governmental opinion.” (source)

Details have also emerged at the close relationship between those scientists and the BBC, confirming suspicions that the UK’s national broadcaster is acting as an environmental activist mouthpiece for climate alarmism:

Yes, glad you stopped this — I was sent it too, and decided to spike it without more ado as pure stream-of-consciousness rubbish. I can well understand your unhappiness at our running the other piece. But we  are constantly being savaged by the loonies for not giving them any coverage at all, especially as you say with the COP in the offing, and being the objective impartial (ho ho) BBC that we are, there is an expectation in some quarters that we will every now and then let them say something. I hope though that the weight of our coverage makes it clear that we think they are talking through their hats. (source)

“The objective impartial (ho ho) BBC”. Nudge nudge, wink wink. Ah, pity the poor Brits paying their TV licences for this kind of disgraceful bias. Little reason to doubt that the ABC is in a similar position – you only need to look at their output on climate matters to see that.

Neutrinos clocked breaking the cosmic speed limit?

The carabinieri have pulled over the neutrinos and confiscated their licences

Not climate (obviously) but so fundamental to physics that it was worth noting. The BBC reports:

Puzzling results from Cern, home of the LHC, have confounded physicists – because it appears subatomic particles have exceeded the speed of light.

Neutrinos sent through the ground from Cern toward the Gran Sasso laboratory 732km away seemed to show up a tiny fraction of a second early.

The result – which threatens to upend a century of physics – will be put online for scrutiny by other scientists.

In the meantime, the group says it is being very cautious about its claims.

“We tried to find all possible explanations for this,” said report author Antonio Ereditato of the Opera collaboration.

“We wanted to find a mistake – trivial mistakes, more complicated mistakes, or nasty effects – and we didn’t,” he told BBC News.

“When you don’t find anything, then you say ‘Well, now I’m forced to go out and ask the community to scrutinise this.'” (source)

It’s far too early to conclude anything from these results, but the laws of physics [regarding the existence in nature of the hypothetical super-luminal particles known as tachyons] may need a little rewrite if found to be correct.

UPDATE: The incomparable Lubos Motl dissects the results here – well worth a read, if rather technical.

Another paper suggests cosmic ray influence on clouds

Figure 5 - click to enlarge

This time based on real-world experimentation, rather than laboratory test results as with CERN/CLOUD. In this case, the paper looks at the link between Forbush decreases, which are a decrease in the galactic cosmic ray flux in response to a burst of gas ejected from the Sun towards the Earth, and the change in diurnal temperature variation (i.e. the difference between night and day). Fewer cosmic rays mean fewer clouds, which means colder nights and warmer days, in theory…

From Nigel Calder:

More than a year ago I began a succession of posts on whether or not observations in the real world support or falsify the Svensmark hypothesis. The most explanatory was the first – see link

The focus was on the “natural experiments” in which big puffs of gas from the Sun block some of the cosmic rays coming from the Galaxy towards the Earth. The resulting falls in cosmic ray influx, called Forbush decreases, last for a few days. The game is to look for observable reductions in cloudiness in the aftermath of these events. The results are most clearly favourable to the Svensmark hypothesis for the Forbush decreases with the largest percentage reductions in cosmic rays. Scientists keen to falsify the hypothesis have only to mix in some of the weaker events for the untidiness of the world’s weather to “hide the decline”. 

The Serbs avoid that blunder by picking out the strongest Forbush decreases. And by using the simple, reliable and long-provided weather-station measurements of temperature by night and day, they avoid technical, interpretive and data-availability problems that surround more direct observations of clouds and their detailed properties. The temperatures come from 184 stations scattered all across Europe (actually, so I notice, from Greenland to Siberia). A compilation by the Mount Washington Observatory that spans half a century, from 1954 to 1995, supplies the catalogue of Forbush decreases.

The prime results are seen here in Dragić et al.‘s Figure 5 [image top right]. The graphs show the increase in the diurnal temperature range averaged across the continent in the days following the onset of cosmic ray decreases (day 0 on the horizontal scales). The upper panel is the result for 22 Forbush events in the range 7−10%, with a peak at roughly +0.35 oC in the diurnal temperature range. The lower panel is for 13 events greater than 10%. The peak goes to +0.6 oC and the influence lasts longer. It’s very satisfactory for the Svensmark hypothesis that the effect increases like this, with greater reductions in the cosmic rays. The results become hard (impossible?) to explain by any mechanism except an influence of cosmic rays on cloud formation.

The case for the Sun influencing climate by modulating cloud cover becomes stronger, little by little. By the way, just for the benefit of the Consensus Boys, this is how science works.

Read it here.

Permanent "El Niño" claims questioned

It's a boy/girl thing

From “The Science is Settled” Department. Another of the alarmists’ claims is that increasing temperatures will see the natural El Niño/La Niña cycles disappear in favour of a “permanent” and damaging El Niño, which may, amongst other things, lead to more long-term severe droughts in Australia.

However, new research into ancient clam shells appears to show otherwise:

Ancient fossilized clams that lived off the coast of Antarctica some 50 million years ago have a story to tell about El Niño, according to Syracuse University researcher Linda Ivany. Their story calls into question contemporary theories that predict global warming could result in a permanent El Niño state of affairs.

The El Niño phenomenon, which occurs every two to seven years, is characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the eastern Equatorial Pacific. El Niño can cause torrential rainfall in Peru, devastating drought in Australia, and generally wreak havoc on global weather. El Niño is the warm phase of a large oscillation in which the surface temperature of the tropical Pacific varies, causing changes in the winds and rainfall patterns. The complete phenomenon is known as the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). The prevailing theory predicts that rising global temperatures could cause the ENSO to collapse, resulting in permanent El Niño conditions, which could have a major impact on socioeconomic and ecological systems worldwide.

“The good news is that despite the very warm temperatures during the Eocene, the evidence from the clams and tree rings shows that the ENSO system was still active, oscillating between normal and El Niño years. That suggests that the same will be true in our future as the planet warms up again.”


New paper: climate models too sensitive

Climate sensitivity is the key to the AGW conundrum – how much will global temperatures respond to the extra forcing caused by anthropogenic carbon dioxide. If it’s nothing, or a few tenths of a degree, there really isn’t a problem. If it’s six degrees, there’s a problem.

Unsurprisingly, the majority of the consensus climate models indicate high sensitivity, meaning that in the IPCC’s view, it’s a problem that must be tackled.

However, Richard Lindzen and Yong-Sang Choi have prepared a new paper looking at real-world observations in an attempt to pin down climate sensitivity. The abstract contains the following:

We develop a method to distinguish noise in the outgoing radiation as well as radiation changes that are forcing SST [sea surface temperature] changes from those radiation changes that constitute feedbacks to changes in SST. We demonstrate that our new method does moderately well in distinguishing positive from negative feedbacks and in quantifying negative feedbacks. In contrast, we show that simple regression methods used by several existing papers generally exaggerate positive feedbacks and even show positive feedbacks when actual feedbacks are negative.  

And the conclusion states:

Our study also suggests that, in current coupled atmosphere-ocean models, the atmosphere and ocean are too weakly coupled since thermal coupling is inversely proportional to sensitivity (Lindzen and Giannitsis, 1998). It has been noted by Newman et al. (2009) that coupling is crucial to the simulation of phenomena like El Niño. Thus, corrections of the sensitivity of current climate models might well improve the behavior of coupled models, and should be encouraged. It should be noted that there have been independent tests that also suggest sensitivities less than predicted by current models.

Most claims of greater sensitivity are based on the models that we have just shown can be highly misleading on this matter. There have also been attempts to infer sensitivity from paleoclimate data (Hansen et al., 1993), but these are not really tests since the forcing is essentially unknown given major uncertainties in clouds, dust loading and other factors. Finally, we have shown that the attempts to obtain feedbacks from simple regressions of satellite measured outgoing radiation on SST are inappropriate. 

Sensitivity is one of the key areas of climate research. Whether you subscribe to Lindzen and Choi’s view, or the IPCC’s, one thing is certain. The science is most definitely not settled.

Download link here (PDF).

Settled science: no Arctic "tipping point"?

Clouded with doubt

The alarmist argument goes like this: if the ice disappears from the Arctic, the darker sea will absorb more sunlight than the more reflective ice, which will increase warming, which will reduce the ice even further, etc etc. The climate tips over the edge of the abyss and it’s goodnight.

But as always, there are other factors at work, and a new paper which looks at the forcing caused by the total loss of the Arctic ice sheet includes the following caveat:

The potential for changes in cloud cover as a result of the changes in sea ice makes the evaluation of the actual forcing that may be realized quite uncertain since such changes could overwhelm the forcing caused by the sea ice loss itself, if the cloudiness increases in the summertime.

In other words, the higher evaporation from the sea surface due to the lack of ice may actually increase the cloudiness during periods of low ice, therefore reducing the incoming solar radiation, and acting as a negative feedback to prevent the mythical tipping point being reached.

Again, without a thorough understanding of cloud feedbacks, predictions of Arctic tipping points (and the outputs from most climate models) are virtually worthless.

Abstract here. (h/t Hockey Schtick)

Up to 44% of warming due to Urban Heat Island effect

UHI effects

A new paper in the Journal of Geophysical Research reveals that as much as 44% of recent warming may be due to the Urban Heat Island effect, caused by increasing urbanisation around temperature measuring stations. The study looked at over 460 individual stations in East China:

The trends of urban heat island (UHI) effects, determined using OMR [observation minus reanalysis] and UMR [urban minus regional] approaches, are generally consistent and indicate that rapid urbanization has a significant influence on surface warming over east China. Overall, UHI effects contribute 24.2% to regional average warming trends. The strongest effect of urbanization on annual mean surface air temperature trends occurs over the metropolis and large city stations, with corresponding contributions of about 44% and 35% to total warming, respectively. The UHI trends are 0.398°C and 0.26°C decade−1. (source – abstract only)

There is no reason to doubt the fact that similar contamination of the surface record would be occurring elsewhere. Which helps to explain why the surface record diverges so noticeably from the satellite record, and why the satellite record should always be favoured.

[Also little Jimmy Hansen doesn’t get to carry out his special kind of “data cleansing” either – Ed]

h/t Hockey Schtick

Climate sensitivity clouded with doubt

Deciphering feedbacks and forcings

From “The Science is Settled” Department. Climate sensitivity is the biggest unknown in climate research. If climate sensitivity is low, then increasing CO2 levels are a non-problem. The IPCC claims that sensitivity is high and that therefore regulating emissions is necessary.

However, a new paper by Dr Roy Spencer and William Braswell, based on real world observations rather than incomplete models, claims that determination of sensitivity is as yet unsolved, because of the difficulty in distinguishing forcings and feedbacks:

“While the satellite-based metrics for the period 2000–2010 depart substantially in the direction of lower climate sensitivity from those similarly computed from coupled climate models, we find that, with traditional methods, it is not possible to accurately quantify this discrepancy in terms of the feedbacks which determine climate sensitivity. It is concluded that atmospheric feedback diagnosis of the climate system remains an unsolved problem, due primarily to the inability to distinguish between radiative forcing and radiative feedback in satellite radiative budget observations.”

The paper is technical, but its conclusion shows that anyone who says “the science is settled” is either ignorant or wilfully deceptive.

Download it here (PDF).

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