Skeptical Science: heads in the sand

Un-Sk Ps-Sc on the Pause and models

Un-Sk Ps-Sc on the Pause and model accuracy

Even Nature has acknowledged that the Pause is real, and that the models are missing something:

Average global temperatures hit a record high in 1998 — and then the warming stalled. For several years, scientists wrote off the stall as noise in the climate system: the natural variations in the atmosphere, oceans and biosphere that drive warm or cool spells around the globe. But the pause has persisted, sparking a minor crisis of confidence in the field. Although there have been jumps and dips, average atmospheric temperatures have risen little since 1998, in seeming defiance of projections of climate models and the ever-increasing emissions of greenhouse gases. […]

But none of the climate simulations carried out for the IPCC produced this particular hiatus at this particular time. That has led sceptics — and some scientists — to the controversial conclusion that the models might be overestimating the effect of greenhouse gases, and that future warming might not be as strong as is feared.

But let’s take a look at the headbangers over at Un-Skeptical Pseudo-Science. To start with, the Pause. In 2008, the page read as follows:

Did global warming stop in 1998?

1998 was an unusually hot year as it featured the strongest El Nino of the century. In fact, from Jan to May, 2007 is tied with 1998 as hottest year on record. The WMO reported in August that January and April 2007 were the hottest on record.

However, when determining trends, you don’t pick one month or year out of isolation – particularly if that year features a short term weather anomaly like El Nino. By this method, based on the fact that 2005 was .17°C hotter than 2000, you could conclude that the rate of global warming doubled from 2000 to 2005.

Using the fudged surface temperature sets, Un-Sk Ps-Sc was still able to claim the climate was still warming (phew). Fast forward to 2014. Another six years of no warming, and the only alternative is to… er, change the subject to ocean heat instead:

There’s also a tendency for some people just to concentrate on surface air temperatures when there are other, more useful, indicators that can perhaps give us a better idea how rapidly the world is warming. Oceans for instance — due to their immense size and heat storing capability (called ‘thermal mass’) — tend to give a much more ‘steady’ indication of the warming that is happening. Here records show that the Earth has been warming at a steady rate before and since 1998 and there’s no signs of it slowing any time soon.

And the evidence for this is from a paper by one of their own – Dana Nuccitelli. Handy!

How about the accuracy of models in 2008? Un-Sk Ps-Sc used some graphs cut and pasted from the IPCC’s third assessment report (in 2001), to fool the sheep into believing that models were just perfect:

Cut and paste from 2001

Cut and paste from 2001

They then claim that observed temperatures “closely match” Hansen’s Scenario B, helped no doubt by the multiple fudge factors applied to GISS temperature data. If satellite data had been used instead, the argument would be far less compelling.

Today’s version of the page is still using those graphs from 2001, now a whole two IPCC reports out of date. It still plugs the Hansen Scenario B, despite the observed temperature series ending in 2005.

And just today, Nuccitelli, writing in his ‘97%’ column in the Guardian uses a figure which conveniently supports the same position, despite the fact that balloon and satellite data show an increasing divergence between observations and models.

Which image do Cook & Nuccitelli pick?

Which image do Cook & Nuccitelli pick?

When the usually warmist Nature concedes that something is happening to the climate system which was not forecast by the models, then you should listen.

And in fact, most ‘proper’ scientists would look at this as an opportunity to further the understanding of the drivers of climate change, both natural and anthropogenic, but the headbangers at Un-Sk Ps-Sc would much rather stick their heads in the sand and pretend nothing has changed.

It could almost be said that they were denying the reality… but that would be petty, wouldn’t it?

WSJ: "When you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail"

WSJ Online

Some wonderful letters in the Wall Street Journal in response to Trenberth et al‘s response to that letter:

As for Mr. Trenberth’s heart-surgeon analogy: You might be better off consulting an intelligent generalist, probably not a dentist, but a primary-care physician who could recommend exercise and diet change before undergoing unnecessary and potentially dangerous surgery. Heart surgeons tend to recommend surgery more often than nonsurgeons because specialists are easily biased by their specialization. When you’re a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

The letter from Kevin Trenberth and his colleagues is straight out of the Saul Alinsky playbook: Marginalize your opponents by demeaning them (“dentists practicing cardiology”); state your position without definitive support (“observations show unequivocally” and computer models show); explain away statements that compromise your position by claiming they were taken out of context; restate your position in such a manner that it looks as if the issue is settled, even when it isn’t (“the science is clear: The world is heating up and humans are primarily responsible”) and then restate it again because if you say it often enough, people just might believe it (“climate change is real and human caused”); and, finally; call for federal funding to remedy the apparent impending crisis (“investing in the transition to a low-carbon economy . . . [is] just what the doctor ordered”). No thanks. I’m glad we got a second opinion, even if it was from a dentist.

The Trenberth letter is little more than an appeal to authority masquerading as a scientific argument. It casts no light, therefore, on the actual substance of the issues, particularly given the corruption of the peer-review process made clear by the East Anglia University emails. The most revealing sentence in the Trenberth letter is the statement that computer models show that smaller increases in surface temperatures are accompanied by warming “elsewhere in the climate system.” Sorry, computer models do not “show” anything. They make predictions that must be tested against the evidence, which in the global-warming context is deeply problematic. Mr. Trenberth’s models may be a magnet for government grants, but their usefulness for policy is far from clear.

Great stuff. Read them all here.

Wall Street Journal war of words continues

Click to enlarge

letter published in the Wall Street Journal on 27 January made the unremarkable and, one would have thought, fairly uncontentious, assertions that global temperatures had flatlined or slowed in the 21st century, that alarmist projections beget more research funding, and that the forecasts of the IPCC were exaggerated. Hardly anything earthshaking in that.

However, since such a letter dilutes “The Cause” and forces the average person to engage their own powers of reasoning, the consensus denial machine (denial of open debate and any kind of climate change other than man-made, that is) swung into action.

Kevin Trenberth and others (including Michael Mann (!), and Aussie alarmists David Karoly and Matthew England) wrote a further letter to the WSJ attempting to rebut the original points and shore up The Cause, relying heavily on the argument from authority (“97% of climate scientists etc” – remember where that figure came from – 75 out of 77 – , various “national academies” agree with us, etc etc), deploying the hackneyed cancer/doctor, smoking/lung cancer, HIV/Aids analogies, claiming that warming hasn’t slowed in the last decade, and that transitioning to a low carbon economy should be a priority. And who said scientists should never get involved in policy?

Patrick Michaels has responded in detail to this letter:

Trenberth et al. is surprisingly weak and incomplete. The 16 original authors are all individuals that are highly competent in their fields, most are physicists of one stripe or another, and all can read and summarize a scientific literature. In fact, most would hold that climate science is nothing more than applied physics.

“Extreme views” lie in the eye of the beholder, and science only grudgingly backs away from established paradigms. For example, despite the obvious jigsaw-puzzle fit of the earth’s continents, it took 100 years of bickering before continental drift was accepted over geological stasis. And, in this case, the “extreme view” of the most prominent climate scientist of the 16, MIT’s Richard Lindzen, is hardly an outrage.

Lindzen holds that the “sensitivity” of surface temperature to changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide has been overestimated because of an inaccuracy in the way that computer models magnify warming. In and of itself, it is mainstream, not extreme, to entertain the hypothesis that doubling carbon dioxide on its own would only cause a bit more than 1 degree (C) of global surface warming. Computer models arrive at much higher values, around 3.5°C, by amplifying the carbon dioxide effect because a slightly warmer atmosphere contains more water vapor, which itself is a potent greenhouse gas. Clouds are also changed in a way that enhances warming. There is evidence from the outgoing radiation signal of the earth that the effects of water vapor and clouds have been overestimated.

The 38 must somehow disagree with Susan Solomon, whose 2010 article in Science attributing the lack of recent warming—that the 39 deny—to unanticipated changes in stratospheric water vapor with no known cause.

The 38 must somehow disagree with the global temperature sensing from satellites, which also shows no net warming for the last 14 years. Now, one could argue that the satellites are measuring temperatures above the surface in the lower atmosphere, but the computer models that the 38 find so accurate, predict that the lower atmosphere should be warming faster than the surface over most of the planet.

Finally “more than 97% of all actively publishing* climate scientists agree that climate change is real and human caused” is probably an underestimate, as virtually everyone acknowledges that the surface temperature is warmer than it was, and that multifarious human activities have some influence on climate. Rather, he misses the point well-made by the original Journal article, which is that the rise in surface temperature is clearly below the values first forecast by the UN in 1990. The core—unsettled—issue in climate science is the “sensitivity” of temperature to carbon dioxide, and there are several independent lines of evidence, including the surface temperature history and the water vapor problems, that argue that it has been substantially overestimated.

In global warming, it’s not the heat, it’s the sensitivity. But don’t expect much sensitivity and expect a lot of heat when climatologists voice their opinions. (source, via WUWT)

Skeptical Science, home of the smug, fundamentalist climate headbangers, attempted to ridicule any suggestion that global temperatures had plateaued with a smug straw man graph [no link, they’re not having any of my traffic], showing smugly that us dumb sceptics will see declines anywhere in a data set by cherry picking the start and end points (I guess that’s better than hiding the declines, right, Mike and Phil?).

Thankfully, Josh came to the rescue with the sketch above, demonstrating how the IPCC sees accelerating warming in a dataset by, er, cherry picking the start and end points. Oh the ironing. Click to enlarge.

UPDATE: William Kininmonth writes to The Australian on the same subject:

KEVIN Trenberth, responding to an Opinion (to which I was a co-signatory) published in the Wall Street Journal (27/1/12) and The Australian (“Climate change ‘heretics’ refute carbon dangers”, 1/2), claims to have been quoted out of context and misrepresented (“Expertise a prerequisite to comment on climate”, 3/2).

The quote in our opinion is from an email sent by Trenberth to a group of colleagues that became public with the release of emails from the UK University of East Anglia (or climategate). Trenberth wrote: “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t . . . there should be even more warming: but the data are surely wrong. Our observation system is inadequate.”

The context is an exchange of emails initiated in 2009 in response to a BBC item that there has been no warming since 1998 and that Pacific oscillations will force cooling for the next 20 to 30 years.

Trenberth was certainly lamenting the inadequacy of the observing systems (with which I agree) but at face value he is also acknowledging that the available data do not support warming since 1998. The latter is an inconvenience to the human-caused global warming hypothesis that he and his colleagues are wedded to.

William Kininmonth, Kew, Vic

Climategate 2.0: IPCC bias and defending "The Cause"

PhD attacked

Are you beginning to notice a thread running through the Climategate 2.0 revelations? Several threads, perhaps? Silence dissent, suppress inconvenient data, ad hominem attacks, stifle FOI requests, support “the Cause” at all costs? That’s what happens when you attempt to use science to justify a political agenda in a field as complex as climate change. The pressure to maintain a constant message inevitably conflicts with the spectrum of scientific data on the subject, much of which challenges the assertions of “the Cause”.

Any sceptic who dares to expose the uncertainties risks damaging “the Cause” – which must be avoided at all costs. Hence the distasteful plot to damage the reputation of Patrick Michaels by questioning his PhD, exposed in one of the Climategate 2.0 emails. Michaels writes an open letter to the director of the National Centre for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) :

I’m sure you have seen and discussed with your staff many of the “Climategate” emails released first in November, 2009, and then more recently, earlier this month.

Everyone agrees that the tone and content of many of them is a bit shrill and occasionally intolerant (kind of like University faculty meetings), but there is one repeating thread, by one of your most prestigious employees, Dr. Tom Wigley, that is far beyond the pale of most academic backbiting.

The revoking of my doctorate, the clear objective of Tom’s email, is the professional equivalent of the death penalty. I think it needs to be brought to your attention, because the basic premise underlying his machinations is patently and completely false. Dr Wigley is known as a careful scientist, but he certainly was careless here.

The global circulation of this email has caused unknown damage to my reputation. Also, please note that all communications from Dr. Wigley to his colleagues on this matter were on the NCAR/UCAR server.

The relevant email was sent to Rick Piltz, a UCAR employee at the time, and copied to Michael Mann, Pennsylvania State University, James Hansen and Gavin Schmidt, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Benjamin Santer, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory,the late Steven Schneider, Stanford University, and several other very prominent climate scientists. The influence of these individuals is manifest and evidence of a very serious attempt to destroy my credential.

What Dr. Wigley wrote to this group of individuals was:

“You may be interesting [sic] in this snippet of information about Pat Michaels. Perhaps the University of Wisconsin ought to open up a public comment period to decide whether Pat Michaels, PhD needs re-assessing?”

As I said, revoking the doctorate of a scientist is the equivalent of imposing a professional death penalty. Unfortunately, Wigley’s rationale for organizing this effort was based upon a pure fabrication. (source)

And as Dr Roy Spencer argues, protecting “the Cause” trumps everything else:

Ever since the first Climategate e-mail release, the public has become increasingly aware that scientists are not unbiased. Of course, most scientists with a long enough history in their fields already knew this (I discussed the issue at length in my first book Climate Confusion), but it took the first round of Climategate e-mails to demonstrate it to the world.

The latest release (Climategate 2.0) not only reveals bias, but also some private doubts among the core scientist faithful about the scientific basis for the IPCC’s policy goals. Yet, the IPCC’s “cause” (Michael Mann’s term) appears to trump all else.

So, when the science doesn’t support The Cause, the faithful turn toward discussions of how to craft a story which minimizes doubt about the IPCC’s findings. 

In the case of global warming research, the alternative (non-consensus) hypothesis that some or most of the climate change we have observed is natural is the one that the IPCC must avoid at all cost. This is why the Hockey Stick was so prized: it was hailed as evidence that humans, not Nature, rule over climate change.

The Climategate 2.0 e-mails show how entrenched this bias has become among the handful of scientists who have been the most willing participants and supporters of The Cause. These scientists only rose to the top because they were willing to actively promote the IPCC’s message with their particular fields of research.

Unfortunately, there is no way to “fix” the IPCC, and there never was. The reason is that its formation over 20 years ago was to support political and energy policy goals, not to search for scientific truth. I know this not only because one of the first IPCC directors told me so, but also because it is the way the IPCC leadership behaves. If you disagree with their interpretation of climate change, you are left out of the IPCC process. They ignore or fight against any evidence which does not support their policy-driven mission, even to the point of pressuring scientific journals not to publish papers which might hurt the IPCC’s efforts.

I believe that most of the hundreds of scientists supporting the IPCC’s efforts are just playing along, assured of continued funding. In my experience, they are either: (1) true believers in The Cause; (2) think we need to get away from using fossil fuels anyway; or (3) rationalize their involvement based upon the non-zero chance of catastrophic climate change. (source)

As I repeat frequently on this blog, I am prepared to accept whatever the science tells us about man’s effect on the climate, but until the integrity of that scientific process is restored, the projections of “the Team” and the IPCC simply cannot be trusted. Climategate 2.0 shows that such integrity is at present sorely lacking.

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