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>Hostile witnesses on Climategate

2009 December 12 Leave a comment

> Much of the internet was abuzz about the released emails and documents from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, now referred to as Climategate (or the CRUtape letters). Notable for their silence were more mainstream newspapers and internet news sites. And when Climategate was covered the issue was minimised as having no real significance, a normal spat between fallible people who happened to be scientists, and having no bearing on the truth of anthropogenic global warming.

I think it does have bearing because if the scientists involved are shown to be otherwise dishonest, there is reason to suspect this character flaw would extend to fraudulent reporting and publishing in the scientific arena.

The desire and willingness for fellow global warming affirmers to defend these people is slightly concerning. Appropriate responses are to withhold judgment until further information is available, or to decry such behaviour as damaging to the issue. Dubious defence for one’s cause should be shunned, it causes damage in the long run.

Several who are convinced of the reality of global warming have realised the serious nature of these emails and stated as such. Below are several links to comments by people who otherwise think global warming is real and man-made. I do not agree with this hypothesis, nor everything they have written in these articles. I include them to emphasise to those who subscribe to global warming that the emails and documents are of a serious nature and suggest dodgy behaviour by several people in the forefront of the pro-global warming debate.

George Monbiot

There appears to be evidence here of attempts to prevent scientific data from being released, and even to destroy material that was subject to a freedom of information request.Worse still, some of the emails suggest efforts to prevent the publication of work by climate sceptics, or to keep it out of a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. I believe that the head of the unit, Phil Jones, should now resign. Some of the data discussed in the emails should be re-analysed.

Chip Knappenberger

As it now stands, a bias can exist in the current system. That it does exist is evident in the Climategate emails. By all appearances, it seems that some scientists are interested in keeping certain research (and particular researchers) out of the peer-review literature (and national and international assessments derived there from). While undoubtedly these scientists feel that they are acting in the best interest of science by trying to prevent too much backsliding and thereby keeping things moving forward efficiently, the way that they are apparently going about it is far from acceptable.

Instead of improving the process, it has nearly destroyed it.

If the practitioners of peer-review begin to act like members of an exclusive club controlling who and what gets published, the risk is run that the true course of science gets sidetracked. Even folks with the best intentions can be wrong.

Richard Tol

The emails reveal a systematic effort to deny legitimate freedom-of-information requests.

They contain evidence that the rules of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were deliberately broken to include a paper that supports a particular point of view.

The emails show an intolerance of views and facts that do not support the received wisdom of the people involved.

One of the stolen documents reveals that a key result, the instrumental record of the global mean temperature since 1850, cannot be reproduced.

This is serious stuff.

John Tierney

As the scientists denigrate their critics in the e-mail messages, they seem oblivious to one of the greatest dangers in the climate-change debate: smug groupthink. These researchers, some of the most prominent climate experts in Britain and America, seem so focused on winning the public-relations war that they exaggerate their certitude — and ultimately undermine their own cause.

…Contempt for critics is evident over and over again in the hacked e-mail messages, as if the scientists were a priesthood protecting the temple from barbarians. Yes, some of the skeptics have political agendas, but so do some of the scientists. Sure, the skeptics can be cranks and pests, but they have identified genuine problems in the historical reconstructions of climate, as in the debate they inspired about the “hockey stick” graph of temperatures over the past millennium.

It is not unreasonable to give outsiders a look at the historical readings and the adjustments made by experts like Harry. How exactly were the readings converted into what the English scientists describe as “quality controlled and homogenised” data?

Trying to prevent skeptics from seeing the raw data was always a questionable strategy, scientifically. Now it looks like dubious public relations, too.

Judith Curry

In my opinion, there are two broader issues raised by these emails that are impeding the public credibility of climate research: lack of transparency in climate data, and “tribalism” in some segments of the climate research community that is impeding peer review and the assessment process.

And further comment by Curry here

What has been noticeably absent so far in the ClimateGate discussion is a public reaffirmation by climate researchers of our basic research values: the rigors of the scientific method (including reproducibility), research integrity and ethics, open minds, and critical thinking. Under no circumstances should we ever sacrifice any of these values; the CRU emails, however, appear to violate them.

Categories: climate change

>Adjusting multi-site and single site temperature data

2009 December 8 2 comments

> NIWA offer as their explanation for the temperature adjustments the paper

  • Rhoades, D.A. and Salinger, M.J., 1993: Adjustment of temperature and rainfall measurements for site changes. International Journal of Climatology 13, 899–913.

Though they do not link to it nor give a digital object identifier (doi:10.1002/joc.3370130807).

The abstract states

Methods are presented for estimating the effect of known site changes on temperature and rainfall measurements. Parallel cumulative sums of seasonally adjusted series from neighbouring stations are a useful exploratory tool for recognizing site-change effects at a station that has a number of near neighbours. For temperature data, a site-change effect can be estimated by a difference between the target station and weighted mean of neighbouring stations, comparing equal periods before and after the site change. For rainfall the method is similar, except for a logarithmic transformation. Examples are given. In the case of isolated stations, the estimation is necessarily more subjective, but a variety of graphical and analytical techniques are useful aids for deciding how to adjust for a site change. (Emphasis added)

I did not fully follow all the maths in the paper. It was not particularly complex but I would need to spend some time doing examples to completely grasp it.

In the introduction they define “site change”,

We use the term site change to mean any sudden change of non-meteorological origin. Gradual changes can seldom be assigned with any certainty to non-meteorological causes. Where long-term homogeneous series are required, for example, for studies of climate change, it is best to choose stations that are unlikely to have been affected by gradual changes in shading or urbanization. This is no easy task. Karl et al. (1988) have concluded that urban effects on temperature are detectable even for small towns with a population under 10000.

…This paper is concerned with the estimation of site-change effects when the times of changes are known a priori, such as when the station was moved or the instrument replaced.

The paper predominantly discusses adjustments to data when there are site changes and there are surrounding overlapping data sets (nearby thermometers) that can be used to assess whether there needs to be adjustment.

Later in the paper when discussing sites that have no overlapping data the authors state,

Such an adjustment involves much greater uncertainty than the adjustment of a station with many neighbours. A greater degree of subjectivity is inevitable. In the absence of corroborating data there is no way of knowing whether an apparent shift that coincides with a site change is due to the site change or not. However, several statistical procedures can be used alongside information on station histories to assist in the estimation of the effect of a site change. These include graphical examination of the data, simple statistical tests for detecting shifts applied to intervals of different length before and after the site change, and identification of the most prominent change points in the series independently of known site changes. Finally, a subjective judgement must be made whether to adjust the data or not, taking into account the consistency of all the graphical and analytical evidence supporting the need for an adjustment and any other relevant information.

Moreover when they apply this adjustment to a station in Christchurch to demonstrate their method comparing with the more accurate method used earlier in the paper they significantly over estimate the difference,

The 1975 site change at Christchurch Airport is somewhat overestimated, when compared with the neighbouring stations analysis. The contrast between the estimates based on 2 years data before and after this site change is particularly marked. For the neighbouring stations analysis the estimate is 0.45°C (Table TI); for the isolated station analysis the estimate is 1.58°C (Table V). This is to be expected when a site change coincides with an actual shift in temperature, as occurred in this case. The isolated station analysis then estimates the sum of the site change effect and the actual shift.

In their conclusion they note,

Adjustments for site changes can probably never be done once and for all. For stations with several neighbours, the decision to adjust for a site change usually can be taken with some confidence. The same cannot be said for isolated stations. However, large shifts can be recognized and corrected, albeit with some uncertainty. Ideally, for isolated stations, tests for site change effects would be incorporated into the estimation of long-term trends and periodicities as suggested by Ansley and Kohn (1989). This is not practicable at present on a routine basis, but may be in the future.

And

Whatever adjustment procedures are used, the presence of site changes causes an accumulating uncertainty when comparing observation that are more distant in time. The cumulative uncertainties associated with site change effects, whether adjustments are made or not, are often large compared with effects appearing in studies of long-term climate change. For this reason it is a good idea to publish the standard errors of site change effects along with homogenized records, whether adjustments are made or not. This would help ensure that, in subsequent analyses, not too much reliance is placed on the record of any one station. (Emphasis added)

Ironically, the methods suggested in this paper do not include the method used by NIWA in defending their Wellington data.

>What it means to explain adjustments

2009 December 7 Leave a comment

>After the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition released it’s paper, “Are we feeling warmer yet?” there was much discussion around the necessity of adjusting data. Focus was on the Wellington data though, as I pointed out, there is no overlap between Thorndon and other sites given. So adjusting to a nearby site of the same elevation, while possibly reasonable, can be questioned: busy international airport, large amounts of asphalt (especially when considering the multi-decadal time difference), urbanisation effects. Even disregarding that Anthony Watts gives Kelburn a rating of CRN=4.

This is an issue of the legitimacy of specific adjustments. The paper above acknowledges the figures are adjusted, they question why,

At a minimum, the adjustments made to the official NZ temperature record must be made public.

Treadgold had also said,

The real issue is that adjustments were made by NIWA and not acknowledged publicly on their website….

NIWA responded initially to the paper with this article and referencing the same Wellington data. They also stated concerning the temperature adjustments (corrections) (as I mentioned in my earlier post),

NIWA climate scientists have previously explained to members of the Coalition why such corrections must be made.

NIWA have also expanded their explanation displaying the Wellington graphs previously shown by Gareth Renowden (as per my earlier post).

NIWA have also released their own graph from raw data. They used sites that have not been shifted since 1930.

I am not certain why they used a trend line without also including a smoothed line like they had for their earlier graph.

NIWA give more justification that New Zealand temperature is rising here. They mention several confirmatory records that show the temperature rise over the decades. And they refute several claims by the NZ Climate Science Coalition, specifically NIWA claims that the Coalition have had access to:

  1. the raw data
  2. the adjusted data (anomalies)
  3. information needed to identify the adjustments made by Dr Salinger
  4. information needed to develop their own adjustments.

The Coalition confirm that the raw data is available and they stated that in the original paper. The other 3 claims are not so clear. An email sent to the Coalition said that the adjusted (corrected) data was held by Salinger,

Dr Jim Salinger maintains the “corrected” dataset and is the best person to talk to you about it.

But the Coalition deny receiving all the corrected data despite requests for it. Further, the 7 sites labelled on the data they received differed from the 7 sites that were specified in other correspondence from NIWA. And even if they had the information to identify the adjustments (item 3 above), they do not have the reasoning as to why this was done. This also makes it difficult to do item 4. When the Coalition analyses the Hokitika data they see no good reason as to why it is adjusted as it has been. Wellington is the example that is repeatedly mentioned. What of Hokitika and the other 5 stations?

Which raises the issue of the post title. What the Coalition want, and what NIWA should have had available on their site before any requests were made, is both the raw data and the adjusted data, and the explanation of the adjustment. NIWA offer as their explanation this paper (doi:10.1002/joc.3370130807).

I will return to this paper tomorrow but the response from NIWA misses the point. It is not a methodology or technique of temperature adjustment the Coalition is asking for. It is why the adjustments were made for every adjustment.

  • Adjustment A was made in this data set because of a site change. And the reason for this amount of change is because we took sites 1, 2 and 3 into account.
  • Adjustment B was made because of a change in thermometer.
  • Adjustment C was made to take into account the urban heat island effect.

One can mention the methodology as well if helpful,

  • Adjustment… following the method of Smith for isolated stations.

It is then one can reproduce the adjusted data and discuss the merits of each adjustment.

  • What about sites 4 and 5, they would attenuate the data by 0.1 °C.
  • You haven’t allowed for wind effects which are relevant before 1965 because…
  • Smith was developed for continents and has not been validated for temperate islands, the method of Jones is more appropriate.

The when and why is needed so that this discussion can be had.

Categories: clarity, climate change

>NIWA defends it adjustment of data

2009 November 27 Leave a comment

>NIWA have released a statement that the data that shows a warming trend in New Zealand over 100 years was adjusted.

NIWA’s analysis of measured temperatures uses internationally accepted techniques, including making adjustments for changes such as movement of measurement sites.

Though the paper (and my post yesterday) suggest adjustment was the likely explanation. However the graph and the surrounding paragraph fail to mention the data is adjusted. I read significant numbers of scientific papers and they are always referencing the raw and the adjusted data labelling both. There are statistical issues with some of these papers but this is not one of them.

NIWA go on to say,

Such site differences are significant and must be accounted for when analysing long-term changes in temperature. The Climate Science Coalition has not done this.

NIWA climate scientists have previously explained to members of the Coalition why such corrections must be made. NIWA’s Chief Climate Scientist, Dr David Wratt, says he’s very disappointed that the Coalition continue to ignore such advice and therefore to present misleading analyses.

Unfortunately this comment fails to identify and thus address the issue which is: “why” is not the question the Coaliltion is asking; it is “what” and “how”. What is the adjustment? and how have you done it? Treadgold (an author of the paper) writes,

We cannot account for adjustments, because we don’t know what they are. We ask only to know the adjustments that have been made, in detail, for all seven stations, and why.

Transparency demands that the specific reasons for data adjustment be given.

  • What stations have been adjusted?
  • When were they adjusted?
  • Is the adjustment stepwise or a trend?
  • Is there overlap of data when stations are shifted?
  • Does the overlapped data show good correlation?
  • Have adjustments been modified in subsequent years? Why?
  • What is the computer code that applies the adjustment?

This sort of information allows others to review the legitimacy of such decisions. And various groups can argue for and against these reasons and the weighing various reasons should be given.

Why the secrecy? The refusal to be open with data and theories is looked upon with suspicion, and rightly so.

Gareth Renowden writes a post explaining why adjustments are made to the data. The excessive rhetoric notwithstanding, the argument is plausible. But it still leaves questions unanswered. While the Wellington station may just be used an example, what of the other 6 stations? Wellington may show a rise after adjustment, but this will be diluted when averaged across all the station unless they all showed a rise. It they did what is the explanation for them.

Though I am not fully convinced with NIWA’s explanation. The Airport and Kelburn temperatures seem well correlated, with Kelburn cooler being at a higher altitude. And Thorndon and Airport are both at the same elevation (sea level). But there is no correlation established between Thorndon and the other 2 locations.



Elevation is not the sole determiner of temperature. There may be other considerations that make Thorndon and the Airport different temperatures. If so, then the adjustment down of the Thorndon data may be excessive. It should be easy to set up further measurements at Thorndon currently and see how they correlate to Kelburn and the Airport. If they all correlate well then we can establish a more accurate correction factor for the pre-1930 Thorndon data.

>New Zealand not warming?

2009 November 26 18 comments

>It seems to residents that the country has not being getting warmer over the last decade. Such that advocates of global warming prefer the term climate change so that any weather anomaly can be attributed to anthropomorphic global warming. And people are willing to parrot claims that some parts of the world will get colder (this may be a prediction of the theory but should encourage one to cautiously consider these claims).

The New Zealand National Institute of Atmosphere and Water Research (NIWA) do not show significant change since 2000 but they do show an increase over the last century as seen in this graph.

Graph. Mean annual temperature over New Zealand, from 1853 to 2008 inclusive, based on between 2 (from 1853) and 7 (from 1908) long-term station records. The blue and red bars show annual differences from the 1971 – 2000 average, the solid black line is a smoothed time series, and the dotted line is the linear trend over 1909 to 2008 (0.92°C/100 years).

Yesterday the New Zealand Climate Science Coalition released an article challenging this rise using NIWA’s own data. They plotted the temperatures from the NIWA source data and got this graph.

Whereas the first shows a rise of ~1°C per century, the second shows no discernable rise. The difference between the 2 graphs? The second uses raw data, the first (probably) has adjusted the data.

About half the adjustments actually created a warming trend where none existed; the other half greatly exaggerated existing warming.

There are legitimate reasons why data can and should be adjusted. Cities grow and hence warm so later temperatures may be warmer, especially overnight. Different thermometers may be used that show a consistent measurable difference. But there are 2 comments to make about adjusting data. Firstly adjusted data should be labelled as such with the unadjusted data displayed alongside it and the factors the data was adjusted for.

Secondly, it makes a difference whether adjusting data removes or produces an association. Frequently differences in data are seen because they attributes of the data sets are different. If we compare test scores between highschools to create a league table it may be reasonable to correct for number of children in different grades as some schools may have more students at higher levels, or one school may only let its brightest children sit the test. But we should be more cautious about accepting an association that only appears after adjustment. It is not that there can be no difference, rather it is that enough statistical manipulation can show a difference and the reasons for the adjusted variables are then argued after the fact.

If you do find a difference after adjustment you need to check your adjustment factors are not associated with the variable that is under consideration, in this case you cannot adjust for time as time changes are what is being looked for; and you must validate your adjustment with an independent data set.

On top of the release of emails and computer code from the now infamous Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, UK; perhaps there might be some room for debate around the issues of climate change. Is it happening? Are humans responsible? Would it be detrimental? Should we pay attention to scientists who refuse to reveal their data and formulae?

>First day of winter

2009 May 31 2 comments

> Winter last year here was probably average, the year before that was very cold. The recent summer was reasonably warm with moderate heat waves over the country in late December early January. Late Autumn seems wetter and colder than usual.

All this is my subjective assessment based on memory. I have not checked the averages over the last few years and made comparisons. It is likely to be a reasonable assessment though, and I am happy to be corrected by locals who disagree.

I am going to make a prediction for this year’s winter. It may seem somewhat suspicious being so close to winter, especially given the recent cold snap, but I have been thinking about this since summer.

So I predict a colder than usual winter for this year.

My reasons for this are unrelated to anthropomorphic global warming because I remain a global warming sceptic. My reasons are

  • Sunspot minimum
  • La Nina
  • Pacific Decadal Oscillation

Not only are we in a sunspot minimum, we are in a particular long one; reminiscent of the quiet periods in late 19th century, though not to the extent of the Maunder minimum.

If the southern Pacific ocean temperature anomaly is greater than 0.5 °C for 5 periods it is an El Nino, if it is less than –0.5 °C it is a La Nina. Temperatures that show less excursion are neither. El Ninos and La Ninas are of variable duration but about 1–2 years. The last cycle was a La Nina ending mid 2008. The current anomalies are less than –0.5 °C for the last 4 cycles, so if the anomaly for March-April-May is also less than (or equal to) –0.5 °C then we are in another La Nina.

The Pacific Decadal Oscillation has a cycle of about 20–30 years. It has been in a warm phase since 1977. It (probably) switched to a cool phase in 2008.

All 3 features are associated with temperature. The ocean patterns may be reflective of temperature rather than a cause of it, but even if we don’t know the cause we can recognise the correlation. The current conditions of each of them individually suggest cool temperatures. All 3 of them in cool mode suggests to me that this winter is going to be colder than average.

>Are proofs of global warming actually myths?

2009 May 3 4 comments

> Andrew Bolt offers a refutation of several evidences of global warming* which he labels “myths.” The 10 proofs of global warming he refutes are

  1. The world is warming
  2. The polar caps are melting
  3. We’ve never had such a bad drought
  4. Our cities have never been hotter
  5. The seas are getting hotter
  6. The seas are rising
  7. Cyclones are getting worse
  8. The great barrier reef is dying
  9. Our snow seasons are shorter
  10. Tsunamis and other disasters are getting worse

The second is interesting, the amount of ice in the Antarctic has increased over the last 3 decades. That issue 1 is a myth is a pity as I think the biosphere would be more productive if it were warmer, especially in temperate and polar climes. Hopefully the higher CO2 will increase biomass despite lack of temperature increase.

He tackles issue 4 via record high temperatures. While interesting, it is not the best way to address it. Cities probably are warming via the urban heat island effect. (Though he is refuting claims, not suggesting these are the best claims).


*I would have linked to the Herald article but it has been taken down (as per some news sites’ bizarre policies of removing material older than some arbitrary duration). I have not reviewed the site linked to above that has a copy of the story. And here is an attempted refutation of Bolt.

Categories: climate change

>A prayer and a pledge for real change

2009 April 7 2 comments

>Soon after the election of Obama in the United States, Sojourners Chief Executive Officer Jim Wallis instigated a campaign to send letters to the White House requesting action on several issues. This does not apply to me as I am not a US citizen or resident. But the letter seems designed to have broad appeal to Christians. I take issue with what the letter requests and I have been meaning to offers some thoughts on this. The problem I see is that the appeal is not as broad as some may think, and when requests are too broad, the solutions proposed by various people may be vastly different.

Sojourners started in 1971. Their mission is to

articulate the biblical call to social justice, inspiring hope and building a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church, and the world.

The letter covers 4 areas: poverty, war, respect for life, and climate change.

Here are my brief responses to the presentation of these issues.

Overcome poverty, both here in our rich nation and globally. Your efforts to resolve the economic crisis must include those at the bottom, the poorest among us. You pledged during the campaign to mobilize the nation to cut domestic poverty in half in ten years and to implement the Millennium Development Goals to cut extreme global poverty in half.

He has a point. If money is going to be distributed it is probably better to give to those who have true struggles rather than rich men who have made poor decisions. Though perhaps consideration should be given to giving out no money at all. Letting people live with the consequences of their decisions (to an extent) is one of the better ways to prevent further poor decisions whether one is rich or poor.

The bigger issue is how we define poverty. US “poverty” and global “poverty” are hardly synonymous. I tend toward an absolute definition: no food, no clothing, no shelter; whereas political definitions are generally defined relatively which favour socialist theories. The gini index and the poverty line (the percentage of households whose income is below x% (eg. 50%) of the median income) are examples; though these are better called inequality indices, not poverty indices.

Thus a call to end poverty may result in policy determined to decrease income inequality which many people claim is counter-productive because it decreases total wealth of a country.

Find better ways than war to resolve the inevitable conflicts in the world. It is time to end the war in Iraq and emphasize diplomacy over military action in resolving problems in Iran and Afghanistan. We need better and smarter foreign policy that is more consistent with our best national values.

One does not want his leaders to be warmongers. And perhaps inadequate attempts have been made at diplomacy. But the idea that everything can be solved diplomatically is false. And avoiding war at all costs can mean inadequate opposition of despots and lead to abysmal living conditions. I make no claims in this post concerning what best be done about Afghanistan or Iraq currently, nor whether these invasions were wise decisions at the time. But the situation now exists and must be dealt with appropriately. Leaving may well be smart foreign policy. But this call seems to me to imply that war is always wrong and diplomacy always works. I am less than certain.

Promote a consistent ethic of life that addresses all threats to life and dignity. We must end genocide in Darfur, the use of torture, and the death penalty. I urge you to pursue common ground policies which can dramatically reduce abortions in America, and help bring us together on this divisive issue.

There are a multitude of issues with this request.

There is demand to leave Afghanistan and Iraq above, yet here is a demand to involve the US in Sudan. This does not necessarily mean the US places troops in Sudan, but what does the letter imply should be done if diplomacy fails. And if the US are to support United Nations troops in Sudan then why can the US not be involved sans UN. And if there is a moral argument for US forces with or without the UN in Sudan, surely there is possibly a moral argument for Afghanistan or Iraq.

Torture should be ended, though as much for perpetrators as victims. Evil men may well be deserving of pain. Shame and whipping may well be appropriate punishments; though this may possibly be defined as torture by opponents. But even if the recipient is indeed evil, the use of torture destroys the character of those performing it.

The use of “consistent” implies that all life should be preserved. This is not self apparent and may well be inconsistent. Many anti-abortionists also support the death penalty and a biblical argument can be made for capital punishment. And the call to reduce the death of innocents in the same paragraph as ending the death of the guilty seems morally confused. If a Christian is opposed to the death penalty and abortion, and he had the choice of ending one and minimising the other, it surely would be abortion that was ended.

Reverse the effects of climate change on God’s creation. We must learn a new way of living in America to end our dangerous dependence on Middle East oil. We need a spiritual commitment to stewardship and national policies that promote safe, clean, and renewable energy. You spoke of job creation and economic renewal with a new “green economy.”

I have previously indicated that I deny anthropomorphic global warming. I think minimising CO2 is both pointless in terms of the climate, and harmful in terms of the poor. It may be prudent to end dependency on Middle East oil, though a switch to Alaskan and offshore oil is perfectly acceptable. Private ownership of land will lead to better stewardship of the environment. While the government can introduce policy to maximise job creation and economic renewal, there are huge differences of opinion about what these policies are.

In conclusion I think there are several issues in this letter that are incorrect from a Christian perspective. Where there are issues of agreement (poverty bad, abortion bad, job creation good) the approach of various Christians to these ends differ dramatically. And a letter to a Democratic president, if effectual, is likely to lead to a socialist solution. From my point of view, while government action potentially could lead to improvements in such issues, the policies that will get enacted are likely to be counter-productive.

>Questioning the climate researchers

2009 January 13 1 comment

>Physicist William Happer is another global warming sceptic. He has recently joined the more than 600 scientists on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee list who deny anthropomorphic global warming, although he has been a sceptic for longer. He makes an interesting comment about a time when he was managing a $3 billion energy research fund.

Happer said he felt compelled to make sure it was being spent properly. “I would have [researchers] come in, and they would brief me on their topics,” Happer explained. “They would show up. Shiny faces, presentation ready to go. I would ask them questions, and they would be just delighted when you asked. That was true of almost every group that came in.”

The exceptions were climate change scientists, he said.

“They would give me a briefing. It was a completely different experience. I remember one speaker who asked why I wanted to know, why I asked that question. So I said, you know I always ask questions at these briefings … I often get a much better view of [things] in the interchange with the speaker,” Happer said. “This guy looked at me and said, ‘What answer would you like?’ I knew I was in trouble then. This was a community even in the early 1990s that was being turned political. [The attitude was] ‘Give me all this money, and I’ll get the answer you like.’ ”

People are excited when you are interested in something they find fascinating. They often want to tell you about it and explain how they see it. A stand-offish attitude is an unusual response, especially if it applies to a group with a shared interest rather than a single quirky individual.

Not wanting to answer questions about climate change, or offering to find the answer you desire in advance does not disprove the theory of global warming. It does however raise suspicions about the persons involved in the research. Their integrity is questionable*.

One could say, “It is not the theory I question, it is my trust in the theorists that is lacking.”


*This does not necessarily apply to every global warming insister. Several may be happy to explain the theory, offer a reasoned defence of it, and share their data. Further, deniers who do what I am condemning are just as wrong. However this is less likely for deniers in the current environment because the deniers are challenging the accepted dogma. The reigning paradigm is accepted as the default position.

Categories: climate change

>A theory that explains everything explains nothing

2008 December 28 4 comments

> I have been a little ticked at the number of times global warming is mentioned in connection with particular events when there is no association even reasoned. I guess, instead, I should be amused at the foolishness of men, except their political aspirations are too great and intentioned policies too invasive.

The associations of events with (non-existent) global warming remind me of the evolutionists just-so stories, people passing off their fantasies as fact. The concept that completely-fictional-stories-that-people-imagine-could-have-possibly-happened is even remotely representative of proper scientific investigation is ridiculous.

The claim that global warming is causing any current crisis is also ridiculous. The concern is future warming (albeit the near future). There has been no significant warming effect that one can currently blame CO2 for, and it looks like there may have been some cooling over the last few years.

John Brignell has compiled a list of all the things attributed to global warming, from acne to yellow fever. His list includes contradictory examples such as more and less hurricanes, more and less coral growth, warming and cooling, more and less maple syrup. (Some of the links are not effects, rather actions that people have advocated to halt global warming).

Now a cause can have more than one effect and even opposite effects depending on the conditions, but when a cause is claimed to result in every possible event it cannot true—based on the Law of Non Contradiction. A theory that explains everything really explains nothing. It is not predictive and it is not falsifiable. If global warming is claimed to cause everything how can it possibly be disproved?

Categories: climate change, philosophy

>Nitrogen and warmth are good for plants, who would have guessed?

2008 October 28 Leave a comment

> Researchers from the Forestry School at Michagan’s Technological University have been investigating acid rain since 1987. They have found that increased nitrogen and increased temperatures have lengthened the growing season by 10–11 days. Andrew Burton

found that the trees grow faster at higher temperatures and store more carbon at greater concentrations of nitrogen, a chemical constituent of acid rain, providing there is sufficient moisture.

The article mentions climate change, though any long term change in temperature is climate change whatever the cause. The unqualified mention of climate change carries an implicit anthropomorphic qualifier but this is neither proven nor disproven by these findings. It does remind us that increased temperatures are generally beneficial.

Are these findings overly surprising? It is definitely useful research. However we do need to remember that coal is metamorphic biomass. If we burn coal we are releasing the components of plants back into the biosphere. Coal is the stuff of trees. If coal is burnt well (to avoid the formation of new organic toxins) the sulphur, phosphorus, nitrogen, and trace elements are what plants use. The release of massive amounts of compounds in a focused area may have some unintended consequences, but that these compounds are good fertilisers is to be expected.

Any predictions for further research? The article mentions that the trees need sufficient moisture. Perhaps an increase in CO2 (related to temperature, not burning fuels) may allow more growth with less water as seen in other research.

Hat tip: Jay

Categories: climate change

>Questionable behaviour by the global warming alarmists

2008 September 17 4 comments

>I have been meaning to post on a paper by Christopher Monckton which discusses climate sensitivity. The article was interesting for several reasons. It was attempting to show that the climate models overestimate forcing by neglecting more significant attenuating factors. It was also interesting in that a disclaimer preceded the article which apparently was unprecedented and possibly incorrect.

The paper is slightly difficult to read, I struggled with aspects and I am trained in physics. There are some interesting comments in between the mathematics.

Some 20 temperature feedbacks have been described, though none can be directly measured. Most have little impact on temperature. The value of each feedback, the interactions between feedbacks and forcings, and the interactions between feedbacks and other feedbacks, are subject to very large uncertainties….

This does not necessarily mean the uncertainty of climate is high, it depends on how much influence these feedbacks have in the models. They may have negligible effects in predominantly solar models but are the major contributor to CO2 models. Which means the uncertainty of anthropomorphic climate models is high.

Even satellite-based efforts at assessing total energy-flux imbalance for the whole Earth-troposphere system are uncertain. Worse, not one of the individual forcings or feedbacks whose magnitude is essential to an accurate evaluation of climate sensitivity is mensurable directly, because we cannot distinguish individual forcings or feedbacks one from another in the real atmosphere, we can only guess at the interactions between them, and we cannot even measure the relative contributions of all forcings and of all feedbacks to total radiative forcing.

20 different feedbacks and they cannot be empirically distinguished. How can the modellers even know whether these things exist?

The discussion makes some interesting comments,

The IPCC’s methodology relies unduly – indeed, almost exclusively – upon numerical analysis, even where the outputs of the models upon which it so heavily relies are manifestly and significantly at variance with theory or observation or both. Modeled projections such as those upon which the IPCC’s entire case rests have long been proven impossible when applied to mathematically-chaotic objects, such as the climate, whose initial state can never be determined to a sufficient precision. For a similar reason, those of the IPCC’s conclusions that are founded on probability distributions in the chaotic climate object are unsafe.

With the subsequent conclusion noting 9 serial contingencies; 9 nested if/ then statements!

What motivated me to get around to this post is Monckton’s publication this month (pdf), Hockey Stick? What Hockey Stick? How alarmist “scientists” falsely abolished the Mediaeval Warm Period.


This paper analyses the events surrounding the release of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports, focusing on the infamous hockey stick graph. It reports a

swamp of misrepresentation, deceit, concealment and malfeasance

to such a degree that even if anthropomorphic global warming were a true phenomenon, the IPCC would be unable to discover it.

I will add that I do not find the evidence for a medieval warm period given in the later half of the paper particularly convincing. I think there was a medieval warm period, but I am not convinced by the examples and methods he reproduces.

Monckton’s conclusion is worth quoting at some length

The continuing affair of the “hockey-stick” graph is a microcosm of the profound collapse of the rigor, objectivity, and honesty that were once hallmarks of the scientific community. The need to look to the State for very nearly all science funding has inflicted upon the scientific community a dull, dishonest uniformity, so that the deliberate falsification of results to support the current official orthodoxy has become commonplace, particularly where the climate question is concerned.

It was bad enough that one of those behind the “hockey stick” affair should have told a fellow researcher, “We need to get rid of the medieval warm period.” It was worse that the authors of the bogus graph attempted to do just that, by ignoring, undervaluing or even suppressing proxies for northern-hemisphere temperature that did not suit the result they wanted; by falsely stating that they had used data they had in fact replaced with “estimates” of their own that gave them a less inconvenient answer; by overvaluing by many orders of magnitude the contribution of datasets that suited the result they wanted.

It was worse still that the IPCC, several leading journals and numerous former co-authors of the three fabricators of the hockey stick should have continued to cling to it as though it were Gospel even though it has been justifiably and utterly discredited in the scientific literature, and should have gone through an elaborate pantomime of rewriting and publishing previously-rejected papers with the connivance of a dishonest journal editor, so that an entirely fictitious scientific support for the false graph could be falsely claimed by the IPCC in its current Fourth Assessment Report.

The IPCC might have regained some of the scientific credibility that it lost by its publication of the 2001 graph if, in its 2007 assessment report, it had had the integrity, honesty, and common sense to apologise for the failure of its soi-disant “peer-review” process to identify the multiple and serious scientific errors that led to the publication of the graph.

As it is, the IPCC, rather than apologizing, has chosen to participate in the falsification of subsequent results purporting to uphold the original graph,… No serious scientist, therefore, can any longer take any of the IPCC’s conclusions seriously for a single moment longer. As Lord Lawson of Blaby has long argued, the IPCC should now be abolished. It cannot serve any useful purpose in future, because it has dishonestly lent its support not merely to the falsification of scientific results but to the persistent maintenance of that falsification. The IPCC is finished….

Is there, therefore, the slightest reason for the childish panic that the environmental extremist movement and its servant the IPCC have attempted to whip up? No. Should any government devote a single further penny to the climate scare? No. Even if humankind is contributing significantly to warmer weather (which is highly unlikely), adaptation to warmer weather as and if necessary would be orders of magnitude cheaper than the measures to reduce carbon emissions that the world’s extremist politicians are now so eagerly but purposelessly advocating.

The real cost of the flagrant abuses of the scientific method surrounding the question of climate that are so well illustrated by the affair of the “hockey stick” is a terrible, unseen cost in human lives. The biofuel scam that arose directly out of the climate scare has taken one-third of US agricultural land out of food production in just two years. Similar
economic disasters have occurred worldwide, not because of “global warming” but because of the catastrophically bad policy-making that the “global warming” scare has engendered among politicians too ignorant of science and too lazy to do other than swim with the rising tide of pseudo-scientific nonsense.

The environmental extremists, who have already killed 50 million children through malaria by their now-canceled ban on the use of DDT, the only effective agent against the anopheles mosquito that spreads the infective parasite, are already eagerly killing millions more through their latest scientifically-baseless scare – the “global warming” panic pandemic. Food riots are occurring throughout the world among the poorest of the poor in many countries: but the desperation, starvation, disease, and death that accompany the sudden famines that the biofuel-driven doubling of world food prices has engendered are scarcely reported by our news media. In Haiti, they are eating mud pies made of earth, water, a tiny knob of butter, and a pinch of salt; or they sell the mud pies to less fortunate neighbours at 3 US cents each. Has any Western news medium reported this, or the hundreds of other agonizing stories of famine and starvation all round the world? No. Instead, every icicle that falls in Greenland is paraded as an omen of imminent doom: and, as for the crooked pseudo-scientists who invented the hockey stick, supported it, and continue to parade it in the mendacious documents of the IPCC, no journalist would dare to ask any of them the questions that would expose their self-seeking corruption for what it is. These evil pseudo-scientists, through the falsity of their statistical manipulations, have already killed far more people through starvation than “global warming” will ever kill. They should now be indicted and should stand trial alongside Radovan Karadzic for nothing less than high crimes against humanity: for, in their callous disregard for the fatal consequences of their corrupt falsification of science, they are no less guilty of genocide than he.

If the alarmists are right, then it is important to bring attention to these “omens.” The issue may need to be addressed. But ideas have consequences. If they are wrong it is possible they have blood on their hands.

Categories: bias, climate change, physics

>Climate change headlines over the last century

2008 September 14 1 comment

>The Old Farmers Almanac 2009 creates an interesting timeline about climate change alarmism over the last ~100 years. (Click to enlarge if picture is small, then scroll.)

Categories: climate change

>Primer on global warming

2008 September 6 2 comments

>Interesting article on global warming by Geoffrey Duffy, professor at Auckland University. He covers basic climatic factors, atmospheric composition, contributions of various gases to the greenhouse effect, solar effects, and oceanic oscillations. He also covers computer modelling of the climate.

Unfortunately a lot of estimates and predictions are strongly based on theoretical computer models. Many now even trust models and their ‘theoretical results’ more than actual measurements and facts from reality. Computer analysis requires that the earth be ‘cut’ into small, separate areas (actually volumes), each being analysed for heat input/outputs and other gas/vapour fluxes. Even so the computational analysis domain size (basic computer grid elements) is huge, 150km x 150km by 1km high, with the current computer power. It is so large that the effects of even the very large clouds are not individually included; and that includes clouds in our visual horizon. The spatial resolution is therefore very poor. Supercomputers cannot give us the accuracy we need. Modellers therefore use parameters: ‘one factor fits’ all, for each of the domains (a kind of a ‘fudge factor’). This is sad, as water as vapour in clouds is 30 to 60 times more significant than other minute amounts of other greenhouse gases. Clearly climate simulations and thus predictions can be in serious error unless the actual cloud effects are well defined in the models. It is not only the number and spacing of the clouds in that 150 square kilometre area, but also cloud height effects, and cloud structure. These factors are not accounted for at all.

Inadequate modelling parameters; and he doesn’t even mention recent solutions to atmospheric equations which disprove runaway positive feedback.

I am in agreement with much of the article in general with some caveats.

  1. I disagree with his comment about greenhouses creating heat. While strictly true, it is slightly misleading in the article. While the effect does dampen fluctuations, it also contributes to global temperature and alterations in atmospheric composition may mean a different global temperature.
  2. I do not have much time for ice-core data which he also mentions.
  3. The comment about water contributing to 95% of the greenhouse effect, is probably correct, but the interaction between water and CO2 and their relative contributions is likely a little more complex and difficult to elucidate. However if clouds are included with water (ie. water does not just mean water vapour) then the 95% may turn out to be an underestimate.

He also discusses some of the consequences of the policies enacted.

The panic to do something about climate change has led to some unrealistic and unsustainable actions. For example, Bio-fuels from grain will greatly increase food prices and roughly 30 million people are expected to be severely deprived. The USA will use up to 30% of the annual corn crop for alcohol production for vehicles alone.

The problem with acting on errant beliefs is that there are always consequences, specifically negative ones. Worshipping the earth comes at the cost of hating the poor.

Increased demand for grain may lead to increased supply over time which may ameliorate this. And fortunately some sense seems to be coming to European legislators whose enthusiasm for biofuels is dampening. The same cannot be said for New Zealand which passed new laws mandating the inclusion of biofuels.

Categories: climate change, poverty

>Cold weather ahead?

2008 July 22 2 comments

>There is an ocean pattern in the Pacific called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. It has a warm mode and and cool mode and switches between these every 20–30 years or so. It has switched to the early stages of its cool mode this year. Cool modes seem to be predictive of cooler weather over their duration.

This combined with the current nadir of sunspots and no sign of the next sunspot cycle beginning, also a harbinger of cooler weather, means we could be in for a cold next few years.

Categories: climate change, science

>Are we about to enter a cycle of global cooling?

2008 July 14 2 comments

>

Late last month, some leading climatologists and meteorologists met in New York at the Energy Business Watch Climate and Hurricane Forum. The theme of the forum strongly suggested that a period of global cooling is about emerge, though possible concerns for a political backlash kept it from being spelled out.

However, the message was loud and clear, a cyclical global warming trend may be coming to an end for a variety of reasons, and a new cooling cycle could impact the energy markets in a big way.

Interesting ideas. I for one would like a warmer earth, but a delay long enough to disprove the global warming alarmists, fear-mongers and propagandists will be a good thing. I am not even certain the earth is getting particularly warmer even though I perceive the benefits. But sun watchers have noted that we are nearing the end of a sunspot cycle and the next one seems to be delayed. This would cause a cooler climate.

Speakers mentioned the sun’s impact, the lack of impact of CO2 on global climate and the fact that man-made CO2 is pitiful compared to natural production.

Categories: climate change

>Radiation in the atmosphere

>This diagram from Global Warming Art helps show the contribution of various gases to heat retention in the atmosphere.


On the spectral intensity graph the red line is the radiation coming from the sun. It is stylised by using a blackbox assumption feeding in the temperature at the surface of the sun. The red area is the radiation that is transmitted thru the atmosphere to the surface of the earth. The purple, blue and black lines are the radiation transmitted from the earth into space; again with a blackbox assumption based on temperature. The 3 lines represent 3 different temperatures from 210–310 K (–63 to +37 °C) due to the variation of the surface and atmospheric temperature over the earth. The blue area is what escapes into space.

The next graph shows the absorption of the radiation (energy) at various wavelengths. Both for inward and outward radiation; these are predominantly non-overlapping. A level of 100% means that no radiation at that frequency gets transmitted thru the atmosphere (ie. from space to earth on the left side of the graph or from earth to space on the right side of the graph). A level of 0% means that all radiation is transmitted.

Note that this is as a percentage of incident radiation, but as can be seen from the first graph, there is not the same amount of radiation for all frequencies. Thus high absorption near peaks of radiation is more important than high absorption at nadirs. Thus the resultant effect is seen in the first graph in the solid red and blue areas. The white area of the second graph is nearly a mirror image of the first graph (though stretched at low spectral intensities due to the first being an absolute scale and the second being a relative scale as mentioned).

The bottom graph shows the spectral absorption of various gases and the effect of Rayleigh scattering. There is no scale on the y-axis but it is a percentage scale like the second graph. Note it goes from 0–100% for each of the 5 gases.

Several things can be appreciated here. The most obvious being how important water is to heat absorption. Water reacts moderately to the incident solar radiation and significantly with the outgoing earth radiation. Any modelling of the climate that neglects to incorporate the effect of water, or treats it as an unchanging constant is virtually guaranteed to be incorrect. And this is just water vapour! The cloud effect is much more complicated.

The interesting thing about CO2 is that several of the absorption lines correspond to wavelengths that are of minor consequence. They lie at the tails of the solar and earth spectral intensities. So the CO2 intensity band of most interest is the far right one. This band is important. It is wide and it is absorbs 100% of the incident radiation. It is also in an area where water absorbs a significant amount of radiation and given that there is far more water than CO2 in the atmosphere, the contribution from water at this frequency is not negligible.

Categories: climate change, science

>What deserts can teach about global warming

2008 July 5 2 comments

>This is an interesting article from a retired physicist. The comments on earth age and evolution are errant (and the later assumption tangential to the argument). What took my notice was this comment:

Anyone who has lived in a desert area where the relative humidity is frequently below 5%, knows that dry air is a lousy green house gas. It can be 115 degrees F (46 degrees C) during the day yet cool off so rapidly that a sweater is needed two or three hours after sunset. Despite the heat sink of the ground with rocks hot enough to fry an egg, the heat is radiated rapidly away through the dry air to the clear night sky. Since dry desert air has about the same .04% concentration of carbon dioxide as air everywhere else, it is not credible to conclude that carbon dioxide is causing global warming.

Water vapor is the most effective greenhouse gas by far. With high humidity, even without cloud cover, the night air cools at a rate so slow as to be nearly imperceptible, particularly if you are trying to sleep without air conditioning.

While not disproving global warming by itself, this statement reminds us how much more important water is to atmospheric temperature than carbon dioxide.

Categories: climate change

>Global warming sceptics get it

>Blair D at Avoca Valley Life alerted me to an article in the Christian Post: Christians Launch Campaign against Global Warming Hype.

While it may seem like everyone believes in global warming and the impending catastrophe it will bring, a group of conservative Christians countered that message Thursday by launching a national campaign to gather one million signatures for a statement that says Christians must not believe in all the hype about global warming.

They helpfully note a significant reason to be opposed to global warming political action (other than the fundamental reason: the theory is false):

Opponents of the popular global warming view say that until all scientists can agree that global warming is as severe as some claim and that it is mainly human-induced, they are against any policies that would raise energy costs because they would put the lives of millions in jeopardy based on uncertain or debatable scientific evidence.

The campaign is an American national endeavour called We Get It. They seek to get a million signatures to their declaration. While not open to myself due to location reasons, it is reasonable and there is nothing specifically I would oppose.

The We Get It! Declaration:

God Said It
God created everything. He made us in His own image, and commanded us to be fruitful and multiply and watch over His creation. Although separated from God by our sin, we are lovingly restored through Jesus Christ, and take responsibility for being good stewards.

We Get It
Our stewardship of creation must be based on Biblical principles and factual evidence. We face important environmental challenges, but must be cautious of claims that our planet is in peril from speculative dangers like man-made global warming.

They Need It
With billions suffering in poverty, environmental policies must not further oppress the world’s poor by denying them basic needs. Instead, we must help people fulfill their God-given potential as producers and stewards.

Let’s Do It
We will follow our Lord Jesus Christ and honor God as we use and share the principles of His Word to care for the poor and tend His creation.

While one may not necessarily subscribe to all their suggestions for individual action, the declaration is probably acceptable to most who are Christian and sceptical of the climate change polemic. So if any Christian citizens of the US read here from time to time you may wish to pay a visit, or even consider signing.

(Only do so of your own conviction, I would not sign something popular if I was dubious of it, and even some things I moderately approve of I am cautious to add my name to; but if you do so, could you note it in the comments, even anonymously?)

>Hurricanes not evidence for global warming

2008 March 1 4 comments

>My previous post mentioned recent data showing cooling. I usually follow links to the source. I was either remiss or the DailyTech did not initially have the links. Either way, the compilation of the source data is here. The data has been further normalised and smoothed.

This site mentioned a recent press release from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They have found that the number of hurricanes has not increased

…economic damages from hurricanes have increased in the U.S. over time due to greater population, infrastructure, and wealth on the U.S. coastlines, and not to any spike in the number or intensity of hurricanes.

and that there is no correlation between global warming and hurricane damage

There is nothing in the U.S. hurricane damage record that indicates global warming has caused a significant increase in destruction along our coasts.

The report appears to assume global warming.

Of course this press release has neglected to be mentioned in most news outlets.

The hurricane connection was always suspicious. When a link was not found in the all-hurricane data the analysis was restricted to category 4 and 5 hurricanes. This is suspect as multiple analyses will always lead to some apparent correlation that is purely chance. And better data collection means more recent hurricanes are likely to be graded higher than old ones of the same intensity.

Actually a warmer earth would likely lead to less hurricanes if the warming was predominantly the poles. This is due to the smaller difference in temperatures between the equator and the poles. Thermodynamics shows that work available is related to the difference in temperature. Hurricanes are quite complicated and not fully understood so this prediction is at the lowest level.

Categories: climate change