Archive for January, 2010

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Ensemble reconstruction constraints on the global carbon cycle sensitivity to climate (Abstract)

January 27, 2010

Nature 463, 527-530 (28 January 2010)

David C. Frank1,2, Jan Esper3, Christoph C. Raible2,4, Ulf Büntgen1, Valerie Trouet1, Benjamin Stocker2,4 & Fortunat Joos2,4

The processes controlling the carbon flux and carbon storage of the atmosphere, ocean and terrestrial biosphere are temperature sensitive and are likely to provide a positive feedback leading to amplified anthropogenic warming.   Owing to this feedback, at timescales ranging from interannual to the 20–100-kyr cycles of Earth’s orbital variations warming of the climate system causes a net release of CO2 into the atmosphere; this in turn amplifies warming. But the magnitude of the climate sensitivity of the global carbon cycle (termed γ), and thus of its positive feedback strength, is under debate, giving rise to large uncertainties in global warming projections8, 9. Here we quantify the median γ as 7.7 p.p.m.v. CO2 per °C warming, with a likely range of 1.7–21.4 p.p.m.v. CO2 per °C. Sensitivity experiments exclude significant influence of pre-industrial land-use change on these estimates. Our results, based on the coupling of a probabilistic approach with an ensemble of proxy-based temperature reconstructions and pre-industrial CO2 data from three ice cores, provide robust constraints for γ on the policy-relevant multi-decadal to centennial timescales. By using an ensemble of >200,000 members, quantification of γ is not only improved, but also likelihoods can be assigned, thereby providing a benchmark for future model simulations. Although uncertainties do not at present allow exclusion of γ calculated from any of ten coupled carbon–climate models, we find that γ is about twice as likely to fall in the lowermost than in the uppermost quartile of their range. Our results are incompatibly lower (P < 0.05) than recent pre-industrial empirical estimates of ~40 p.p.m.v. CO2 per °C, and correspondingly suggest ~80% less potential amplification of ongoing global warming. (Bold added).

1. Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, Zürcherstrasse 111, CH-8903 Birmensdorf, Switzerland
2. Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research, University of Bern, Zähringerstrasse 25, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland
3. Department of Geography, Johannes Gutenberg University, Becherweg 21, 55099 Mainz, Germany
4. Climate and Environmental Physics, Physics Institute, University of Bern, Sidlerstrasse 5, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland

The upshot – IPCC estimates may be off by 80 percent.  Oh, my mistake….. the science is, of course,  settled 🙂

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Prior to Obama’s 1st State of the Union Address

January 27, 2010

Very interesting poll numbers regarding the general public’s concerns.  I hope that our new President is listening.

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Why Climategate is so distressing to scientists

January 21, 2010

by John P. Costella | December 10, 2009

The most difficult thing for a scientist in the era of Climategate is trying to explain to family and friends why it is so distressing to scientists. Most people don’t know how science really works: there are no popular television shows, movies, or books that really depict the everyday lives of real scientists; it just isn’t exciting enough. I’m not talking here about the major discoveries of science—which are well-described in documentaries, popular science series, and magazines—but rather how the process of science (often called the “scientific method”) actually works.

The best analogy that I have been able to come up with, in recent weeks, is the criminal justice system—which is (rightly or wrongly) abundantly depicted in the popular media. Everyone knows what happens if police obtain evidence by illegal means: the evidence is ruled inadmissible; and, if a case rests on that tainted evidence, it is thrown out of court. The justice system is not saying that the accused is necessarily innocent; rather, that determining the truth is impossible if evidence is not protected from tampering or fabrication.

The same is true in science: scientists assume that the rules of the scientific method have been followed, at least in any discipline that publishes its results for public consumption. It is that trust in the process that allows me, for example, to believe that the human genome has been mapped—despite my knowing nothing about that field of science at all. That same trust has allowed scientists at large to similarly believe in the results of climate science.

Until now.

So what are the “rules” of the scientific method? Actually, they are not all that different from those of the justice system. Just as it is a fundamental right of every affected party to be heard and fairly considered by the court, it is of crucial importance to science that all points of view be given a chance to be heard, and fairly debated. But, of course, it would be impossible to allow an “open slather” type of arrangement, like discussion forums on the Internet; so how do we admit all points of view, without descending into anarchy?

This question touches on something of a dark secret within science one which most scientists, through the need for self-preservation, are scared to admit: most disciplines of science are, to a greater or lesser extent, controlled by fashions, biases, and dogma. Why is this so? Because the mechanism by which scientific debate has been “regulated” to avoid anarchy—at least since the second half of the twentieth century—has been the “peer review” process. The career of any professional scientist lives or dies on their success in achieving publication of their papers in “peer-reviewed” journals. So what, exactly, does “peer-reviewed” mean? Simply that other professional scientists in that discipline must agree that the paper is worthy of publication. And what is the criterion that determines who these “professional scientists” should be? Their success in achieving publication of their papers in peer-reviewed journals! Catch-22.

It may seem, on the surface, that this circular process is fundamentally flawed; but, borrowing the words of Winston Churchill, it is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried. Science is not, of course, alone in this respect; for example, in the justice system, judges are generally selected from the ranks of lawyers. So what is it that allows this form of system work, despite its evident circularity?

The justice system again provides a clue: judges are not the ones who ultimately decide what occurs in a courtroom: they simply implement the laws passed or imposed by the government—and politicians are not, in general, selected solely from the ranks of the legal profession. This is the ultimate “reality check” that prevents the legal system from spiraling into navel-gazing irrelevance.

Equivalent “escape valves” for science are not as explicitly obvious, but they exist nonetheless.

Firstly, a scientific discipline can maintain a “closed shop” mentality for a while, but eventually the institutions and funding agencies that provide the lifeblood of their work— the money that pays their wages and funds their research—will begin to question the relevance and usefulness of the discipline, particularly in relation to other disciplines that are competing for the same funds. This will generally be seen by the affected scientists as “political interference”, but it is a reflection of their descent into arrogance and delusions of self-importance for them to believe that only they themselves are worthy of judging their own merits.

Secondly, scientists who are capable and worthy, but unfairly “locked out” of a given discipline, will generally migrate to other disciplines in which the scientific process is working as it should. Dysfunctional disciplines will, in time, atrophy, in favor of those that are healthy and dynamic.

The Climategate emails show that these self-regulating mechanisms simply failed to work in the case of climate science—perhaps because “climate science” is itself an aggregation of many different and disparate scientific disciplines. Those component disciplines are extremely challenging. For example, it would be wonderful if NASA were able to invent a time machine, and go back over the past hundred thousand years and set up temperature and carbon dioxide measurement probes across the breadth of the globe. Unfortunately, we don’t have this. Instead, we need to infer these measurements, by counting tree rings, or digging up tubes of ice. The science of each of these disciplines is well-defined and rigorous, and there are many good scientists working in these fields. But the real difficulty is the “stitching together” of all of these results, in a way that allows answers to the fundamental questions: How much effect has mankind had on the temperature of the planet? And how much difference would it make if we did things differently?

It is at this “stitching together” layer of science—one could call it a “meta-discipline”— that the principles of the scientific method have broken down. Reading through the Climate-gate emails, one can see members of that community usually those with slightly different experience and wisdom than the power-brokers questioning (as they should) this “stitching together” process, particularly with regard to the extremely subtle mathematical methods that need to be used to try to extract answers. Now, these mathematical and statistical methods are completely within my own domain of expertise; and I can testify that the criticisms are sensible, carefully thought-out, and completely valid; these are good scientists, asking the right questions.

So what reception do they get? Instead of embracing this diversity of knowledge— thanking them for their experience (no one knows everything about everything) and using that knowledge to improve their own calculations—these power-brokers of climate science instead ignore, fob off, ridicule, threaten, and ultimately black-ball those who dare to question the methods that they—the power-brokers, the leaders—have used. And do not be confused: I am here talking about those scientists within their own camps, not the “skeptics” which they dismiss out of hand.

This is not “climate science”, it is climate ideology; it is the Church of Climatology.

It is this betrayal of the principles of science—in what is arguably the most important public application of science in our lifetime—that most distresses scientists.

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Michael Mann’s Climate Stimulus – A case study in one job ‘saved.’

January 21, 2010

In reference to my earlier post “Michael Mann’s very unhappy New Year”  This from the WSJ (1/20/2010)

As for stimulus jobs—whether “saved” or “created”—we thought readers might be interested to know whose employment they are sustaining. More than $2.4 million is stimulating the career of none other than Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann.

Mr. Mann is the creator of the famous hockey stick graph, which purported to show some 900 years of minor temperature fluctuations, followed by a spike in temperatures over the past century. His work, which became a short-term sensation when seized upon by Al Gore, was later discredited. Mr. Mann made the climate spotlight again last year as a central player in the emails from the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit, which showed climatologists massaging data, squelching opposing views, and hiding their work from the public.

Mr. Mann came by his grants via the National Science Foundation, which received $3 billion in stimulus money. Last June, the foundation approved a $541,184 grant to fund work “Toward Improved Projections of the Climate Response to Anthropogenic Forcing,” which will contribute “to the understanding of abrupt climate change.” Principal investigator? Michael Mann.

He received another grant worth nearly $1.9 million to investigate the role of “environmental temperature on the transmission of vector-borne diseases.” Mr. Mann is listed as a “co-principal investigator” on that project. Both grants say they were “funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.”

The NSF made these awards prior to last year’s climate email scandal, but a member of its Office of Legislative and Public Affairs told us she was “unaware of any discussion regarding suspending or changing the awards made to Michael Mann.” So your tax dollars will continue to fund a climate scientist whose main contribution to the field has been to discredit climate science.

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SORRY, BUT THIS STINKS

January 19, 2010

Perhaps I was a bit too hasty in condemning the IPCC’s Pachuri for incompetence.  What may look like scientific incompetence may just be good old-fashioned greed.  These IPCC folks are as sleazy as the proverbial
“used car salesman”.  In the world of academics, grants are the life blood and nothing is better for generating grant money than outrageous statements attached to AGW. The following is from Pielke’s blog: rodger.pielkejr.blogspot.com

Roger Pielke Jr., 18 January 2010

The IPCC treatment of Himalayan glaciers and its chairman’s conflicts of interest are related. The points and time line below are as I understand them and are informed by reporting by Richard North.

1. In 2007 the IPCC issues its Fourth Assessment Report which contains the false claim that the Himalayan glaciers are expected to disappear by 2035.

2. The basis for that statement was a speculative comment made to a reporter by Syed Hasnain in 1999, who was then (and after) a professor at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.

3. Following the publication of the IPCC report, and the widespread media coverage of the false claim about Himalayan glaciers, Dr. Hasnain joins TERI as a Senior Fellow, where Dr. Pachauri is the director.

4. Drs. Pachauri and Hasnain together seek to raise fund for TERI for work on Himalayan glaciers, justified by the work of the IPCC, according to Dr. Pachauri just last week:

“Scientific data assimilated by IPCC is very robust and it is universally acknowledged that glaciers are melting because of climate change. The Energy & Resources Institute (TERI) in its endeavor to facilitate the development of an effective policy framework and their strategic implementation for the adaptation and mitigation of climate change impacts on the local population is happy to collaborate with the University of Iceland, Ohio State University and the Carnegie Corporation of New York.”

5. When initially questioned about the scientific errors Dr. Pachauri calls such questions “voodoo science” in the days leading up to the announcement of TERI receiving funding on this subject. Earlier Dr. Pachauri criticized in the harshest terms the claims made by the Indian government that were contrary to those in the IPCC

Pachauri said that such statements were reminiscent of “climate change deniers and school boy science”.

6. Subsequent to the error being more fully and publicly recognized, when asked by a reporter about the IPCC’s false claims Dr. Pachauri says that he has no responsibility for what Dr. Hasnain may have said, and Dr. Hasnain says, rather cheekily, the IPCC had no business citing his comments:

“It is not proper for IPCC to include references from popular magazines or newspapers.”

Of course, neither Dr. Pachauri nor Dr. Hasnain ever said anything about the error when it was receiving worldwide attention (as being true) in 2007 and 2008, nor did they raise any issues with the IPCC citing non-peer reviewed work (which is a systemic problem). They did however use the IPCC and its false claims as justification in support of fund raising for their own home institution. At no point was any of this disclosed.

If the above facts and time line is correct (and I welcome any corrects to details that I may have in error), then what we have here is a classic and unambiguous case of financial conflict of interest. IPCC Chairman Pachauri was making public comments on a dispute involving factual claims by the IPCC at the same time that he was negotiating for funding to his home institution justified by those very same claims. If instead of climate science we were instead discussing scientific advisors on drug safety and funding from a pharmaceutical company to the advisory committee chair the conflict would be obvious.

Climate science desperately needs to clean up its act.

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SUNSPOTS AND SOLAR CYCLE 24 UPDATE

January 19, 2010

The following is an e-mail to Benny Peiser of the UK who maintains a comment e-mail site on climate science called CCNetMedia. Posted on Monday 1/18/2010.   The long-term review of earth climate data (long-term meaning over the last several million years) has demonstrated the strong correlation of glaciations/interglacials with sunspot activity. The mechanism appears to be related to the ability of the Sun to deflect cosmic rays intensity on the Earth during periods of high sunspot activity.  Cosmic ray activity is strongly linked with cloud formation (more clouds – less direct solar heating – more cooling).  The Sun has been unusually quiet for the past 24 months and weather is responding as has been theorized.

Dear Benny

As of the end of December, the cumulative number of spotless days (days without sunspots) in the transition into solar cycle 24 now stands at 771. The number of spotless days are beginning to taper off. There were only 10 spotless days in December. It appears very likely that the final number when this solar minimum comes to a close will be in the 800’s. It is fairly obvious now that the sun is undergoing a state change.

The Average Magnetic Planetary Index (Ap index) is a proxy measurement for the intensity of solar magnetic activity as it alters the geomagnetic field on Earth. It has been referred to as the common yardstick for solar magnetic activity. An Ap index of “4” was the lowest recorded monthly value since measurements began in January 1932.

For 11 months, from November 2008 to September 2009, the Ap index had hovered near rock bottom with readings of 4’s and 5’s. But in October and November 2009, the index broke through the glass floor and spawned the lowest Ap monthly index value in the past 77 years with values of “3”. Now in December the Ap Index has sunk even lower setting a new record with a reading of “2”.

I find it interesting that at the same time the sun’s magnetic field is breaking record lows that the Northern Hemisphere is experiencing the coldest temperatures in decades. Massive cold waves and heavy snowfall are battering North America, Europe, Russia, China and India. In the U.S., October 2009 was the third coldest October in 115 years of record keeping. December 2009 produced the 14th coldest December on record. In the U.K. and China, December brought the coldest December in three to four decades.

There are those that deny that a link exists between the sun’s magnetic field and natural climate change. These are the real deniers. The sun’s magnetic field controls the flux rate of galactic cosmic rays (GCRs) into the inner solar system where Earth resides. As GCRs drill down into our lower atmosphere over the oceans they ionize particles of moisture to form clouds. Greater cloud cover causes sunlight to be reflected back into deep space. When there is less sunlight, the Earth cools. This is a natural process. This process, related to changes in the sun’s magnetic field, modulates Earth’s temperatures. Those that deny this process ignore the fact that Henrik Svensmark at the Danish National Space Center in Copenhagen in 2006 demonstrated the process through scientific experiments. Galactic cosmic rays are a very effective amplifying mechanism for natural climate forcing because the energy needed to change cloudiness is small compared with the resulting changes in solar radiation received at the Earth’s surface.

James A. Marusek

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IPCC MISLED WORLD OVER HIMALAYAN GLACIER MELTDOWN

January 19, 2010

I continues to amaze me how little the airing of “dirty laundry” on the fraud that is the UN IPCC gets in the US mainstream media.  In the UK, the media does seem to have a bit more on the ball (at least sometimes).  This from the Sunday Times exposing the previous ludicrous IPCC projections about Himalaya glaciers and the absolute fantasy that they would all be melted by 2035;  exposing the complete lack of scientific review some of the pronouncements that comes out of the UN group.  Unbelievable lack of any due-diligence  – and this without the intentional fraud that characterize some of the other pronouncements.

The Sunday Times January 17, 2010

Jonathan Leake and Chris Hastings

A warning that climate change will melt most of the Himalayan glaciers by 2035 is likely to be retracted after a series of scientific blunders by the United Nations body that issued it.

Two years ago the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued a benchmark report that was claimed to incorporate the latest and most detailed research into the impact of global warming. A central claim was the world’s glaciers were melting so fast that those in the Himalayas could vanish by 2035.

In the past few days the scientists behind the warning have admitted that it was based on a news story in the New Scientist, a popular science journal, published eight years before the IPCC’s 2007 report.

It has also emerged that the New Scientist report was itself based on a short telephone interview with Syed Hasnain, a little-known Indian scientist then based at Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi.

Hasnain has since admitted that the claim was “speculation” and was not supported by any formal research. If confirmed it would be one of the most serious failures yet seen in climate research. The IPCC was set up precisely to ensure that world leaders had the best possible scientific advice on climate change.

Professor Murari Lal, who oversaw the chapter on glaciers in the IPCC report, said he would recommend that the claim about glaciers be dropped: “If Hasnain says officially that he never asserted this, or that it is a wrong presumption, than I will recommend that the assertion about Himalayan glaciers be removed from future IPCC assessments.”

The IPCC’s reliance on Hasnain’s 1999 interview has been highlighted by Fred Pearce, the journalist who carried out the original interview for the New Scientist. Pearce said he rang Hasnain in India in 1999 after spotting his claims in an Indian magazine. Pearce said: “Hasnain told me then that he was bringing a report containing those numbers to Britain. The report had not been peer reviewed or formally published in a scientific journal and it had no formal status so I reported his work on that basis.

“Since then I have obtained a copy and it does not say what Hasnain said. In other words it does not mention 2035 as a date by which any Himalayan glaciers will melt. However, he did make clear that his comments related only to part of the Himalayan glaciers. not the whole massif.”

The New Scientist report was apparently forgotten until 2005 when WWF cited it in a report called An Overview of Glaciers, Glacier Retreat, and Subsequent Impacts in Nepal, India and China. The report credited Hasnain’s 1999 interview with the New Scientist. But it was a campaigning report rather than an academic paper so it was not subjected to any formal scientific review. Despite this it rapidly became a key source for the IPCC when Lal and his colleagues came to write the section on the Himalayas.

When finally published, the IPCC report did give its source as the WWF study but went further, suggesting the likelihood of the glaciers melting was “very high”. The IPCC defines this as having a probability of greater than 90%.

The report read: “Glaciers in the Himalaya are receding faster than in any other part of the world and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate.”

However, glaciologists find such figures inherently ludicrous, pointing out that most Himalayan glaciers are hundreds of feet thick and could not melt fast enough to vanish by 2035 unless there was a huge global temperature rise. The maximum rate of decline in thickness seen in glaciers at the moment is 2-3 feet a year and most are far lower.

Professor Julian Dowdeswell, director of the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University, said: “Even a small glacier such as the Dokriani glacier is up to 120 metres [394ft] thick. A big one would be several hundred metres thick and tens of kilometres long. The average is 300 metres thick so to melt one even at 5 metres a year would take 60 years. That is a lot faster than anything we are seeing now so the idea of losing it all by 2035 is unrealistically high.”

Some scientists have questioned how the IPCC could have allowed such a mistake into print. Perhaps the most likely reason was lack of expertise. Lal himself admits he knows little about glaciers. “I am not an expert on glaciers.and I have not visited the region so I have to rely on credible published research. The comments in the WWF report were made by a respected Indian scientist and it was reasonable to assume he knew what he was talking about,” he said.

Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC chairman, has previously dismissed criticism of the Himalayas claim as “voodoo science” (So much for his expertise!).

Last week the IPCC refused to comment so it has yet to explain how someone who admits to little expertise on glaciers was overseeing such a report. Perhaps its one consolation is that the blunder was spotted by climate scientists who quickly made it public.

The lead role in that process was played by Graham Cogley, a geographer from Trent University in Ontario, Canada, who had long been unhappy with the IPCC’s finding.

He traced the IPCC claim back to the New Scientist and then contacted Pearce. Pearce then re-interviewed Hasnain, who confirmed that his 1999 comments had been “speculative”, and published the update in the New Scientist.

Cogley said: “The reality, that the glaciers are wasting away, is bad enough. But they are not wasting away at the rate suggested by this speculative remark and the IPCC report. The problem is that nobody who studied this material bothered chasing the trail back to the original point when the claim first arose. It is ultimately a trail that leads back to a magazine article and that is not the sort of thing you want to end up in an IPCC report.”

Pearce said the IPCC’s reliance on the WWF was “immensely lazy” and the organisation need to explain itself or back up its prediction with another scientific source. Hasnain could not be reached for comment.

The revelation is the latest crack to appear in the scientific consensus over climate change. It follows the so-called climategate scandal, where British scientists apparently tried to prevent other researchers from accessing key date. Last week another row broke out when the Met Office criticised suggestions that sea levels were likely to rise 1.9m by 2100, suggesting much lower increases were likely.

Copyright 2010, TST