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  1. When they go ahead and submit the literature, will the peer review give it a pass or fail in whole? This layman wants to know.

    Comment by Mark Jones — 12 Nov 2009 @ 12:06 AM

  2. A reply:

    [Response: Way to go Roger! Reduce everything to a triviality of attribution and completely ignore the substance. Just so we’re clear, ‘puzzled’ and ‘surprised’ doesn’t equal ‘angry’ and the issue is not who should get the credit but whether the answer is right. If you are happy putting your name on clearly incorrect work, go right ahead. Readers can judge your credibility accordingly. – gavin]

    Comment by Roger Pielke, Jr — 12 Nov 2009 @ 12:27 AM

  3. This is the problem. Many scientists were fooled in the seventies into thinking paranormal activity was real, because they were essentially trusting and couldn’t conceive of, let alone identify, the fraud that was committed. It took James Randi (a former professional magician) and others to point out the fraud, which was obvious to anyone with a similar background.

    Your statement here is both refreshing as well as depressing:

    “Why put things in the literature that you know are wrong?”

    It is refreshing because it is naively honest, which is a good thing. It is depressing because it fails to recognize many people’s motives are less than pure. This is not an insult, without such a straightforward approach, science would never have advanced to where it is today.

    As a small and simple blogger, I have wasted far too much time answering the same questions over and over, but I cannot imagine the difficulty scientists must face doing the same thing, with their mandatory (and often self-imposed) requirements of rigorousness and comprehensive documentation.

    I realize much of what you must respond too has little validity, and would normally be ignored. Yet because of the political climate, especially in the US, many scientists feel obligated to respond, which results in, as you mention, a great deal of wasted effort that could better be spent elsewhere.

    In terms of non-scientists, I have proposed that there are limits on free speech, and perhaps the public promotion of global warming denial might be classified the same as holocaust denial is in some countries:

    As far as scientists are concerned, I’m not suggesting a Soviet model. There should be no censorship of any kind. At the same time, gratuitous and flagrantly political publications should be treated as such. We must allow data, evidence and rationality to be the last word. Attempts to subvert the scientific process should be identified and dealt with appropriately. As I mention in the above article, this is not an academic issue (no pun intended), the lives of millions are at stake.

    Comment by Canada Guy — 12 Nov 2009 @ 12:48 AM

  4. Just to be clear, I am absolutely not interested in having this comment thread devolve into a pointless round of misrepresentation, misquotation and mudslinging that seem to have enveloped other parts of the climate blogosphere in recent weeks. Please stick to substantive points and leave the distracting noise to people who have nothing better to talk about.

    Comment by gavin — 12 Nov 2009 @ 12:53 AM

  5. gavin,

    I have seen the rationale given in Klotzbach et al. in public talks by John Christy concerning the usage of nighttime temperatures in estimates of global mean temperature anomalies. Specifically, he has made reference, several times, to a warm bias introduced in using the night-time boundary layer in detecting the accumulation of heat from GHG’s. Perhaps you can elaborate on the importance of this effect or if it’s of consequence?

    [Response: It’s a complete red herring. If anyone had used the surface temperature record to estimate the accumulation of heat from GHGs then they may have had a point. But despite the fact that they have made this point numerous times, they have never once shown any paper or study that made this assumption. Levitus et al (2001) for instance used the reanalysis heat content changes directly in their assessment of heat content changes. Thus one is left with the impression that they are simply using this as a tactic to try and imply that there is something wrong with the surface temperature record as the surface temperature record. There may well be issues with this metric, but variations in PBL physics have nothing whatsoever to do with it. – gavin]

    Comment by Chris Colose — 12 Nov 2009 @ 2:03 AM

  6. Gavin,
    As the CTO of a high tech company, I often get frustrated when technical discussions and debate expand to a nontechnical audience. When that happens, the perspective or opinion that wins is often not the correct one. One big factor for nontechnical folks is how each side comports themselves. Arm waving, ad homenium attacks, and sloppy data are often noticed by the audience and can hurt ones position. Hyperbole often is noticed as well. In this case Klotsbach et al gets a strike for not changing their submission to reflect your data and its effect on their numbers. It makes them look sloppy.

    What this dispute does confirm is that the peer review process is cumbersome and ineffective. Webblogs help but are not the solution. For me I like the idea that scientists with different points of view should produce a joint paper detailing the points of contention and their individual supporting evidence. Why not do that?

    Comment by BoulderSolar — 12 Nov 2009 @ 2:03 AM

  7. Your search engine isn’t working for me so I’m asking this here: Dave X handed me a quotation from Technology Review for 15 October 2004. It says that Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick found a flaw in the computer program that produced the hockey stick. Dave X thinks that all of your data came out of a computer simulation, not from the actual data that I know that you used. Could you tell me the right files to download and print out for Dave X?

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 12 Nov 2009 @ 2:40 AM

  8. Hi Gavin

    when I look at the folowing trends for land 1979-2008

    NOAA :0.315°C/dec
    GISS : 0.183°C/dec
    RSS LT : 0.203°C/dec

    the amplification coefficient is 0.64 for NOAA-RSS and 1.11 for GISS-RSS.

    So, I suppose that there are some ocean influences in the GISS data.

    But, I don’t know in fact.

    Can you explain a little more?

    [Response: Not sure what numbers you are actually quoting from (it matters). Cites? Note that indices that just use met stations are not ‘land-only’. – gavin]

    Comment by pascal — 12 Nov 2009 @ 3:21 AM

  9. Gavin: I sincerely hope your statement at point 4 will be chosen as the new motto for RC, all its contributors, and all its commenters!

    Comment by Maurizio Morabito — 12 Nov 2009 @ 7:32 AM

  10. A reply to your post and comment #2

    [Response: Hi Roger, Please point me to one study anywhere in the literature which has used the surface temperature record to infer changes in the heat content of the atmosphere. Just one. – gavin]

    Comment by Roger A. Pielke Sr. — 12 Nov 2009 @ 9:10 AM

  11. Hello BoulderSolar,
    Don’t you think it is an over generalization to claim the “…peer review process is cumbersome and ineffective.” based on any specific example? That tars and feathers a process that is self corrective (and this is the important point) over time? I know people are impatient and good at leaping to conclusions using simplistic black or white views of the world but I think the responses to this original paper, such as Gavin’s post above, are part of the process. Who knows? Papers have been effectively dismantled by the science community and in this case only the non experts will use Phil Klotzbach’s as a source as the data have now become suspect.

    Comment by Mark Schaffer — 12 Nov 2009 @ 9:31 AM

  12. Also,
    One of the original posts on Real Climate was about the peer review process and is well worth the time to read BoulderSolar.

    Comment by Mark Schaffer — 12 Nov 2009 @ 9:32 AM

  13. Wow.

    Looking at the difference in magnitudes from the published table 1 from Kea09, AND the altered table 1 that the authors redid with Gavin’s input which was posted during August in RPJr.’s blog here, AND seeing how the published figs 1 & 2 differ with the figure posted by Gavin here…It’s a pretty big stretch for the authors to conclude that “the opinion that the differences made by using the correct amplification factors are minor.”

    Comment by Former Skeptic — 12 Nov 2009 @ 10:18 AM

  14. Hi again Gavin

    in response to #8,the sources are

    for NASA :

    for NOAA

    and for RSS :

    [Response: For GISS the data you should be looking at is -gavin]

    Comment by pascal — 12 Nov 2009 @ 10:36 AM

  15. thanks Gavin

    With this source the trend is 0.279°C/decade (1979-2009)
    It’s nearer NOAA data.
    I don’t understand the difference between the source I cited and “your” source.
    But, if we take 0.28°C/dec for land, the difference with RSS TLT temperature is greater.
    I understood that the models give an amplification factor of 1.
    But If the data are now good the amplification factor is only 0.71.

    [Response: Not sure. Some of it might be related to the latitudinal masks but you’d probably want to look at the full lat-lon data with consistent land masks to do this properly. – gavin]

    Comment by pascal — 12 Nov 2009 @ 11:16 AM

  16. add to my precedent post.

    I computed the amplification by comparing trends but I think you are speaking about individual data, not trends.
    Is it correct?

    Comment by pascal — 12 Nov 2009 @ 11:33 AM

  17. The corrections in the amplification factor obviate the conclusions of Klotzbach et al. I never did get around to doing a post on this, but in comments at James Annan’s blog, I made the following points, which still seem relevant to me.

    Gavin Schmidt has pointed out that essentially all strong amplification is found over ocean, at least in the GISS model. (Of course, this makes intuitive sense as soon as it’s raised).

    Now if you look at K et al’s response incorporating estimated factors from GISS, you see better agreement between HadCRU (amplified) and sats over land than over ocean (and of course globally). So not only is the effect greatly reduced, it’s hard to argue that the discrepancy between expected and observed amplification is due to “bias” over land.

    The large discrepancy between UAH and RSS should also give pause. It’s difficult to draw any conclusions about the genesis of sat-surface discrepancies while that equally large discrepancy remains unresolved. And other estimates of tropospheric temperature (Fu, Vinnikov) are even higher than RSS.

    Finally, not only did K et al not use a reasonable amplification factor for land, but they also did not account for the inherent uncertainty in the estimate of amplification. A more cogent analysis would follow the lead of past analyses by Santer et al and compare model mean amplification with observed, properly taking into account the various uncertainties.

    I’m particularly mystified at John Christy’s participation in this. He of all researchers should have realized that the land amplification facor was incorrect, even before Gavin Schmidt spoke up.

    Comment by Deep Climate — 12 Nov 2009 @ 12:04 PM

  18. Dumbo Admission:

    I have no idea of the issues at stake in this.

    What is the point of the original study? What issue or issues does it address? Is it a substantive study or is it a curiosity designed for its rhetorical use?

    Comment by Jeffrey Davis — 12 Nov 2009 @ 12:33 PM

  19. #15

    Gavin raises a valid point, namely that land masks may not be exactly the same in all data sets.

    But there do seem to be significant discrepancies in differential rates of warming between land and ocean in the three surface data sets. Like the UAH-RSS discrepancy, this is a confounding factor for any analysis of tropospheric amplification that purports to pinpoint a consistent source of discrepancy between expected and observed amplification.

    By the way, here is a link to the table of corrected discrepancies (with the older calculated discrepancies in parentheses).

    Notice that when the corrected amplification factors are used, all comparisons now show significant difference, except HadCRU-RSS over land.

    Klotzbach’s assertion that the correction engenders only “minor” differences can not be taken seriously.

    Comment by Deep Climate — 12 Nov 2009 @ 12:33 PM

  20. Re: 17…

    I also noted the discrepancy between UAH and RSS in the paper. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t RSS the group that pointed out and correced the (substantially) flawed analysis of UAH on the satellite data way back when?

    Comment by robert — 12 Nov 2009 @ 12:40 PM

  21. Here’s another way to look at it, based on ranking of discrepancies between expected and observed amplification (using an avearge for the two satellite sets).

    Uncorrected amplification:

    1) NCDC – UAH/RSS Land
    2) HadCRU – UAH/RSS Land
    3) HadCRU – UAH/RSS Ocean
    4) NCDC – UAH/RSS Ocean

    With corrected amplification:

    1) NCDC – UAH/RSS Land
    2) HadCRU – UAH/RSS Ocean
    3) NCDC – UAH/RSS Ocean
    4) HadCRU – UAH/RSS Land

    Comment by Deep Climate — 12 Nov 2009 @ 1:04 PM

  22. Hi Gavin – In response to your reply to comment #10, the issue is the vertical distribution of positive temperature trends that is used as a measure of radiative forcing. There are many papers that discuss this, including what I presented in my post this morning []; i.e.

    “Radiative forcing [RF] can be related through a linear relationship to the global mean equilibrium temperature change at the surface (delta Ts): delta Ts = lambda * RF, where lambda is the climate sensitivity parameter (e.g.,Ramaswamy et al., 2001).

    The lower troposphere is also expected to have a linear relationship to the radiative forcing although amplified relative to the surface; e.g. see Figure 5.6 for the tropics in CCSP 1.1. Chapter 5.”

    As another example, the National Research Council report[] on pages 19 has the text

    “According to the radiative-convective equilibrium concept, the equation for determining global average surface temperature of the planet is

    dH/dt = f – T’/lambda,

    where H is the heat content of the land-ocean-atmosphere system and T′ is the change in surface temperature in response to a change in heat content….. In principle, T′ should account for changes in the temperature of the surface and the troposphere, and since the lapse rate is assumed to be known or is assumed to be a function of surface temperature, T′ can be approximated by the surface temperature.”

    [Response: I’m sorry but I don’t follow this at all. The relationship between radiative forcing and surface temperature defines climate sensitivity. You don’t come up with climate sensitivity independently of that definition and then redefine what Ts means. Please read Hansen et al (2005) for discussions of the various issues in that definition and the potential variation in that definition (or rather the definition of the effective forcing) dependent on different forcings. There is nowhere in that paper, or any other, that relies on some assumption about atmospheric heat content anomalies. Not a single one. The quote from the NRC report is, frankly, a little odd, since it is bizarre that anyone would attempt to calculate the surface temperature (which is well observed) using the atmospheric heat content and climate sensitivity (which are not). So can you point me to an independent study that has attempted to do this? – gavin]

    To return to the finding of our paper, are you concluding, in contrast to our finding, that there are no statistically significant differences in the lower tropospheric and surface temperature trends?

    [Response: Of course there are, but this has been known for years. The issue is whether those differences are important or expected as has been stated in multiple papers prior to this one. Half of your paper using an incorrect expectation (based on the McKitricks’ inadvertently mistaken calculation) and the other half doesn’t address the issue at all (since no real physical process in the PBL can cause a bias in the surface temperature records). At best, you could be arguing that improvements to the realism of the PBL physics in the models would change the expectation of the difference in MSU and surface trends, but this is not something you address at all. – gavin]

    Comment by Roger A. Pielke Sr. — 12 Nov 2009 @ 1:44 PM

  23. Gavin, point taken.

    Comment by Rod B — 12 Nov 2009 @ 2:02 PM

  24. I hate to be off-topic, but did anyone see the November 2009 issue of Physics Today? Scafetta and West posted a letter in response to Duffy, Santer and Wigley’s January 2009 article, in which they provided a rebuttal of Scafetta and West’s March 2008 article on solar variability and climate change. In their letter, Scafetta and West actually bring up the petition of 30,000 scientists in their defense, saying there is no convincing evidence of anthropogenic global warming. Shocking, but not surprising!

    [Response: Actually they do much worse. They claim that the evidence for Milankovitch forcing of the ice ages implies that the planet is hypersensitive to solar irradiance variations. They claim that mainstream science has declared that only humans can change CO2. They cite the NIPCC as a ‘comprehensive research review’ (ha!). Oh dear. – gavin]

    Comment by Jeff L. — 12 Nov 2009 @ 2:18 PM

  25. Deep Climate wrote:

    Gavin Schmidt has pointed out that essentially all strong amplification is found over ocean, at least in the GISS model. (Of course, this makes intuitive sense as soon as it’s raised).

    Personally I didn’t know why globally there should be greater warming in the lower troposphere than at the surface. I only knew that there should be.

    However, Gavin had written in the main essay:

    For reference, the amplification is related to the sensitivity of the moist adiabat to increasing surface temperatures (air parcels saturated in water vapour move up because of convection where the water vapour condenses and releases heat in a predictable way).

    … and I knew that there should be a drying out of the continental interiors.

    Oceans are by far the greatest source of moisture. But having a greater thermal inertia than land (in part no doubt to ocean circulation), they warm more slowly than land. Now since relative humidity remains roughly constant at the ocean surface and the air’s capacity to hold water increases with temperature, relative humidity will actually decrease over land, particularly as one enters the continental interiors.

    But if the amplified warming of the lower troposphere relative to the surface is a function of the moist adiabat, what this would suggest is that in the continental interior the lower troposphere should warm more slowly than the surface. After all, what causes nights to warm more quickly than days as the result of enhanced greenhouse effect is the greater dependence of night-time heat loss upon thermal radiation rather than the moist air convection that dominates during the day.

    Moist air is lighter air, and moist air rises. And the process of condensation where moist air forms clouds is the process by which the latent heat is released — warming the lower troposphere while cooling the surface. As such, the drying out of the continental interiors should result in a reduction in the rate at which heat is transfered from the surface to the lower troposphere.

    And this seems to be what Gavin is describing — although it is still within the 95% range.

    Gavin had written in the main essay:

    The land-only ‘amplification’ factor was actually close to 0.95 (+/-0.07, 95% uncertainty in an individual simulation arising from fitting a linear trend), implying that you should be expecting that land surface temperatures to rise (slightly) faster than the satellite values.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 12 Nov 2009 @ 3:08 PM

  26. Is the mistake minor or more than minor?

    It seems that the main thrust of the paper (I only read the abstract) is to sow doubt about the scientific observations relating to global warming — which would make the errors major. Who reads past abstracts anyway?

    It makes it seem the ground observations may be wrong, since as everyone knows satellites garner more public respect than boy scout weatherbird stations on ground. Ground people just lose in an “expert contest” with unmanned instrumentation on hi-tech flying machines. And most people (like me) don’t know much about “moist adiabat” or “convection” either.

    The only we have to go on, besides RC, is one author’s name is “John Christy,” which for those laypersons in the know immediately makes it look like its from denialist-ville, or from the “how can we twist and tweak the ‘science’ to make it look like AGW is not happening” folks.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 12 Nov 2009 @ 3:31 PM

  27. With respect to your statement that “No one calculates the surface temperature (which is well observed) using the atmospheric heat content”. I do not know how you made this bizzare interpretation of the quotes from the reports I provided to you!

    [Response: Your quote stated exactly that the equation for determining T of the planet involved an equation using the rate of change of the heat content, the forcing and lambda. I do not recognise that anyone determines T in such a fashion. -gavin]

    In your original post, you wrote

    “Please point me to one study anywhere in the literature which has used the surface temperature record to infer changes in the heat content of the atmosphere”.

    I have done that in the NRC (2005) report and the CCSP report which is in the chapter that Ben Santer authored.

    [Response: Sorry, but no. I have no objection to the CCSP quote in the slightest. But it is completely un-responsive to my question since it does not address atmospheric heat content at all. And despite the NRC quote (on which you were a co-author) I still don’t see anyone actually calculating H using T. Show me one such calculation. – gavin]

    Now that I have answered your challenge to the question in your original post, you have changed the question to “”No one calculates the surface temperature (which is well observed) using the atmospheric heat content”. Of course, we don’t and no one has claimed this! You have mis-represented what I wrote with this later claim.

    [Response: I just read what you quoted. I agree it would be a bizarre thing to do (progress!). – gavin]

    The authors of the [with the”odd” quote] NRC report, besides myself, were Daniel Jacob, Roni Avissar, Gerald Bond, Stuart Gaffin, Jeff Kiehl, Judith Lean, Ulricke Lohmann, Michael Mann, V. Ramanthan and Lynn Russell. For you then to state that the “quote from the NRC report is, frankly, a little odd” simply means you disagree with it. The peer reviewed NRC report assessed the climate communities perspective on the surface temperature anomaly and what this metric means in terms of radiative forcing and climate system heat changes. Your disagreement with the statement in that report is with a wider community than just the authors of the Klotzbach et al 2009 paper.

    [Response: Had I peer reviewed it, I would have questioned it. I didn’t, and so there it is. I’m perfectly happy to be in disagreement with a few lines of an NRC report (these are good, but not infallible). However, there is still not a single calculation that uses this formulation that I can see. If this was so widely supported by the community, there would be an actual paper that used this equation to calculate atmospheric heat content anomalies surely? Yet there is not. – gavin]

    On your statement that “Half of your paper using an incorrect expectation (based on the McKitricks’ inadvertently mistaken calculation) and the other half doesn’t address the issue at all (since no real physical process in the PBL can cause a bias in the surface temperature records)”

    indicates that you still do not accurately report on (or understand) our paper. First, Ross McKitrick’s calculations were not mistaken but used a set of data from your GISS model output.

    [Response: Unfortunately, it appears to be you that just doesn’t understand. The subset of model output that McKitrick used (which was provided for a completely different issue) is not capable of giving the metric you want. It doesn’t matter what model it came from. I did do the calculation that you wanted and let you have the full raw data to check it. The answer is very different from what you got from McKitrick. Did you find my calculation in error perhaps? If so, let me know and we can see what the issue is. In the meantime you appear to be arguing with me over what the GISS model shows for amplification of the MSU-LT trends over land. There is no argument here – McKitrick’s answer is not correct (though his error was inadvertent). Your refusal to take the correction on board appears to be quite deliberate. Why? – gavin]

    Moreover, to state that “half” of our paper depends on that calculation is wrong. Our results are robust even without using an amplification.

    [Response: This makes no sense. What is your result then? Comparing two trends without having a reason to think about how they should be related allows you to conclude nothing. – gavin]

    Second, the bias in using the surface temperature trends is in its interpretation as a metric of temperature trends above the surface. We have clearly shown (in several of our papers) that a systematic warm bias exists when the surface temperature measurements are in a stably stratified boundary layer, and the lower troposphere warms. The Klotzbach et al 2009 paper examined this issue and concluded this is a robust result.

    [Response: But (and now we are apparently back to square one), no one has ever made that interpretation! If they had, there might be some point to this, but they haven’t. The only paper I know that used the energy content of the atmosphere in a calculation (Levitus et al, 2001) used the energy content metric directly from a reanalysis. Perhaps you know of another example? – gavin]

    As we have written before, we look forward to a formal exchange with you on this issue in the peer-reviewed literature as part of a Comment/Reply.

    [Response: I tried really hard to help you guys out with this one, under the naive assumption that you would want to get it right all on your own. I didn’t have to check McKitrick’s calculation, let alone do the proper calculation myself and embroil myself in yet another pointless debate. You chose (are choosing) instead to persist in error despite having the right answer given to you, and the tools at your disposal to check the calculation any which way you want. Dr. Klotzbach said that you were going to put in a corrigenda and I urge you to do so and to make it substantive. – gavin]

    Comment by Roger A. Pielke Sr. — 12 Nov 2009 @ 3:46 PM

  28. Scafetta and West want the orbital forcing alone to explain all of the ice age variations? What climate sensitivity would that imply? What temperature rise and drop would they then expect through the 11-year solar cycle? This is fascinating.

    Comment by tharanga — 12 Nov 2009 @ 4:39 PM

  29. Re Jeffrey Davis #18

    In terms of the gold that a climate science denier might find in the paper, at the very least, they could argue that the fact that the troposphere isn’t warming more quickly than the surface shows that the climate models are unreliable — even though the models predict just the pattern of warming that we see — with the troposphere warming more quickly than the surface over the ocean but less quickly than the surface over land. But there could be bigger payoffs.

    Previously, when it appeared that the tropical troposphere was warming no more quickly than the surface, they claimed that the view that the tropical troposphere would warm more quickly was specific to warming due to an enhanced greenhouse effect. They concluded that therefore with the tropical troposphere warming no more quickly than the surface, the warming trend had to be due to something other than the accumulation of greenhouse gases and enhanced greenhouse effect. Solar activity? Cosmic rays? Hot-tempered leprechauns? Didn’t matter so long as it wasn’t greenhouse gases. But they could make the same argument here.

    Of course none of this is the intent of the authors of the paper and they would most assuredly find such misinterpretations of their work most distressing.

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 12 Nov 2009 @ 4:51 PM

  30. Roger Pielke Sr. opines:

    We have clearly shown (in several of our papers) that a systematic warm bias exists when the surface temperature measurements are in a stably stratified boundary layer, and the lower troposphere warms.

    One of these studies can be assumed to be the infamous Lin et al 07 paper based on the OKC mesonet, which RPSr. has often referenced as observational support for the Pielke & Matsui 05 paper (which is ALSO frequently used by RPSr.) for this particular hobbyhorse of his.

    Yet, he writes this after being corrected on Lin et al 07 by Urs Neu:

    “The actual bias from the Lin et al. data under light winds at night is a cold bias. The -0.46 +/- 0.29ºC per 10 meters per decade in Figure 3e means that the lapse rate at night became steeper. If this bias was representative of the land areas of the Earth, it would mean that the IPCC underestimated the magnitude of the IPCC estimate of global warming.” (my emphasis)

    It gets better – despite this, RPSr concludes in the same blog post, in his favorite bold font, with underlined text no less:

    In summary, the error in my interpretation of the Lin et al lapse rate trends does not alter the conclusions in Pielke and Matsui 2007 (sic) and Klotzbach et al. 2009. We present scientific evidence that any effect which reduces the slope of the vertical temperature profile within a stably stratified surface boundary layer will introduce a warm bias, while any process that increases the magnitude of the slope of the vertical temperature profile in a stably stratified surface boundary layer will introduce a cool bias, remains a robust finding based on boundary layer dynamics.”

    So is it a warm or cold bias then? Dr. Pielke, I’m sorry, but I’m terribly confused by your selective logic. Your only observational study contradicts your rather unconvincing theoretical 2005 paper. And now Gavin rightly points out that the Klotzbach et al. paper has a rather peculiar and apparently significant booboo, possibly negating the above conclusion on your blog post.

    One thing’s for certain. That corrigendum will be an interesting read…

    Comment by Former Skeptic — 12 Nov 2009 @ 5:54 PM

  31. Sorry, this is just a little off topic.

    I have been having trouble for over a year in getting into the site.

    I would really like to see the figures showing tropospheric temperatures, and also the figure that shows SST by latitude over time. (That one is really scary.)

    I’m in Brazil, and I have this problem with no other U.S. site.

    I have even had to ask friends to go to the site and copy figures for me.

    Does anyone else have the same trouble?

    Comment by Tenney Naumer — 12 Nov 2009 @ 6:02 PM

  32. About this lack of correction by the authors — if it happens again with the same bunch, just indicate your concerns directly to the journal’s editor (but you’ve probably already thought of that).

    Comment by Tenney Naumer — 12 Nov 2009 @ 6:04 PM

  33. #32

    Here is an email I wrote to JGR back on Sept. 9:

    Can comments be submitted for “in press” papers? What is JGR policy in the case that a comment or other communication reveals a major flaw in a paper not yet published? Can the authors withdraw the paper for revision? Can JGR require them to do so in such a case?

    If your online policies address these questions, please provide the relevant link.

    Here is the reply:

    An individual(s) can write a comment on a manuscript that is currently on
    the “papers in press” site, however, it is recommended to write a comment
    once the manuscript has actually been published. The manuscripts on the
    “papers in press” site have yet to be reviewed by a copy editor. Once a
    manuscript has passed through copy editing, there is a chance that some
    changes may have been made.

    If you decide to write a comment on a manuscript, the comment will have to
    go through the review process. If the editor decides to move your comment
    forward, the authors of the manuscript will receive an opportunity to submit a reply to your comment. Both you and the authors will get one opportunity to revise your manuscripts.

    Below is a link for information on comment and reply:

    Notice that the JGR response did not even address the notification of flaw issue. From this I concluded that the only way to get a revision was to alert the authors, as Gavin did.

    I have to say, this is yet another black eye for JGR, on the heels of McLean et al and Lindzen and Choi.

    Comment by Deep Climate — 12 Nov 2009 @ 6:42 PM

  34. This emphasizes the virtue of the open review process at such journals as Climate of the Past.

    [Response: Only if you can get the authors to put themselves out there. – gavin]

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 12 Nov 2009 @ 8:16 PM

  35. Deep Climate,

    Its not possible for the journal to adjudicate if there is a “flaw” in a paper that is about to be published just based on the say-so of a correspondent. If Gavin had written to the journal and complained of a flaw, should the editors have withdrawn this paper? Clearly the authors don’t agree with Gavin, and the peer reviewers did not pick up the flaw he noted, so either the reviewers were ignorant or careless, or the flaw is not obvious.

    In this case, the proper thing to do is write the authors, as Gavin has done, and try and get them to fix their mistake. If they don’t, either because they are obstinate, or because they do not accept the argument given, then the paper will be published. If the point is important, then Gavin should either write a correspondence, which will be peer reviewed and to which the original authors can respond, or he could write a full paper. In either case, science has been served because a point that got past two or three peer reviewers has been a) shown to be important, and b) clarified or corrected.

    Peer review is not a perfect system, but its relatively self-correcting. I expect it is strong enough to withstand a little “muddying”.

    Comment by Jody Klymak — 12 Nov 2009 @ 9:23 PM

  36. #35 Jody Klymak

    I realize my foray was somewhat naive. I was hoping that JGR could be spared further embarrassment on the heels of the McLean et al debacle. Note as well that I was also asking JGR to confirm if the *authors* could withdraw the paper at that stage.

    But as Eli implies, the real issue is that JGR’s peer review process appears to be broken. I’m not sure that science or public discourse is well-served by the publication of such clearly sub-standard papers as Klotzbach et al and McLean et al, although I suppose most of the damage will be to JGR’s reputation.

    The process for selection of reviewers is not clear from my reading the AGU site. Perhaps there is a problem with that process, for example if authors can propose or nominate reviewers. But without more detail on how reviewers are chosen, it’s impossible to comment further.

    I’m sure Gavin will submit a comment. But first he’ll have to wait for the corrigendum I suppose.

    Comment by Deep Climate — 12 Nov 2009 @ 9:58 PM

  37. It seems that GS thought he had an understanding with the authors after all that correspondence.

    Now it is going to be “once bitten, twice shy.”

    If such a thing happened to me, just once, the next time it looked like occurring again, I would keep very meticulous recorded notes and records of the correspondence, and I would certainly get them to the journal editor.

    These things are not as cut and dried as they may appear to be in the “Instructions to Authors” or the response given to Deep Climate (#33). I say this as a former technical editor for Elsevier Science Publishers in Amsterdam. Well, that was 25-30 years ago, and this is now, but the from manuscript to in print journal article still has flexibility in the process.

    Comment by Tenney Naumer — 12 Nov 2009 @ 10:01 PM

  38. “The process for selection of reviewers is not clear from my reading the AGU site. Perhaps there is a problem with that process, for example if authors can propose or nominate reviewers. But without more detail on how reviewers are chosen, it’s impossible to comment further.”

    AGU journals ask for nominations, and (it seems) editors rarely use their own initiative to stray outside that list (of course, some eds may do so). So all an author has to do to get something published is sign up a few friends who will willingly wave sub-standard research through the process if its conclusions suit their agenda.

    FWIW, not so long ago I reviewed a particularly nonsensical paper for an AGU journal, I rejected it firmly twice, with clear explanations as to the error, and it was published anyway. I never received any notification of the decision or reasons behind it from the editor, the first I knew of it was when I saw the paper in print. I believe it will sink without trace as the whole concept is nonsense and has no significant implications, thus have no plans to write any comment. Peer review is only one small step towards an idea becoming established in the scientific community. In the context of this current debate, I think it is reasonable to predict that comment or not, Klotzbach et al 2009 will have little influence on future research directions and synthesis reports.

    Comment by James Annan — 12 Nov 2009 @ 10:58 PM

  39. #37

    I followed the exchange pretty closely at the time. The tone at the Pielkes’ site went from honey dripping invitations to collaborate to vituperation pretty quickly.

    I had no impression that the authors actually intended to correct the paper, or that they even understood how monumental the amplification factor error was.

    Frankly, one aspect that was a red flag was the immediate release of correspondence by Pielke Jr. That was a decidedly odd move under the circumstances.

    Comment by Deep Climate — 12 Nov 2009 @ 11:11 PM

  40. #39 James Annan

    I agree K et al will have little scientific impact, but it will enter the contrarian canon along with a handful of other papers that get touted over and over again in the blogosphere. That’s a valid motivation to counter it, in my opinion. The Foster et al response to McLean et al was salutary for the same reason.

    Thanks for your insights into the AGU publication process. It explains a lot.

    Comment by Deep Climate — 12 Nov 2009 @ 11:19 PM

  41. Gavin, I was one of the co-authors of the paper. In response to your assertion that surface temperatures have not been used to track the heat content of the atmosphere. Consider the following. Have historical surface temperatures been used as evidence of global warming? Is the threat of global warming only about surface temperatures? (Remember you don’t get any feedbacks if only the surface has warmed.} This implies that the global change community has always used surface temperatures as a metric (although not 1 to 1) for temperature change in the deep atmosphere.

    [Response: Perhaps you misunderstand me. I would not claim that heat content and upper atmosphere temperatures are unconnected to the surface trends. But your papers claim of a ‘bias’ in the surface temperature record *if* it is used as a linear predictor of atmospheric heat content only makes sense *if* indeed people had used it in that sense. I can find absolutely no evidence for that. -gavin]

    What the global change community (through the NRC and CCSP reports) always asserted and then used to discount the radiosonde and UAH satellite trends was that the deep troposphere should not warm less than the surface and in fact based on models globally the troposphere should warm 1.2 more (the amplification factor). Thus, global amplification factors that Klotzbach et al. used were in keeping with the past usage.

    [Response: this is fine for the global temperatures. You however decided that this applied to land-only averages, for which previous estimates don’t hold (for clear physical reasons), based in part on a calculation which both you and McKitrick misinterpreted.]

    Now your GISS amplification factors show over land the amplification is of order 1. rather than the 1.2 used. It is ironic that in all of the physical arguments in our paper we are actually arguing that due to sensitivity of the stable boundary layers that actual amplification factors should be less than one. In fact I suspect that the real amplification factors are well less than 1.0. Thus, to have an amplification factor of 1.2 is certainly wrong. While the paper posed the argument that using a model 1.2 amplification factor we reject that the troposphere and surface trends are the same. In fact our real argument turned around is that we reject a model amplification of 1.2 and even 1.0 over land since that is inconsistent with the observational analysis of observed ratios of surface and lower troposphere trends.

    [Response: That would have been fine, though the structural uncertainties in the MSU records would have been an important caveat. ]

    We never argued that the surface temperatures were wrong. We said they were biased if all you consider as having warmed the surface was greenhouse gas forcing.

    [Response: That doesn’t follow, and in any case you did very strongly indicate that the surface records were contaminated. Nowhere in your paper did you discuss attribution, and so whether the trends were being caused by GHGs or solar or whatever was not tested or addressed.]

    GCMs have a terrible time in resolving the physics of the stable boundary layer. The GCM model performance in warming in minimum temperatures through the long historical runs is not good at all. Thus, I contend that as we add more realism in terms of land use change and stable boundary layer resolution in GCMs that the model amplification will continue to go down over land. To the point that we will finally accept what the NRC report and CCSP would not – that surface temperatures have warmed more than lower tropospheric temperatures.

    [Response: If the answer that you seem to prefer here had been explicit in your paper, there would have been no problem, and I don’t see why you would have been so hostile to the corrected calculation I made. Instead your co-authors seem to feel differently. Perhaps you should have a quiet word. – gavin]

    Comment by Richard McNider — 12 Nov 2009 @ 11:20 PM

  42. It would be nice if just once McI would “audit” a “denier” paper. The last two highly touted ones, McLean, et. al. and Klotzbach, et. al. both had fatal flaws which were far worse than Mann, et. al. (2008) or Briffa, et. al. (2008).

    Picking nits vs. utter destruction.

    Comment by Rattus Norvegicus — 13 Nov 2009 @ 12:22 AM

  43. re 5 and others

    The effect which should introduce a bias in the surface temperature record is the following:
    The nocturnal boundary layer at light wind conditions decouples the surface from the troposphere above through cooling at the surface and building a so-called inversion (where temperature increases with height). The proposed effect is, that if the cooling at the surface and thus the building of the inversion is altered over time by any effect (be it GHGs, clouds, vegetation cover etc.), the difference between surface temperature and temperature of higher levels might change. This would mean that trends at the surface and in layers heigher above might be different.
    There are several problems with this theory:
    – This so-called bias only refers to the difference between surface and lower troposphere temperatures, and not to surface temperature as such
    – This effect only occurs in some regions during light wind nights. There is no evidence, that this part-time and locally restricted effect has any significant effect on global temperature.
    – This bias can be positive or negative and depends on the trends of the influencing factors. Klotzbach et al. just assume that it is a warm bias, without any observational evidence at all. In contrary, the only observational evidence shows a cold bias (as has been corrected for the Lin et al. paper after some e-mail discussion with the authors).

    Although I think there might be such an effect (that’s where I agree with the authors), it is probably very small, it might be in both directions, and there isn’t any evidence for it by now (that’s where I disagree with the authors).

    Comment by Urs Neu — 13 Nov 2009 @ 5:39 AM

  44. [b]
    It would be nice if just once McI would “audit” a “denier” paper.

    Funny that.

    Comment by lumpy — 13 Nov 2009 @ 6:24 AM

  45. Re Deep Climate 17:

    You should also add NOAA NESDIS satellite analysis to the group with higher tropical troposhere trend compared to UAH or RSS:

    I also wonder why the author of this paper included only the two MSU analysis with lower tropical trends and excluded vinnikov-grody and SNO analysis.

    Comment by gp2 — 13 Nov 2009 @ 8:02 AM

  46. My last comment here:

    Our paper depends upon a warming trend accompanied by increasing greenhouse gas concentrations. It is perfectly consistent with anthropogenic greenhouse warming (in fact it depends on it), and may suggest a mechanism for better reconciling divergent temperature trends at the surface and lower troposphere (See Urs Neu above at #43). The details will be worked out in the literature and our work is certainly not the last word. That is how the peer review process works. I hope that Gavin does submit a comment as that is how science works.

    [Response: Science would work a lot faster if authors corrected their own work when errors were found. – gavin]


    [Response: I’m not in the least bit interested in your bruised feelings because of some manufactured slight that you perceive in the comments. In any case, commenters are responsible for their own words and publication in no way implies that they reflect the views of me or RC as a whole. I’m pretty sure that goes for your blog too. – gavin]

    Also, the invitation to Gavin to collaborate on a subsequent piece remains open, however, so far he has declined the invitation. Surely that would be a good opportunity to work together rather than through blogs, which this post shows are not a particularly good way to advance understandings.


    [Response: That would be great, except… oh, I don’t know,… maybe the fact that you’ve recently called me a liar and a thief and accused me of ‘baiting’ our readers to be mean to you, all the while completely ignoring the pretty mundane substance of the complaint here in lieu of pretending this is just about me wanting a citation in your paper? Nah, that couldn’t be it.

    If I might offer a little advice, you would do well to try and emulate your co-authors, particular your father and Richard McNider (above), who provide good object lessons of how people can disagree over substance and yet discuss issues without getting personal and without misrepresenting the other person’s statements. Try it and see. Who knows where that might get you? Thanks! – gavin]

    Comment by Roger Pielke, Jr — 13 Nov 2009 @ 9:10 AM

  47. #43 I read back through the chain of paper, and in Pielke and Matsui (2005) which is really a thin thing that comes down to calculating the potential temperature profile at a height z (more or less quoting here) Δθ(z) for a “continually turbulent stable clear night boundary layer over a flat surface”

    Drive the wind speed to zero and you end up with a zero thickness scale length, an infinite temperature difference between ground and the layer a micron up. In other words, at some point this little model fails. It probably is not too bad for the upper range of the wind scale used, but, of course, in that case the scale length will also be larger, e.g. the layer thicker and the lapse rate not as extreme.

    If this is correct, the entire house of cards falls, because the contribution from low wind speeds is overestimated drastically.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 13 Nov 2009 @ 9:51 AM

  48. Roger Pielke Jr. writes: “Surely that would be a good opportunity to work together rather than through blogs, which this post shows are not a particularly good way to advance understandings.”

    I hope Roger will keep that in mind before continuing to promote the various manufactured controversies and rantings of the McIntyre/Watts/contrarian crowd, almost exclusively a product of the blogosphere and not the peer-reviewed literature.

    I also tend to concur with Gavin that scientists should work to correct clear errors identified before publication.

    Comment by MarkB — 13 Nov 2009 @ 1:59 PM

  49. I am reliably informed that a couple more minor corrections might want to be made. The quotes and descriptions attributed to Santer et al (2005) appear to actually be from a much earlier (uncited) paper Santer et al (2000) – incidentally well before the last round of corrections to the UAH MSU data. And this is an amusing typo: apparently the “unexplained difference … still exits” (paragraph 4) – where does it go, we wonder? ;)

    Comment by gavin — 13 Nov 2009 @ 2:27 PM

  50. Interesting post by Pielke Sr., which mentions the Santer 2000 paper, claiming it backs his assertion of a significant surface record bias, and inappropriately compares it to the IPCC 2007 conclusions.

    Missing entirely from Pielke’s post is the fact that 2000 was before the major diurnal drift correction. UAH had a decadal trend of only 0.044 C as late as Jan. 2001.

    He then goes on to complain that the mainstream media has not yet covered his “clearly documented warm bias”, and uses it as an example of how most journalists don’t cover any perspectives that deviates from the IPCC. Is he serious? What world does he live in? If only journalists fairly represented the balance of evidence (as indicated by the IPCC report, based on thousands of peer-reviewed studies), rather than constantly promoting every contrarian study that slips through the cracks.

    Comment by MarkB — 13 Nov 2009 @ 3:05 PM

  51. Gavin,
    I had recently been calculating the trend field for the AR4 model data to get the amplification factor for some blog post I was working on. I found some strange results. Looking at it model-by-model, there are points in the ocean where the 2-m air temperature since Jan 1979 hasn’t increased appreciably. However, the synthetic TLT trend at that same point increased appreciably. So the amplification factor is either a large negative or positive number. Taking a global or tropical average gives a meaningful answer. But for what I was doing I needed to keep the data in gridded form. I was able to alleviate the problem of such huge numbers by just interpolating all the trend fields to a common grid and averaging. But the issue still bothers me. Do you have any idea why there would be such large amplification factors found over the ocean? Am I just looking at noise in that respect?

    For those who’d like to see some pretty graphs of the satellite records minus the surface records:
    It doesn’t show the amplification factor, but it still gives you an idea of how the two metrics are changing relative to one another.

    [Response: Hmm… I don’t think one expects grid-point amplifications to be useful since the horizontal advection terms (for both the atmosphere and ocean) will dominate over the vertical processes that are the basis of the expected amplification. Thus I wouldn’t worry about it too much. Averaging over latitude, or ocean basin or region is likely to be much more robust. – gavin]

    Comment by Chad — 13 Nov 2009 @ 3:59 PM

  52. [edit – moved to appropriate thread]

    Comment by Andrew P — 13 Nov 2009 @ 5:24 PM

  53. OT – I just noticed that the PDO is positive. Of course this could be a temporary condition so we will just have to wait and see…

    Strange, because I read on the internets that it was supposed to be negative for 30 years. Heck, there was even a video from some guy named Bastardo that said it was a 30 year cycle. Oh well… guess you just can’t trust just anyone that opines…]

    [Response: The Pacific Decadal Oscillation is not particularly decadal and is not oscillatory. There may be more to it than simply “noise”, but the data avaialable are statistically indistinguishable from red noise with a physical time scale of about 1 year. This doesn’t mean it’s not real — it is clearly real in the sense that anomalies in SST show up in the Pacific, and on average they tend to last decades in one phase (but will happily move into the opposite phase for a year or three before switching back) — but it does mean it is not predictable.–eric]

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 13 Nov 2009 @ 5:32 PM

  54. Gavin,

    I would like to report another flawed paper which became highly publicized : Lindzen and Choi 2009.

    The claims of this paper quite significant :
    (1) That Earth’s climate shows a considerable negative (-1) feedback factor
    (2) That models are completely wrong (since they show positive feedback)
    (3) That climate sensitivity is 6x lower than previous projections.

    Paper was peer-reviewed, accepted and published by Geophysical Research Letters (in August).

    After the GRL publication, this paper was highly publicized in popular media, including Sen. Inhofe’s web site, numerous newspapers, and Lord Monckton presented it on Fox News as “the end of the (AGW) scam”.
    Here are some of the references to these media publications :

    Back in May, Chris Colose already pointed out several problems with the data used, as well as the negative feedback claims.
    Lindzen apparently adjusted the data set (to Edition 3), although he still used the Edition 2 data plots in the GRL paper.
    But besides that, he still claimed negative feedback (which contradicts with Wong

    In August, James Annan and others early on already pointed at the questionable use of AMIP models in this paper for this purpose.

    Then in the blogosphere more questions appeared around the claim of negative feedback in Lindzen and Choi.
    It appeared that Lindzen eliminated the zero-feedback response in his formula.
    The omission of the zero-feedback response explains how Lindzen ‘found’ negative feedback.

    But the most significant rebuttal came (unexpectedly) from Dr. Lindzen’s longtime ally Dr. Spencer :

    All these comments combined solidly debunk Lindzen and Choi 2009,
    and we have not even dug into the exact way in which the negative feedback was “created” in this paper (you would be quite shocked).

    Meanwhile, damage continue to be done in the media using this paper and talked about in the blogosphere.

    Even worse, papers like this are being used as ‘proof’ that the ‘consensus’ view on climate science is wrong.
    In that sense, they become the David (against Goliath) of the climate science debate.
    This way, the authors of such papers become heroes in the eyes of the ones that don’t like the scientific ‘consensus’ view.

    The scientific peer-review process is still a good way to filter out such mistakes.

    However, once a flawed paper comes through that process, I claim that we currently have no good process in place to publicize the mistakes post-publication.

    So, Gavin, I ask you this :

    What do you think is the most efficient way to minimize damage done by such papers, or somehow keep a public record or suspect or rebunked papers ?

    I thought about making Wikipedia entries, pointing out mistakes made in papers under the authors’ wiki page.
    Do you guys at RealClimate have put any thought into this (flawed scientific paper containment) problem ?



    P.S. I hope this post does not get lost in the massive amounts of postings here on RC.

    Comment by Rob Dekker — 13 Nov 2009 @ 11:19 PM

  55. > hope this post does not get lost …
    Rob, you can search:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 14 Nov 2009 @ 12:43 AM

  56. #53
    Yes, it’s been a bad year for GRL. I know that there was a formal comment submitted for McLean et al, but I’m not sure about Lindzen and Choi. Still the critiques from James Annan and Chris Colose were quite devastating.

    L&C received less attention than McLean et al, although Lord Monckton was very taken with it.

    Comment by Deep Climate — 14 Nov 2009 @ 1:05 AM

  57. Just been reading about the denyalist’s voice getting louder despite overwhelming evidence to the this site..
    I think it’s time the people decide whether we wish to live or die..if we chose the former..then for christsake! we should do something about the source of these misguided and/or malicious contageons. Despite the incredible unity of nearly all cimate scientists on this problem and trying their damndest to present their data to world governments there are also the voters out there that are getting swayed from the truth by these reprehensible denyalsit groups who seem to be immune from reason or logic..I think Gavin or Eric would agree on that one. If the majority of the populous believe that CC is not anthropogenic and therfore natural..and that eventually mother nature will guide us back to the climatic status quo they wont re-elect a gov that’s going to impose hardline and ecomically painful Greenhouse targets are they. If this is the direction of the conditioning of the masses amongst most of the world’s most polluting countries then there isn’t much hope is there. I once thought homo-sapiens were smarter and wiser than ostriches..maybe-saldly…I was mistaken??

    Comment by Lawrence Coleman — 14 Nov 2009 @ 2:25 AM

  58. Rob Dekker #53: You can find some of this already at the RealClimate Wiki though I agree it would be useful to have some sort of shadow publication wiki that would make it easier to find rebuttals in one place.

    I like “rebunked” though I suspect it’s a typo. I take it as meaning papers that repeat bunk :)

    Comment by Philip Machanick — 14 Nov 2009 @ 6:49 AM

  59. OT, Building on the joke in 53: It might be helpful if somebody writes a comprehensive post on the PDO: How the index is calculated, what different values of the index look like in the SST patterns, whether or how it is linked to ENSO and atmospheric circulation, and so on.

    Comment by tharanga — 14 Nov 2009 @ 9:41 AM

  60. > “rebunked”
    Ding! a pithier term than “whack-a-mole.”

    [Response: “Rebunking” it is then. We will use it whenever appropriate. – gavin]

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 14 Nov 2009 @ 10:47 AM

  61. Then WUWT definitely suffers from a rebunker mentality.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 14 Nov 2009 @ 11:21 AM

  62. Background — good collections of papers here on various subjects including this in Lindzen’s ‘Iris hypothesis’:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 14 Nov 2009 @ 12:22 PM

  63. As a layman, I take a very simple view of assessing AGW – I listen to what the experts say. I cannot hope to follow and evaluate all the science myself, that’s as daft as me trying to have opinions on brain surgery or rocket science. So I just look at the summaries, and here I have 2 sources – first, pretty much the world’s entire independent scientific academic institutions back the theory, and second virtually all the peer-reviewed literature does too. For me, that’s basically case closed and end of discussion.

    However, I am keen to keep a careful watch on these two areas over time as well. I’m aware of the famous Science journal meta study in 2004 which found no peer-reviewed papers against the consensus. But it’s clear now that, subsequently, some have been published. I’d like a rough idea of what the volume of papers published in the last five years which assess either way are for and against. I’m be extremely surprised if it wasn’t overwhelmingly FOR, but as I say I’d find the numbers (even approximate) more than a little useful. Could anyone here give an informed guesstimate?

    As an outsider, I too think some form of formal correction procedure would be a very good idea, but I guess there are already published corrections by authors? I think a proper, independent site or webpage which can look at the big picture on these matters is sorely needed at this critical time.

    Comment by Guy — 15 Nov 2009 @ 3:46 AM

  64. Re #53, #59

    I noticed I made a mistake. The guys name is Bastardi, not bastardo.

    Eric, thank you for the context.

    I too like the term rebunked.

    I also agree with tharanga (#59), but not just PDO. I’d like to see a post or posts that address the myriad ocean cycles, interactions, effects, etc.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 15 Nov 2009 @ 10:49 AM

  65. Gavin, A couple of additional comments. First, I appreciate that you indeed seemed to think about what I wrote.

    I will reiterate – we do indeed believe the surface data set is contaminated if you take the surface as providing a clean signal of anthropogenic greenhouse gases and that the warming is tied to the warming in the deeper troposphere. The surface temperature in nocturnal boundary layers and in more persistent stable boundary layers at high latitudes is more dependent on the state of turbulence than it is to the top boundary condition at the top of the boundary layer. The state of turbulence is then very sensitive to longwave radiation forcing and land use changes.

    [Response: There’s no problem with that, and indeed, one would expect a good model to reproduce such effects. It just does not amount to any problem with the surface temperature record itself (whether there are other problems in that or not). – gavin]

    In regard to Urs Neu #43 comment. He does have our definition of bias correct which few people seem to grasp.

    [Response: In no small measure that can be blamed on the somewhat unclear use of the word bias in your paper and surrounding commentary. ]

    I agree that the stable boundary layer is complex and changes can occur in both directions due to parameter changes. However, I strongly disagree that this effect is small. The biggest signal in the historical surface data is the reduction in the diurnal temperature change which is largely due to nocturnal warming. The reduction in the the nocturnal warming since 1979 (Vose et al. 2005) may be in part be due to the small sample size since only about 1/3 the number of stations are retained after 1979 in the NOAA data set. Limited regional analyses (California, East Africa – Christy et al. 2009)appear to show continued and even accelerated nocturnal warming since 1979.

    If it is so small why does it keep showing up in the historical record?

    The dependence of the surface temperature on turbulence is not limited to only strongly stable light wind clear skies. It is exists through the entire range of strongly stable to weakly stable boundary layers. Although there are parameter spaces where it is more sensitive.

    I was not involved in the Lin et al study so can’t adequately discuss it. But , the effect of increasing turbulent intensity (mixing more warm air down to the surface) means at some level the mixing cools the air aloft (generally near the top of the NBL). Thus it is not clear that trends between 9 meters and 1.5 meters are the right levels to capture this effect. I do note the last figure in Lin et al. shows in general a decrease in the diurnal temperature change.

    Urs is absolutely correct that the SBL can be complicated and I continue to be surprised. I hope he and others can help unravel its complexities and role in interpreting temperature trends.

    Comment by Richard McNider — 15 Nov 2009 @ 11:11 AM

  66. Guy, one other criterion you might add is the number of times a paper has been cited since publication. That gives a measure of its impact. For the most part, the denialist contributions sit there like a dog turd on a New York sidewalk. They simply don’t advance understanding of climate.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 15 Nov 2009 @ 12:26 PM

  67. Guy: I don’t think that Naomi Oreskes’ study claimed to have found all published papers on climate change as there were certainly were a few published prior to one her study appeared. But, she had a decent and presumably representative fraction of those that had been published, thus showing that papers in contradiction to the consensus were a very small fraction of those appearing in the literature.

    As Ray Ladbury notes, one also wants to look at whether the paper has been cited a lot, whether there have been comments on it or subsequent papers showing it to be incorrect, and where it was published, because of course peer review is not a perfect filter so some bad papers will get published (even in good journals). It is usually a bad sign if a paper is published in some obscure journal or in a journal that is in another field where they might have difficulty finding qualified reviewers. A good case of the former is the paper published by Ferenc Miskolczi [ ] which appeared in some Hungarian journal. A good case of the latter is the paper by Gerlich and Tscheuschner [ ] published in a second-rate physics journal, although the physics in that paper was bad enough that even a competent reviewer ignorant of climate science should have been able to see through some of the major flaws and I am embarrassed for my own discipline that such nonsense did appear in a physics journal.

    Comment by Joel Shore — 15 Nov 2009 @ 4:12 PM

  68. Guy, asking for pointers to corrections and followups, you should look at the RCWiki — there’s a link to it up at the top of each page, second button to the left of the “Start Here” link.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 15 Nov 2009 @ 5:26 PM

  69. John P Reisman,

    You pointed out the PDO was positive in October. This is correct – it was very marginally positive. However, in the two weeks sense it has gone back negative due to stalled GOA lows. No one ever said it would stay negative. There do appear to be ~30 year periods where it is prone to being in one phase over another, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go a whole year with an extremely +PDO in a predominantly negative phase. Also, we are in an El Nino which tends to strongly favor a +PDO. If anything it is surprising the PDO isn’t much higher than it is now considering the El Nino has been >1.7 in region 3.4 lately and the tri-monthly will be moderate or strong.

    Comment by Andrew P — 15 Nov 2009 @ 5:52 PM

  70. Thank you Ray, Joel and Hank for some useful insights. Playing devil’s advocate here for a moment, I guess a contrarian (which I very much am not!) might argue that a lack of citation reveals institutional bias in ignoring inconvenient evidence. Also comments about “second rate journals” might very well be true, but sound dangerously subjective to someone who just wants the basic facts – again, are we transparently sure that we’re not just ignoring bits we don’t like? Gavin’s arguments on this thread seem perfectly reasonable to me, but can I really honestly assess myself under all the accusation and counter-accusation whether or not he or Pielke has the more reasonable argument? Can I appeal to the volume of peer-reviewed literature each has contributed to the science? Is such information easy for the casual lay-person to come by, and if found is it necessarily a reliable indicator of who is right?

    I keep feeling I need a bigger scientific overview.

    I think there is a need for a gigantic (perhaps wiki?) spreadsheet where each climate science paper is listed, the journal it came from, the number of citations and whether it has any conclusions which back, question or do not comment on the basic theory of AGW (perferably with a reference and a relevant quote to illustrate). A similar (and much smaller) spreadsheet could cover academic institutions’ public statements.

    The public debate is so often inflamatory and filled with claim and counter-claim that no reasonable lay-person can be expected to independently judge it. As a consequence, the myth that science is somehow equally divided continues to spread, and is becoming ever more accepted as an accurate summary (partly explaining the alarming drop in public support). I’d love something that was brutal and basic – just a hard data summary devoid of any editorialising one way of the other. To be able to say with some reasonably objective grounds that x% of published peer reviewed literature raises doubts on the theory each year, and how that figure changes over time, would be priceless imho.

    Comment by Guy — 15 Nov 2009 @ 6:17 PM

  71. Guy suggests that “that a lack of citation reveals institutional bias in ignoring inconvenient evidence.”

    Except that to ignore something that truly advances understanding of climate makes it that much less likely that one’s future work will be worthwhile. You would have to explain what would motivate a scientist to tie a hand behind his back in his efforts to understand his field of research. And even if one scientist were so biased, what are the chances that his peers would be so biased and short-sighted to act counter to their own interests?

    The database you ask for doesn’t really exist just yet. However, something equally useful does exist:

    You will find your denialists well down the list. It is not that they are stupid or evil–rather, it is that their way of looking at climate is not productive. In other words, if you reject a value of CO2 sensitivity greater than 2, you can’t understand Earth’s climate.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 15 Nov 2009 @ 8:25 PM

  72. > I keep feeling I need a bigger scientific overview.

    It may take a few years to read; that’s why the people who read the papers listed there boiled them down to summary form, and continue to do so every five years or so.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 15 Nov 2009 @ 8:42 PM

  73. Expanding on #72

    IPCC AR4 WG1 report need not be totally overwhelming. Start with the Summary for Policymakers and then read the Executive Summaries of chapters that interest you. The FAQ sections that are a feature of a couple of the longer chapters are also accessible.

    The chapter that gives the background for issues concerning the recent temperature record is Chapter 3, “Observations: Surface and Atmospheric Climate Change”.

    Comment by Deep Climate — 15 Nov 2009 @ 9:35 PM

  74. Ray Ladbury wrote in 71:

    Except that to ignore something that truly advances understanding of climate makes it that much less likely that one’s future work will be worthwhile…. You will find your denialists well down the list. It is not that they are stupid or evil-rather, it is that their way of looking at climate is not productive.

    I believe that particular insight isn’t so much a matter of science or even the philosophy of science, but of something much more basic. In any case it is something which I hadn’t seen before — at least in that context or from that perspective. However, I assume the three alternatives you’ve mentioned aren’t in any way mutually exclusive.

    Oh — and welcome back!

    Comment by Timothy Chase — 15 Nov 2009 @ 11:42 PM

  75. Ray, please note that the lack-of-citation-indicated-bias categorically isn’t my view (or even suggestion) at all, but this is a possible contrarain argument. Thanks for that link though, it certainly looks useful.

    Similarly, I’ve found a ludicrous resistance to any argument that involves the IPCC, as it is “government-influenced” (never mind the fact that the influence works the opposite way to how the contrarians pretend!) I understand the basic science, and the most fundamental arguments from the AGW side, but in my experience within arguments things very quickly get bogged down in detail which goes beyond my ability to sensibly assess.

    Have to say, all this is convincing me further that this sort of database is needed. With all the endless arguing over the science and bias, it seems somewhat perverse that a simple (if large) summary of all the peer-reviewed scientific papers does not exist. It would do us all a great service, I’m sure.

    Comment by Guy — 16 Nov 2009 @ 1:45 AM

  76. Re 65

    Ralph, thanks for the comments. I only agree with your statements, that there could be some changes in the structure of the Nocturnal Boundary Layer (NBL), be it through vegetation changes, or through changes in turbulence. However, there isn’t any (observational) evidence at all, that there really have been any NBL trends related to such processes (the only observations in Lin et al. show a cooling influence).
    I do not understand on what evidence you base your suggestion that this influence is not very small.
    The fact that nighttime temperature increases more than daytime temperature is something that we just expect from the increase of greenhouse gas concentrations. But this effect does not depend on the state of the boundary layer at all. It occurs independent of the NBL state. In contrary, this effect might influence the characteristics of the NBL. Thus it is rather the warming of the surface, that leads to a destabilization of the NBL, and not changes in the NBL which alter surface temperature.
    With respect to this the use of the term ‘bias’ is somewhat strange. You use this term for the difference between trends at the surface and in the lower troposphere, while ‘bias’ mainly is used to describe the difference of a measurement to a suggested ‘real-world’ value. There might be differences between surface and lower troposphere trends in the real-world (they are even expected to occur), so the use of ‘bias’ might be misleading. The warming of the surface through increased longwave radiation (clouds or GHGs) is a real-world phenomenon, which influences vegetation, snow cover, animals, etc., independent of what is happening in the lower troposphere.

    Comment by Urs Neu — 16 Nov 2009 @ 5:15 AM

  77. Guy, One thing that I think it is important to appreciate is that publication in climate is directed toward understanding the climate–not to whether anthropogenic causation is “real”.

    It is only the denialists who set out with the goal of “disproving” anthropogenic causation. It is probably better to view work as either consistent or inconsistent with the consensus theory of climate–of which anthropogenic causation of the current warming epoch is an inescapable consequence. To date there is no strong evidence that is inconsistent with this theory, and there is a mountain–or rather a whole world–of evidence that favors it.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 16 Nov 2009 @ 9:51 AM

  78. > a simple (if large) summary of all the peer-reviewed
    > scientific papers does not exist.

    The lists at the IPCC site are what you want.

    No individual can be an expert on all the areas involved; no individual has time to read all the papers written and being written, even as an amateur.

    If you want something oversimplified to the point of deception, that’s easy; co2science, and Morano’s ever-growing list, and such — which pretend to summarize papers, putting their own desired conclusions on the page, knowing most readers can’t tell the difference.

    Possibly you’re channeling questions from someone who’s working up to the “no human can possibly understand climate, so there’s no way we could be affecting it” notion, which is as bankrupt as, well, the banking system.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 Nov 2009 @ 10:59 AM

  79. I had the impression these experts and their work didn’t exist?

    450 Peer-Reviewed Papers Supporting Skepticism of “Man-Made” Global Warming

    [Response: We’ll probably have some collective effort to look more carefully at this, but there is a lot of nonsense in that list, padded out with papers that are completely mainstream and not ‘skeptical’ at all, and containing dozens of mutually incompatible results (Khilyuk and Chillangar anyone?). Still there are clearly some papers (as we discussed above) that get into the literature despite fundamental flaws. A nice complement to this list would be the number of papers that subsequently rebut them (lots) or how often they are cited outside the ‘skeptic’ circle (rarely). Nonetheless, even if this list was legit (which it isn’t), 450 papers in ten years (or so) out of the tens of thousands on the subject is a pretty small fraction. – gavin]

    Comment by John H. — 16 Nov 2009 @ 1:33 PM

  80. Hi everyone,
    Just two quick questions about peer review. Recently I submitted a paper (not on climate change) to a Elsevier journal and was surprised that I could not complete my submission until I had provided them with the names and contact details of two suggested reviewers. This seemed odd to me. I have published in AMS journals and they did not request such data. So my questions are:
    1) Is this practice of asking authors to provide suggestions for reviewers becoming more common?
    2) Can one opt out? That is, fill the dialogue box with “I am not comfortable doing that”


    Comment by MapleLeaf — 16 Nov 2009 @ 1:49 PM

  81. Hank – could you provide a URL on the IPCC site? I can’t see any lists of peer-reviewed papers.

    It’s a fairly cheap shot to say I want something oversimplified to the point of deception. I’m asking for a very straightforward and reasonable proposition (at least in concept) – a list of papers, and whether or not any of their contents back or challenge AGW (or, as most will be, neutral because it doesn’t make any comment one way or the other).

    Likewise I’m channeling nothing. There is a basic concept that I think isn’t being understood here. Unless we work in the field, we don’t have the expertese to make informed judgements on climate science. I don’t work in the field, my only rational response is to rely on those who do. I’m asking for basic data here, which doesn’t seem to be available. If it is impossible, fair enough… but is it really impossible?

    I get that there needs to be an assessment of each paper, which is a time consuming process. I’m kind of hoping that some starting points must be out there somewhere.

    There seems to be not nearly enough concern that public acceptance of AGW has dropped, despite all the efforts of Real Climate, the IPCC, and the entire scientific community. On the contrary, I often detect a rather weary attitude for everyone to just go read more. This approach, clearly, isn’t working. Also, as debates degenerate into mudslinging on both sides, the public simply deduce – incorrectly – that the science is equally divided.

    The public need to be able to see facts without bias. The contrarian campaign is very effectively fought, and science is currently losing, as far as I can tell.

    Comment by Guy — 16 Nov 2009 @ 2:06 PM

  82. RE: Gavin’s in-line response to John H:

    Greenfyre’s already on the case.

    Comment by Deech56 — 16 Nov 2009 @ 2:24 PM

  83. Gavin,
    I fully suspected and expected that some or many of the 450 were not legit.
    However, that was not my point.

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told by AGW voices that there are NO qualified skeptics or peer reviewed/published work by them.
    Including right here by RC regulars.

    In truth there is serious work and questions raised by significant work by very qualified skeptics which has been peer reviewed and published.

    It should be at least a bit disturbing for this type of denial to have been perpetrated with such a chorus.

    It’s one thing to engage and refute. But it’s not right to misrepresent as not even existing the counter viewpoints.

    I fully recognize the adversarial environment between the two opposing camps which RC and CA/WUWT represent, but the the perpetual declaration that there is no legitimate rejection of AGW is out of line.

    [Response: Err… actually, no it isn’t. We have never claimed to my knowledge that no papers purporting to be skeptical of AGW have ever been published. On the contrary, we spent a disproportionate amount of our time dealing precisely with the odd bit of nonsense that gets through the initial peer-review filter. But no random list of nonsensical or irrelevant papers (however long) is the same as stating that there is a ‘legitmate rejection’ of AGW – not even close. How is Chilingar’s complete ignorance of what the greenhouse effect is, along with perfectly legitimate papers that examine the role of CO2 feedbacks in the ice age cycle, and papers that don’t even think that the surface temperature record even exists, a coherent argument? If you like, pick out 10 papers from the list that you think constitute the ‘best shot’ at being a ‘legitimate rejection’ and we can discuss the actual issues. – gavin]

    Comment by John H. — 16 Nov 2009 @ 2:42 PM

  84. John H. @ 79:

    Two quick points about that silly list:

    1) I find it curious that about 80 of the references are from Energy & Environment. Despite the blog editors’ disingenuous assertion to the contrary, it is a journal of such low quality that it’s not listed on Thomson ISI and, more damningly, even RPJr. regretted publishing there. Of course, I am not saying that E&E is not a peer-reviewed journal, but as Jay Sherman would say, “IT STINKS!”

    2) I’m not sure about this (can someone verify this?), but most of the 18 Climate Research papers in that list were published when Chris de Freitas was one of the editors…and lets just say that he did a pretty poor job in editing – so much so that the then incoming editor-in-chief and 4 other editors resigned in protest when a poorly-written, highly-flawed paper was published.

    Comment by Former Skeptic — 16 Nov 2009 @ 2:44 PM

  85. Guy, no cheap shot intended. There are oversimplified lists of papers available, I wondered if whoever is asking you these questions was steering you toward finding them.

    The IPCC documents are mostly PDFs — you have to click on the links, open the documents, then look at the references.

    Ray’s advice was good above:

    “The database you ask for doesn’t really exist just yet. However, something equally useful does exist:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 Nov 2009 @ 2:57 PM

  86. Also, Guy, this is important — a paper is cited by a report as the source for some particular point; having a list of papers in an area tells you very little if you’re not an expert in that area.

    A list of papers that were relied on by one of the IPCC panels — by itself — tells you nothing about which particular point in each paper was cited (footnoted) — it may have been cited as support for a particular observation or conclusion among many others.

    I’m sure you know this, but you might explain it to whoever’s asking you for such a list that the reason the lists are at the back of the papers or reports citing them is because each one is the cite for some individual statement in the main paper.

    It’s not easy learning to use a science library. Just going to the shelf list to see what’s in it isn’t going to help a whole lot in catching up in any individual area. Much of what’s on the shelves may be outdated, but some of what’s there is good information. Knowing how to find that is part of being able to write such a paper, citing for the individual points relied on to the paper that’s still good on that bit of information.

    Well, I’m done, this is really just a poor attempt at saying what I think the library reference desk would tell your friend.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 Nov 2009 @ 3:09 PM

  87. On the sceptic 450: We should be careful not to say something is shoddy just because it’s in Energy and the Environment. There’s an off-chance that something worthwhile might end up in there. I’d say that a paper in E&E should be treated with the same regard as a blog post or a letter to the editor: it hasn’t passed any real bar, but it might still contain useful information.

    How do they keep persisting in saying that “CO2 lags temperature in the ice ages” is a disproof of CO2 as a greenhouse gas? How many times does this have to be addressed for it to sink in? If I recall correctly, didn’t Hansen even predict the lag, before it was clearly resolved? If so, how can a successful prediction by Hansen be turned into a sceptic talking point?

    Guy, 81: The IPCC reports can probably be considered the most comprehensive review papers ever written. Just go to, click on WG1, 2 or 3, and read up on whichever topic interests you. The report text has all the references you’ll ever want. It even notes some papers which are often cited by sceptics. A simple list of references without any context at all isn’t really helpful, though that’s what the sceptics have produced with their 450.

    Comment by tharanga — 16 Nov 2009 @ 4:26 PM

  88. FWIW, since the issue is raised again by Richard McNider, the use of bias in their paper is consistent with how it is used in electronics but not as a general usage. Surprisingly this has not much come up

    [Response: I don’t think this is the problem at all. I am very happy with the use of the word ‘bias’ implying some offset from an expected signal (as opposed to the colloquial connotations of the word). The issue is that the language in the paper very often conflates a bias of the surface temperature record qua surface temperature record (which is what most people are concerned about), with a bias in the surface temperature record as an indicator of atmospheric heat content changes (which these auhtors are concerned with but which I can find no trace of anyone else actually assuming). – gavin]

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 16 Nov 2009 @ 4:40 PM

  89. re: consensus

    Gavin, would it be fair to describe the results on the linked page below, on findings from the AIRS satellite data, as showing a lack of immediate consensus ?
    AIRS Satellite – Significant Findings

    Relating to water vapor data, the web-page lists 2 papers (published in Climate and GRL) that find that their confidence in the models is increased, (including the Dessler et al. 2008 paper mentioned in some news articles), and 3 papers (Climate, GRL x 2) that find that the models show too much moisture between 300 mb and 800 mb, and too little below 800 mb , lowering confidence in the accuracy of the model predictions.

    (There’s also a paper (GRL) on that page that finds that “the apparent good agreement of a climate model’s broadband longwave flux with observations may be due to a fortuitous cancellation of spectral errors.”)

    I assume that the Climate and GRL aren’t considered to be beyond the pale in the way that E&E is.

    With respect to citation counts, the ‘pro-AGW’ papers were cited 3-4 times each, compared to the ‘anti-AGW’ papers, cited 7-8 times each. The ‘pro-AGW’ papers were published later though, in 2008, compared to 2006-7.

    As an amateur, how should I be approaching these papers and their findings?

    [Response: I have no idea what strawman argument you are making here. Why do you think these papers are contradictory to mainstream thinking on water vapour feedback issues? Science at the cutting edge is always about what is as-yet-unknown (obviously). You appear to be conflating cutting edge explorations of the details of new data sets with some undermining of well-established textbook stuff. No-one here has ever claimed there is no more to find out or that no disagreements among scientists exist, and we have certainly never claimed that models are perfect, so what are you arguing with? This is simply the normal course of science – new data leads to improved understanding and hopefully better predictions. You as an amateur could be interested in that, or be happy that new stuff is being incorporated into the science. But you shouldn’t immediately jump to the conclusion that a single new paper immediately invalidates everything in the textbooks. – gavin]

    Comment by Terran — 16 Nov 2009 @ 4:56 PM

  90. (The citation counts above come from a Google Scholar search for the title of each paper.)

    Comment by Terran — 16 Nov 2009 @ 5:03 PM

  91. Terran, did you read the page you link to, or just copy the link from somewhere else? The first text on the page says:

    “These studies used the AIRS data to show that surface warming leads to an increase in water vapor. This water vapor acts as a greenhouse gas and amplifies the surface warming. The AIRS observations are also consistent with warming predicted by numerical climate models, increasing confidence in model predictions of future warming….”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 Nov 2009 @ 6:04 PM

  92. On topic, Annan, who’s worked with Pielke in the past, has a pretty good review of this issue.

    Comment by MarkB — 16 Nov 2009 @ 6:12 PM

  93. Oops, too hasty in hitting ‘Submit’ — followup:

    Terran, you need to go beyond counting citations per year. Number of citations per year is just one piece of information.

    You have to look at what it is that the citing paper is referring to — what particular statement or piece of information the footnote is next to that is cited to the source paper.

    Take this one:

    Look at the citing papers if you have access to them; look for the citation and see what the point was for which the paper was cited.

    Citing something isn’t a stamp of approval — it’s a flag saying that paper has a particular piece of information in it and the citing paper is referring to that source.

    What people make of the information may be quite different than what the original paper made of the same information — a citation can be a correction, an improvement, an extension of a line of thought.

    Don’t make the mistake of thinking that scientists are setting out to write “pro” or “anti” papers on the global subject you’re interested in. They’re writing about specific things and citing other authors for specific things in those papers.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 16 Nov 2009 @ 6:18 PM

  94. The bias thing has been a source of considerable comment, however, IEHO, even here, your use of bias as a simple offset is not quite what it means in electronics. There biasing sets voltages at various points in the circuit in a way that determines the operating parameters of the system, something pretty close to the meaning of the paper, where it is claimed that quiescent wind conditions bias the system to the warm side.

    Much ado about nothing, but this is a blog, eh?

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 16 Nov 2009 @ 7:53 PM

  95. MarkB #92:
    “On topic, Annan, who’s worked with Pielke in the past …”

    I looked for publications on which they were co-authors, and came up empty. Could you point me to their “work” together?

    Comment by Deep Climate — 16 Nov 2009 @ 9:11 PM

  96. Gavin,

    Pierce et al. 2006 compared AIRS water vapor observations to 22 models from the PCMDI database (1990-1999), and additionaly the NCAR CCSM3, CSIRO Mk 3, MPI ECHAM5, UKMO HadCM3, and CCCMA CGCM3-T63 models.

    John and Soden 2006 compared the NCAR CAM3 to observations, and Gettelman et al. 2006 used 16 climate model simulations from WCRP CMIP3 database for their comparison.

    The 3 papers found a systematic tendency in most GCM’s to overestimate the moisture levels in the upper troposphere, and to underestimate them in the lower troposphere.

    Since the Dessler paper and the Gettelman and Fu paper were written about a year or so afterwards, is it possible that models were amended as a result and hence the good performance later?

    I asked hoping for an explanation for what seem to be contradictory results, and an area of non-consensus. These papers are referenced by NASA, they were published by reputable journals, and they haven’t been found to be flawed, as far as I’m aware.

    Hank, I included the citation counts merely out of interest, as they’d been mentioned earlier. I don’t interpret them as providing any hard information about the truth of a paper, whatever their usefulness as a heuristic guide.

    [Response: Don’t know particularly. But the updated models from CMIP3/AR4 are only starting to be run now, so it’s unlikely that the models were suddenly changed between papers. – gavin]

    Comment by Terran — 16 Nov 2009 @ 9:23 PM

  97. Guy (#70) says: “A similar (and much smaller) spreadsheet could cover academic institutions’ public statements.”

    Not sure that academic institutions will tend to make official public statements directly about climate change (although a lot will probably do so implicitly by explaining what actions they are taking in terms of mitigation or academic programs geared toward sustainability). However, a good source of the statements from various scientific organizations (professional societies, national academies of science, etc.) is this Wikipedia page:

    Comment by Joel Shore — 16 Nov 2009 @ 11:07 PM

  98. Terran: Here is the abstract of John and Soden 2006 paper —

    “A comparison of AIRS and reanalysis temperature and humidity profiles to those simulated from climate models reveals large biases. The model simulated temperatures are systematically colder by 1–4 K throughout the troposphere. On average, current models also simulate a large moist bias in the free troposphere (more than 100%) but a dry bias in the boundary layer (up to 25%). While the overall pattern of biases is fairly common from model to model, the magnitude of these biases is not. In particular, the free tropospheric cold and moist bias varies significantly from one model to the next. In contrast, the response of water vapor and tropospheric temperature to a surface warming is shown to be remarkably consistent across models and uncorrelated to the bias in the mean state. We further show that these biases, while significant, have little direct impact on the models’ simulation of water vapor and lapse-rate feedbacks.”

    In other words, despite the fact that the mean state of the moisture in the atmosphere has large biases in the models, and that the bias varies from model to model, the models consistently react in the same way to a surface warming…and, in particular, these mean-state biases seem to have very little effect on the simulations of the feedbacks.

    So, the only way this seems to fall into the category of a paper going against the consensus is if you make the consensus a strawman that “the models are perfect in all respects”. It in no way shows that the water vapor feedback is being exaggerated by the models and, in fact, Soden has done some nice work previously showing that the models do a good job with the water vapor feedback, both in comparison to satellite signatures of upper tropospheric moistening and in simulating the temperature after the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo.

    Comment by Joel Shore — 16 Nov 2009 @ 11:20 PM

  99. Terran: And, Pierce et al. 2006 basically reach the same conclusion as John and Soden with regard to the mean state and then basically “punt” on the issue of whether this matters for climate change predictions, noting that it might but would need further investigation.

    I suppose this paper could be classified as potentially representing a challenge to the consensus view but basically inconclusive on that point and, when taken along with the John and Soden paper (along with other work on the water vapor feedback like Dessler’s), the evidence seems to be that the identified deficiencies in the models do not end up having a significant effect on the strength of the water vapor and lapse rate feedback.

    Comment by Joel Shore — 16 Nov 2009 @ 11:30 PM

  100. I was following a discussion at in which much was made of the difference between RSS and UAH data, so I downloaded the data from woodfortrees and started playing with it in my own spreadsheet (so that I could overlay graphs displayed separately at WUWT. I noticed what appeared to be an annual signal in the difference RSS-UAH in the recent record, and I have convinced myself that the annual signal appears in the UAH data, starting in 2002. Jeff Id pointed out that the UAH data source changed to the Aqua satellite in 2002.
    You can see the sequence of events including my mistakes in using the analysis tools at woodfortrees by searching on my name at the WUWT URL. The bottom line is the signal at a 1 year harmonic in the UAH data – see One data processing error that would cause an annual signal to appear would be to shift the phase between the baseline and current data when calculating the anomaly (I very much doubt such a simple mistake would occur). I don’t think such a phase shift would cause a change in trend. Are there processing inaccuracies (in going from the raw satellite data to the temperature anomaly data) which could simultaneously produce an annual signal and differences in trend compared to surface data? Is finding and correcting such inaccuracies a big publishable project?

    It also has occurred to me that global warming might cause a phase shift in the annual temperature cycle(warming earlier in spring and cooling earlier in fall, or vice versa), so an annual signal popping up in an anomaly series might not be a processing artifact but a real signal. It just occurred to me that warming earlier and cooling later would create a six month harmonic, which shows up around harmonic 15 in the woodfortrees graph. wut’s up wit dat? &;>)

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 17 Nov 2009 @ 12:33 AM

  101. @MapleLeaf:
    1. It is indeed getting more common that authors may suggest reviewers. Sometimes it is OK, as some Editors take at most one reviewer from that list. Others…well…may lead to fundamentally flawed papers getting published. It is, however, most common to the lower impact journals.

    2. You can always write to the Editor that you do not feel comfortable doing so. But there’s no predicting to how they will react.

    Comment by Marco — 17 Nov 2009 @ 1:33 AM

  102. Thanks to all for your various replies. The IPCC is a source of considerable frustration for me – I consider all the contrarian arguments about governmental bias (usually because THEY want us afraid so THEY can raise taxes) to be ludicrous.

    The fact remains that, for contrarians, this entire colossol IPCC project cuts no ice. My view is that this conclusion commonly reflects a faith-based position on thier part (in as much that they have reached an ideological conclusion and choose to ignore evidence). But because part of the process involves politicians who help shape the final document (on considerable record as watering it down of course), I don’t think scientists will ever definitively win that argument, however ludicrous. Politicians ARE part of the process, it therefore isn’t pure science. The IPCC’s main use is that it has convinced policy makers who DO understand how it works, and that’s more than good enough. The irrational contrarian public who believe what they want to believe need something else.

    That list of 450 supposedly contrarian papers is, imho, spectactularly useful. Before I hear howls of protest, let me explain why – this is the best they can do. It is clearly a partisan, pointless list in and of itself, but it is exactly the starting point I was hoping for. It’s probably fair to deduce that a small subset of this 450 will represent the sum total of genuine papers that raise significant questions. Why don’t qualified people now take this list and go through it properly (of course I realise this will be an organisational challenge). There should be a basic criteria of a recognised peer-review journal if some really are so shoddy that their general reputation on all subjects is no better than a blog, so that’s one simple filter that is easily applied. I think a minimum requirement to be classed as a paper which “questions” is one quote that actually does this – as has been pointed out, merely referencing that CO2 lags temperature rise historically is not a contentious point in the AGW argument (AFAIK no-one disagrees on this).

    And to counter this, there must be people with a strong enough working knowledge of papers that could begin to put together a list on the other side using the same criteria (and complete with one quote each positively supporting a central plank in AGW). I’d be very surprised if the total numbers weren’t extremely powerful. Add in a citation colum too, for more firepower. As a final part of this puzzle, the list needs to be open to correction and review – the wiki format would probably do. Wikipedia, flaws and all, is correctly regarded has fundamentally independent. If a science blog publishes the list as a finished piece of work, of course it will be disregarded as biased, along with the IPCC et al.

    Gavin et al – your work here is clearly vital. There needs to be informed public discussion on why some flawed peer-reviewed papers make it through the system. But it can’t, and never will, convince a contrarian who will always see your conclusions as biased because they don’t understand the science enough to evaluate it themselves and simply wish to believe it isn’t true. And to be fair, I don’t fully understand the science either. But this is only one way to win the argument that, so far, science is losing.

    Given the gravity of the situation and falling public support, surely it is incumbent on the science community to consider anything they can do to better present the solid science case to a sceptical public?

    Comment by Guy — 17 Nov 2009 @ 3:38 AM

  103. Brian Dodge (#100): You are not the only one to notice this annual signal in the UAH data. Tamino did a post on it about a year ago ( ).

    Guy (#102): Yeah, there are some people who refuse to accept the conclusions of the IPCC and even all of the scientific organizations who have concurred with the IPCC’s conclusions (AAAS, NAS, AGU, AMS, APS, ACS, …). They come up with the notion that the leadership of all of these organizations have somehow been co-opted. It is kind of difficult to argue against such logic; I don’t think such people are really convince-able, so I am content to try to point out how absurd this is with the hope that the more convince-able folks who read it will be swayed.

    Comment by Joel Shore — 17 Nov 2009 @ 12:23 PM

  104. DeepClimate (#95),

    I had in mind the survey of scientists they jointly conducted, one that I personally don’t think was very well-written.

    Comment by MarkB — 17 Nov 2009 @ 12:35 PM

  105. Guy, the problem with your recommendations is that they are directed at making the science accessible to ideologically blinkered, wilfully ignorant dumbasses. I’m sorry, there is only so far that the science can be dumbed down. It’s time for the human race to make a decision: Do they want to base their policy on the best science available or on the sanguine platitudes of hucksters blowing sunshine up our collective skirts? It ought to be pretty clear which path has a better chance of leading to the continued existence of human civilization.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 17 Nov 2009 @ 12:55 PM

  106. Guy, Google; here’s my first try, you can no doubt improve the search terms:

    Looking at the results, after a few pages of copypaste stuff, you’ll start finding links to pages debunking the “450 papers” list.

    Just as one example — you can find more:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 17 Nov 2009 @ 1:06 PM

  107. Ray, #105. We’re not wilfully ignorant, but we do continually question the (possibly overweening) confidence of climate scientists because we also want the “continued existence of human civilization”, but without dismantling the extraordinary achievements of the industrial revolution and its subsequent developments. The realization that there were vast resources of cheap energy on hand fuelled that revolution. Should we not now build on that (E=mc2 again) rather than roll things back in a remorseful agony of self-reproach?

    Comment by simon abingdon — 17 Nov 2009 @ 1:52 PM

  108. Guy, your numerical analysis of publications, I agree, is a good indication of the validity and veracity of scientific analyses. But, a word of caution: there is a point of diminishing returns so one ought to take that only so far. If it sneaks over into science by democracy or by tyranny of the masses it loses its value.

    Comment by Rod B — 17 Nov 2009 @ 2:24 PM

  109. Simon Abingdon,
    One cannot be skeptical of the science without understanding it, and if you don’t understand how hard it would be to overturn the conclusion of anthropogenic causation, you don’t understand the science. The problem is that the denialists have no science, no evidence. All they have is a nagging suspicion that all the experts must be wrong because their conclusions don’t allow unlimited consumption in perpetuity.

    And your characterization of the industrial revolution being entirely due to cheap energy is simply flat wrong. The energy resources were always there. Indeed, coal had been used for home heating even in prehistoric times. What changed and allowed the industrial revolution to occur was our uderstanding of energy and material properties–in other words: science. This is precisely what is needed again. We have to learn how to develop an economy that is sustainable. So, Simon, you might want to erect your straw men in a corn field where they will at least perhaps at least scare birds.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 17 Nov 2009 @ 2:42 PM

  110. Guy, your “list on the other side” proposal is misguided:

    1. You can’t convince “the irrational contrarian public who believe what they want to believe” by throwing another list of rational arguments at them.

    2. Your proposed list of peer-reviewed paper quotes, “each positively supporting a central plank in AGW” would have no credibility whatsoever with people who think the IPCC is biased despite the IPCC’s conscientious discussions of uncertainties, unknowns, discrepancies, divergent findings and alternative hypotheses.

    3. Indeed, by mimicking the “450 papers” list you would just validate a denialist debate tactic. Science can do better.

    4. Science isn’t losing the argument. Contrarians are a big deal in the blogosphere, not so much in the real world. Most decision-makers belong to the reality-based community, know something about assessing the credibility of sources, and recognize a crank when they see one. Time and effort is better spent keeping them informed enough that they won’t be easily fooled, rather than trying to persuade those who want to fool themselves. When on a battlefield, practice triage.

    Comment by CM — 17 Nov 2009 @ 3:00 PM

  111. Terran writes
    > a lack of immediate consensus ?

    Wrong idea about consensus; consensus is not “immediate” — a few papers don’t make a “consensus” in a field that has more than a few people publishing. A consensus is an “as of” occasional summary of the state of the field taking everything–up to a given date–into account.

    (Done annually for many medical issues for example.)

    Here are some examples:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 17 Nov 2009 @ 4:19 PM

  112. #109 Ray. I have never doubted the basic physics of climatology. But that we attempt to apply it to a chaotic system with so many unknowns and innumerable imponderables gives me much pause. To the best of my knowledge science has not until now been tried in such a fraught environment. It’s obviously not rocket science (nor anything nearly so simple). And the evidence from its application has not so far been (for me) altogether convincing, despite your oft-quoted “mountains of evidence”.

    For me the likelihood of the difference between 2deg warming (beneficent) and 6deg (catastrophic) has not been established beyond peradventure.

    As to the opening of your second paragraph “And your characterization of the industrial revolution being entirely due to cheap energy is simply flat wrong” is quite surprising. Why do you say this? For me, and for all commentators I have ever read, it is this assertion of yours that is, on the contrary, actually “flat wrong”. Sorry.

    Comment by simon abingdon — 17 Nov 2009 @ 5:34 PM

  113. Re #69 Andrew P

    Sorry for the confusion, my post is a marginal joke at best. No respectable scientist would claim it would remain positive or negative for 30 years.

    The context is that Joe Bastardi (from accuwealther claimed we would have global cooling for the next 30 years. So I was merely pointing out the incorrect nature of what ‘some, so-called’ experts claim.

    He’s using the fact that he has a job as a weatherman, to say the climatologists are all wrong about AGW, while using incorrect charts and facts out of context to support his argument.

    Comment by John P. Reisman (OSS Foundation) — 17 Nov 2009 @ 5:38 PM

  114. simon abingdon (112) — I suggest you rethink the idea that 2 K warming would be beneficial in light of recent experiences in Bolivia, Nepal and Bhutan, not to mention East Africa; also take into account Mark Lynas’s report on his paleoclimate researches in “Six Degrres”, reviewed here:

    Comment by David B. Benson — 17 Nov 2009 @ 6:05 PM

  115. Ray, further to my #112 and to avoid splitting hairs, I do not regard the likes of Abraham Darby, James Brindley, James Watt and Robert Stephenson as scientists. Josiah Wedgwood and Michael Faraday were probably the only significant protagonists of the era who deserved to be considered so. When James Clerk Maxwell, the first true scientist of the modern era was born, the industrial revolution was already well under way.

    The insights of the early engineers/technologists (James Watt watching the kettle lid rattling as the water boiled for example) paved the way. But they were not scientists, and it was certainly the availability of cheap fuels which enabled their insights to be realized.

    Comment by simon abingdon — 17 Nov 2009 @ 6:15 PM

  116. #114 David B Benson. Thanks for your response. As you suggested I read Mark Lynas’s report (dated 11 March 2007). Reminded me rather of Al Gore’s scaremongering style. Basically I believe that 2deg warming will reduce the number of cold-related fatalities worldwide by an order of magnitude compared to heat-related increases. (No citation, just read it somewhere and found it obviously credible).

    Comment by simon abingdon — 17 Nov 2009 @ 6:43 PM

  117. Hank,
    By “immediate consensus”, I meant as applying to the set of papers discussing water vapor observations and climate models on the AIRS page I linked to.

    The word “immediate” was used with it’s meaning of “of the present time and place”- I should have phrased it better.


    The total column integrated profiles of water vapor may be well-described by the models, but the distribution of water vapor and its perturbations are of greater importance, as acknowledged in the Pierce et al. 2006 paper and elsewhere.

    From “Understanding Climate Change Feedbacks”, NAS Panel on Climate Change Feedbacks, 2003:

    “According to Harries 1989, “[U]ncertainties of only a few percent in knowledge of the humidity distribution in the atmosphere could produce changes to the outgoing spectrum of similar magnitude to that caused by doubling carbon dioxide in the atmosphere”, underscoring the importance of reliable upper tropospheric water vapor observations.” ”

    The following from Pierce et al. doesn’t sound like a “punt”, as you described it, on this topic:

    “The results show the models we investigated tend to have too much moisture in the upper tropospheric regions of the tropics and extra-tropics relative to the AIRS observations, by 25–100% depending on the location, and 25–50% in the zonal average. This discrepancy is well above the uncertainty in the AIRS data, and so seems to be a model problem. Even though the total column integrated water vapor profile may be nearly correct, this is an important finding for model simulations of future climate change, because even small absolute changes in water vapor in the upper troposphere can have a strong effect on radiative forcing if they are appreciable fractional changes [IPCC, 2001].”

    “A fixed absolute change in water vapor concentration in the upper troposphere
    due to anthropogenic effects will have a varying fractional change that depends on the base water vapor concentration present before the change is applied. If the
    models simulate this base water vapor concentration incorrectly (as we find here), then the strength of the water vapor feedback mechanism might be misrepresented. Given the importance of the water vapor feedback in determining the magnitude of future climate change, numerical simulations addressing this question are urgently needed.”

    The findings of Gettelman et al 2006 also appear significant :

    “Variability in the model and particularly in the Tropics and subtropics is not as well simulated as the mean and seasonal cycle. This is a general feature of GCMs and is not a problem with representations of RH per se, but rather a general issue with the representation and initiation of convection. Differences in the Tropics and subtropics result in zonal mean differences in heating rates of 10% in the upper troposphere and zonal mean OLR differences of 1–3 W/m2, with a global average near 1 W/m2. In some regions, such as the extremely dry upper troposphere west of the Asian monsoon, differences are up to 15 W/m2.”

    Comment by Terran — 17 Nov 2009 @ 7:08 PM

  118. Terran, why go back to the older (2001) IPCC?
    Did you compare it to the more recent one?
    You seem to be pulling up old papers from somewhere, but have you got references forward in time from those to more current work?

    This might help:
    Discussed here:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 17 Nov 2009 @ 8:37 PM

  119. Simon, ever hear of Sadie Carnot? James Joule? Fourier? Simon LaPlace? Newton? Joseph Priestley? Is it your serious contention that these men were not scientists? Do you seriously think that the explosion of science in the 17th century had nothing to do with the subsequent industrial revolution? As I said before, the “abundant energy” had been there all along, and was known. What was missing was understanding of how to exploit it. Science provided this.

    Our prosperity owes far more to science than to cheap energy.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 17 Nov 2009 @ 8:52 PM

  120. Thanks again everyone for contributions to this thread of the thread. Forgive me for just taking CM’s points, as it covers many others too:

    CM – Guy, your “list on the other side” proposal is misguided:

    CM – 1. You can’t convince “the irrational contrarian public who believe what they want to believe” by throwing another list of rational arguments at them.

    This is true, and possibly a fundamental flaw in my idea. What frightens me, however, is not the hardcore denialists, but the number of perfectly intelligent people who do now believe that the science is very unettled. Here in the UK, Ian Pilmer was on BBC Radio 4’s high profile morning show last week, with no counter-voice. He even appeared to win sympathy from the presenter. Casual listners heard he was a scientists, and heard him say that there is no consensus. And most will simply believe it.

    There are 3 possible responses here. 1 – give up. 2 – keep plugging away. 3 – try to find a new approach. I have faith (!) that among the now-majority who seem to be unconvinced by AGW, not ALL adopt a faith-based position. To some of them, the IPCC may be problematic because it is the word GOVERNMENT in the title of the organisation. I suggest that a simple, transparent, open format spreadsheet of peer-review papers might be a more potent weapon.

    CM – 2. Your proposed list of peer-reviewed paper quotes, “each positively supporting a central plank in AGW” would have no credibility whatsoever with people who think the IPCC is biased despite the IPCC’s conscientious discussions of uncertainties, unknowns, discrepancies, divergent findings and alternative hypotheses.

    As above, I don’t agree on this, necessarily. Many people – begrudgingly – can see the value in science without politics. Mistrust of politicians is now an epidemic, so the IPCC has an additional barrier of political interference to overcome… they never get as far as the uncertainties.

    CM – 3. Indeed, by mimicking the “450 papers” list you would just validate a denialist debate tactic. Science can do better.

    And here’s the nub of the problem. To date, science HASN’T done better. In terms of public persuasion, it’s done worse.

    Further (and crucially), a “mimic” of that 450 list is not what I am proposing at all – see my previous posts on eligibility criteria (any sort of criteria is clearly missing from the contrarian list). And further further… my database idea is not science, just as wikipedia is not science. I’m proposing open format… and that’s a very big and very important difference.

    CM – 4. Science isn’t losing the argument. Contrarians are a big deal in the blogosphere, not so much in the real world. Most decision-makers belong to the reality-based community, know something about assessing the credibility of sources, and recognize a crank when they see one. Time and effort is better spent keeping them informed enough that they won’t be easily fooled, rather than trying to persuade those who want to fool themselves. When on a battlefield, practice triage.

    I agree that among policy makers, science has made some big inroads (and thank goodness for the IPCC there). But among the public, we are losing support very rapidly indeed. And if the electorate don’t want to know, the politicians will surely follow. There’s big votes to be had right now in asking punters to vote Contrarian. So far, few politicians are going for it, but with falling public support it’s only a matter of time.

    My idea is surely a long way from perfect – I’m very much open to better ideas. However, I don’t buy that there is no problem. There is a huge problem, and the climate science community should be alarmed that their work is being increasingly misunderstood and disbelieved by the public.

    Because of the risk of repeating myself, I better leave it there for this thread. I hope at least it causes some to think outside the box at new, better ways of communicating the most important information of our generation.

    Comment by Guy — 17 Nov 2009 @ 9:28 PM

  121. Hank,

    The Pierce et al. 2006 paper cited the IPCC 2001 report because it was the most current one at the time of writing.

    They refer to the 2001 report on how “small absolute changes in water vapor in the upper troposphere can have a strong effect on radiative forcing if they are appreciable fractional changes”. This is still the scientific understanding of the matter, isn’t it?

    The Dessler 2009 paper is about the strong evidence for a postive water vapor feedback. It doesn’t refute or supercede the findings of the 3 papers I mentioned, which are about discrepancies between model predictions and observations of water vapor and temperature in the troposphere.

    I haven’t read the Sherwood article yet but will do, thank you.

    Comment by Terran — 17 Nov 2009 @ 9:44 PM

  122. (I should have added, perhaps unneccesarily, that none of the 3 papers mentioned in my last post dispute the existence of postive water vapor feedback.)

    Comment by Terran — 17 Nov 2009 @ 9:47 PM

  123. Basically I believe that 2deg warming will reduce the number of cold-related fatalities worldwide by an order of magnitude compared to heat-related increases. (No citation, just read it somewhere and found it obviously credible).

    This deserves to be framed and hung up on a wall somewhere, as some sort of iconic statement of “how to think entirely opposite to the way scientists think – and work”.

    Comment by dhogaza — 17 Nov 2009 @ 10:53 PM

  124. Our prosperity owes far more to science than to cheap energy.

    And of course if it weren’t for science and technology that energy wouldn’t be cheap. Kinda hard to crack crude into distillates like gasoline without some understanding of chemistry.

    Comment by dhogaza — 17 Nov 2009 @ 10:55 PM

  125. Terran (#117): Yes, I would say that Pierce et al. did “punt” on the issue of how their results speak to how well the models simulate the water vapor feedback. They said, “the water vapor feedback mechanism might be misrepresented. Given the importance of the water vapor feedback in determining the magnitude of future climate change, numerical simulations addressing this question are urgently needed.” Note the use of the word “might” and the emphasis on the need for simulations to address the question. They don’t claim to have the answer…but are just speculating on what might occur and acknowledging the need for more study.

    By contrast, John and Soden quite directly concluded “these [mean state] biases, while significant, have little direct impact on the models’ simulation of water vapor and lapse-rate feedbacks.” That is a pretty direct statement. (I haven’t read their full paper yet so I am not sure what evidence they present to back up this conclusion.)

    Also, you quote from Gettelman et al. (2006) again talking about issues involving the mean state but then don’t note the fact that Gettelman et al. (2008) directly addresses the water vapor feedback and they also conclude that the feedback in the upper troposphere is positive, with the change in water vapor such that relative humidity is approximately constant. [Gettelman et al. is not as explicit in concluding that the strength of the water vapor feedback as the result of this is correct…but John and Soden seem to be more explicit on that point, as is Dessler.]

    You seem to have a strong desire to conclude that these papers on the mean state biases have major implications for the consensus view but I see no evidence that this is the case from any of those papers. In fact, at least one (John and Soden) of the three (and with weaker statements, also a second of the three, Gettelman et al. 2008) seem to conclude that the models are simulating the water vapor feedback correctly. And, the other papers that I have mentioned by Soden and by Dessler also seem to provide evidence of that.

    Again, the consensus view is not the models get everything perfect (as you have probably heard the oft-repeated general statement about modeling, “All models are wrong but some models are useful”), but rather that there is a significant positive water vapor feedback that raises the climate sensitivity (and a negative lapse rate feedback that takes some fraction of that rise back).

    Comment by Joel Shore — 17 Nov 2009 @ 11:05 PM

  126. Re: 80 (@Maple Leaf). Different journals have different policies. When I edited an AMS journal, we got suggested reviewers fairly often. Whether I used one of them depended on my knowledge of the subdiscipline the paper came from and what I could glean about the relationship between the authors and the suggested reviewers. There were a few papers that came in that I knew little about, so I might take one of the suggested people, then dig around to find two others (going through the references, googling, etc.)

    Comment by Harold Brooks — 17 Nov 2009 @ 11:06 PM

  127. Re: The 450 papers list
    I just noticed I’m the lead author on one of the papers on the list. I have absolutely no idea how that paper could be construed as “skeptical of man-made global warming.” I have no idea how it could be construed as saying anything at all about man-made global warming.

    Comment by Harold Brooks — 17 Nov 2009 @ 11:12 PM

  128. Terran: I just skimmed through John and Soden ( ) and it actually explicitly talks about Pierce, basically saying that they confirm Pierce’s results regarding the mean state bias but show that this bias does not seem to influence the resulting feedback:

    [4] More recently, a study by Pierce et al. [2006] compared global specific humidity measurements from the AIRS instrument with that from GCMs. They found that these models display a distinct moist bias that is considerably larger than the estimated uncertainty in the AIRS data and suggest systematic deficiencies in the model simulations. However, the influence of water vapor on the climate response depends primarily on the projected perturbations to the water vapor field, rather than on the mean state. Thus the impact of these biases on the utility of the model for
    climate change studies remains unclear. [5] In this study, we extend the results of Pierce et al. [2006] by comparing AIRS temperature and humidity
    retrievals to simulations from 16 different models using the archive of climate model simulations compiled for the WCRP CMIP3. We find specific humidity biases consistent with those identified by Pierce et al. [2006]. We also present temperature and relative humidity biases in the models. We then examine the extent to which these biases may impact the climate sensitivity of the models, based on our current knowledge of temperature and humidity feedbacks.

    Comment by Joel Shore — 17 Nov 2009 @ 11:21 PM

  129. simon abingdon: You seem to have a view that the industrial revolution and our resulting prosperity as very fragile and believe that it somehow would not have occurred (at least to anything near the degree we’ve had) if it were not for the fortunate happenstance that there are lots of fossil fuels buried in the ground. I would tend to believe that if such a fortunate happenstance were not the case, we would have used our ingenuity to find other energy sources (and perhaps also to use energy sources more efficiently) … And, that now that we realize that it would be folly to fully-exploit those fossil fuel resources, we will in fact find other resources, especially once the appropriate market incentives are in place to encourage this by pricing fossil fuels to reflect the damage that they do to our environment.

    You seem to worry about Al Gore’s “scaremongering style” but perhaps you should also be concerned about those who warn about the economic effects of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions might also be fear-mongering. The fact that they have essentially no support in the peer-reviewed economics literature, as far as I’ve seen, would make such fear-mongering even less justifiable! Furthermore, it is not as if the only concern regarding AGW is how it affects cold- or heat-related fatalities. There are lots of other concerns revolving around sea level rise, change in precipitation patterns (and increased drying of soils with increased heat), stresses to already-stressed flora and fauna, and many other issues.

    Comment by Joel Shore — 17 Nov 2009 @ 11:42 PM

  130. Joel,

    All 3 papers find, as John and Soden (2007) put it, “systematic and consistent patterns of bias in tropospheric temperature and humidity compared to observations”, which seems an important result, as do the findings that “the models we investigated tend to have too much moisture in the upper tropospheric regions of the tropics and extra-tropics relative to the AIRS observations, by 25–100% depending on the location, and 25–50% in the zonal average” (Pierce et al. 2006) and that “[d]ifferences in the Tropics and subtropics result in zonal mean differences in heating rates of 10% in the upper troposphere and zonal mean OLR differences of 1–3 W/m2, with a global average near 1 W/m2.” (Gettelman et al. 2006).

    The fact that the models show a consistent water vapor feedback across models unimpacted by the varying biases of the models does not in some way cancel out these modelling issues mentioned above.

    Response: no it doesn’t, and modellers will be working to address that. But if it doesn’t make much of a difference to the net feedback,it isn’t much of an issue for future temperature projections (though it might be for other impacts, you’d have to look and see). -gavin]

    Comment by Terran — 18 Nov 2009 @ 6:16 AM

  131. #119 Ray, you ask if I’ve heard of Newton. (Thanks, Ray). However, I do admit that I see no direct connection between Newton and the Industrial Revolution, other than noting that the attitudes and discoveries of the Enlightenment (Newton being the chief protagonist) prepared the ground for it to happen.

    Now you take me to task for saying that it was the abundant availability of fuel (coal) that drove the Industrial Revolution; that no, it came about only through the insights of the scientists of the day. I’m afraid I still beg to differ.

    James Brindley´s canals of the 18th century were constructed by pick and shovel and their traffic was powered by the horse. (The self-propelled steam engine was yet to come).

    Meanwhile the Abraham Darbys discovered how to produce iron cheaply. This development was crucial.

    James Watt’s (probably apocryphal) boyhood observation of the boiling kettle enabled him to design the first efficient steam engines (building on Newcomen’s early examples) and this led directly to the explosive developments of the steam age in the early 19th century. I would say this epoch marked the onset of the Industrial Revolution proper.

    So would you call these men scientists? If not perhaps you think they were in constant correspondence with the likes of Fourier and Laplace, not otherwise knowing how to proceed, eh? Incidentally, Carnot’s ideas were only of theoretical interest until developed by Clausius late in the day, well after the Industrial Revoltion had gained unstoppable momentum.

    Whatever you may say, I still feel certain that if combustible fuels had not been available in abundance, then the Industrial Revolution could not have happened.

    Comment by simon abingdon — 18 Nov 2009 @ 7:51 AM

  132. Guy, as a general rule, BBC does a piss poor job of covering science. In fact, I would contend that anyone who relies on television or other broadcast media for their science knowledge is condemning themselves to ignorance. Unfortunately, Snow’s Two Cultures have bifurcated several times since he wrote his essay, and we now have everything from sceintist through artsy-fartsy to the folks who vote in American Idol but not in elections.
    The problem is that while the science is quite straightforward, there are a lot of details one must understand before it becomes straightforward. It all boils down to this: The planet absorbs energy from the sun and heats up to some temperature at which it emits enough energy (in a longer wavelength portin of the spectrum) that Energy_in=Energy_out. When you introduce an atmosphere, some of the gasses (e.g. greenhouse gasses) will block some of the outgoing radiation, and the planet’s temperature must rise until Energy_in=Energy_out again. This is absolutely fundamental, and you cannot possibly understand Earth’s climate without understanding this greenhouse mechanism. Now, when you change the composition of the atmosphere so that it absorbs more radiation, it is an inevitable consequence that the temperature of the planet must rise further.

    That’s it. That’s how basic the situation is. Energy balance. Now there are a ton of details that determine exactly how much the planet’s temperature must rise, but there are about 10 separate lines of evidence that all agree on a level of about 3 degrees per doubling, so it’s kind of hard to dissent from the consensus without being in outright denial of the evidence.

    So it comes down to this. We can’t dumb down the science any more. Could the public maybe meet us half way and frigging wise up?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 18 Nov 2009 @ 9:21 AM

  133. Gavin, this comment (currently #130 by murteza) to which you responded is from a link-spamming robot. The content of the post is grabbed from this earlier Eli Rabbett comment on this thread.

    Indeed. I will clear it up- gavin]

    Comment by JBL — 18 Nov 2009 @ 9:23 AM

  134. Gavin, the comment by murteza you replied to in 130 is a copy of Eli’s comment in 94. Something similar happened to me in the bristlecone topic. I fear a spammer is playing games here.

    Comment by tharanga — 18 Nov 2009 @ 9:25 AM

  135. Simon,
    How long have the coal beds been there? How long had people known about them and known that you could release a lot of heat by burning coal? And yet there was no industrial revolution until the 18th century. Why? What was different about that time that made energy-intensive industry possible.

    And do you seriously contend that understanding of Newtonian dynamics, calculus, etc., had nothing to do with our suddenly acquired ability to capitalize on energy resources? Wow!

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 18 Nov 2009 @ 9:25 AM

  136. Harold Brooks, 127: You likely aren’t the only one confused why your paper is on the list. I suppose the list-maker found Pielke’s work on the economic damage of hurricanes, and then stuck in your paper for fun. I suggest you take it up with the author of the list.

    Drew Shindell, GISS, is even on there. Go figure.

    Guy: I don’t see any value in replicating the list on the ‘other side’. Perhaps a look into the most heavily cited papers might be interesting, but simple lists of papers aren’t helpful; literature reviews are. And plenty of those already exist, including the IPCC reports themselves.

    Comment by tharanga — 18 Nov 2009 @ 9:41 AM

  137. Web page broken?

    Your RSS feed doesn’t seem to function properly – my newsreader signals an error.
    ‘Older’ links – upto this article work fine, but the one before last (“it’s all about me(thane)”) redirects also an error page (“Coming soon: Another fine website hosted by WebFaction”).
    Clicking on the ‘home’ button (top left of the page) yields also the error page, while the ‘archive’ button returns a page with:

    Archives by Month:

    Archives by Category:

    And lastly, clicking on the ‘about’ button yields the right page, but the french version (I do write from France, but usually watch the English version, and the ‘about’ page does also not mention the “/langswitch” thing which appears on other translated articles)

    My apologies for the interruption in the discussion.

    Comment by koen — 18 Nov 2009 @ 9:43 AM

  138. Ray said:

    …How long had people known about them [coal beds] and known that you could release a lot of heat by burning coal? And yet there was no industrial revolution until the 18th century. Why? What was different about that time that made energy-intensive industry possible.

    In a nut shell mind you …

    Because coal was, and is, pretty useless for iron production.

    Hitherto the production of iron had utilised charcoal. Wood was plentiful and easy to harvest. But production of charcoal became expensive and large-scale deforestation meant it was a dwindling resource, necessitating moving the iron industry around every “few” years. Also, the iron smelting process with charcoal was rather slow, and so limited output somewhat.

    Then along came Abraham Darby I, who we can thank for the insight that led to the discovery of coke (eventually making a large market for coal) and its use in iron production. Then, after a few more years of furnace design improvements, Abraham Darby III, along with John Wilkinson, built a ruddy great bridge in iron over the Severn and said, “Hey, look what we can do in iron.” The Industrial Revolutionists were impressed and then beat a path to their doors in Coalbrookdale. The rest, as they say, is history.

    Comment by P. Lewis — 18 Nov 2009 @ 10:30 AM

  139. Whatever’s broken is not just RSS; web browser also hits the same error page, when directed to the home page. I got in ‘sideways’ via older links.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 18 Nov 2009 @ 10:45 AM

  140. Re 139, Hank–

    Curiously, I experienced this problem yesterday, but now it’s fine for me.

    Pretty weird.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 18 Nov 2009 @ 1:13 PM

  141. Guy, have a look at this website illustrating the basic point Ray Ladbury explains above:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 18 Nov 2009 @ 1:15 PM

  142. Guy (#120),

    Fair enough. I misunderstood you a bit, and I take back (3).

    As for whether or not the science is losing the public (I assume we’re talking about the U.S.), and whether it’s because of a government taint, first take the long view (two decades):

    Although a strong majority of Americans believe that global warming is real, that temperatures are rising, and that the release of carbon dioxide is a cause, the public remains relatively uncertain about whether the majority of scientists agree on the matter.

    – Nisbet and Myers, 2007: “Twenty Years of Public Opinion about Global Warming”

    So let’s say that, up to 2007, Americans were largely behind the scientific consensus view, even if they did not understand it. But a recent Pew survey did show a dip in the public’s ranking of the importance of the global warming issue amid other concerns, as well as a dip in the public ‘belief’ in global warming. Nisbet has some useful links on interpreting it.

    Now, whatever’s the reason for the recent polls, scientists haven’t suddenly begun communicating worse, and the IPCC hasn’t somehow become more governmental, than in the previous 20 years when their message got through to the public. So I don’t think that’s where the problem lies.

    Comment by CM — 18 Nov 2009 @ 3:34 PM

  143. Hmm, I seem to believe I am writing posts that contain words that I’ve carefully chosen, and yet people are clearly reading posts responding to entirely different words that I don’t recognise…

    For example, I have never suggested a comparable “other side” list to the notorious 450 list, which I’ve pointed out several times now (I think the last time was #120), so really no point in me doing so again. Anyone who is very bored feel free to look back and what I actually proposed – still think it’s a decent idea.

    Similarly I’m not sure why I’m getting (admittedly very good) lessons in the Greenhouse effect – I do get the basics no problem at all, and have done for many, many years. What I don’t get is technical detail which requires many years of study, and most climate science discussion ends up in this level of detail. Indeed, how I wish more people were as simple and honest in this regard as me – the world is filled with armchair climate science experts who genuinely believe that with no further qualification that a chat down the pub and reading the Murdoch press that they are able to reasonably assess the science themselves (“well, we’ve had climate change for billions of years haven’t we, so it must be all a load of rubbish” is a scientific statement of supreme arrogance and stupidity, but boy do I hear it a lot). By contrast, at least I read up on actual science, am moderately intelligent and am interested, but in the final analysis I defer to the general body of opinion among those best qualified to assess the data – ie, not me. Summaries of peer reviewed papers, academic institutions and the IPCC make my mind up instead.

    I couldn’t agree more that the greenhouse effect basics (as Ray nicely and succinctly points out) present the fundamental case that often gets ignored, but I feel I’m insulting people’s intelligence here if I say that this point has been made endlessly for decades, and it seems to make no difference at all.

    Ray, you’ve presented a perfectly reasonable challenge – could the public meet us halfway? At the moment the answer is “no”, it seems. And I’m asking what “we” intend to do about it. Folks, seriously – we need some good ideas, and we need them fast. What’s the alternative – just moan at how thick the public are and give up? There may not be a simple solution here – one figures that the word “education” should feature prominently somewhere – but I really do think there needs to be a new urgency in trying to get the simple message from scientists across in a way that is meaningful to the guy and gal on the street. I’m kinda disheartened that even here in RC discussion, there seems to be little comprehension of the trouble we’re in.

    Comment by Guy — 18 Nov 2009 @ 3:36 PM

  144. Ray Ladbury, and just what was the scientific breakthrough that permitted us to burn/use magnitudes more coal than before the Industrial Revolution?

    Comment by Rod B — 18 Nov 2009 @ 4:18 PM

  145. Terran,

    Keep in mind that it is possible for models to be correct for the wrong reasons. One might expect that the roughly logarithmic dependence on radiation limits the impact of various biases. The AIRS from Pierce et al (2006) showed that the models tend to have a poor representation of upper tropospheric water vapor, with the models being too moist. Now keep in mind that the water vapor feedback depends on the fractional change of upper tropospheric vapor, so that if the simulated change in WV due to greenhouse feedback was roughly correct, then you’d expect the feedback to be incorrect. This is because the fraction of interest is delta-WV/base-WV. Now further work (e.g., by Soden et al. and summarized in the Dessler and Sherwood perspective piece) has shown that the strength of the water vapor feedback in models is reasonable, and thus one might conclude that the processes controlling delta-WV are also misrepresented in models.

    Considering an example with carbon dioxide, say we didn’t know what the initial CO2 concentration in the atmosphere was, and we used a climate model with a perturbed carbon cycle, and a resulting change in the CO2 amount by another unknown amount. Well, consider that the real CO2_base concentration is 350 parts per million, and the simulated change in CO2 is + 20 parts per million. Now say we have a model with a background concentration of 280 parts per million (a 20% error), but the CO2 response to the carbon cycle perturbation is +16 parts per million. In both cases, the resultant radiative forcing will be the same, amounting to about 0.3 W m^-2. Here is an issue with problems offsetting.

    That said, I’m not sure if anyone has actually tested how problems with these components of the water vapor feedback tend to cancel each other out, or if any other papers have re-examined the results you refer to and found something else. Brogniez and Pierrehumbert (2007) for example found that various models, at least in the tropics, do a good job of representing the water vapor distribution in the troposphere. In the wider context of things, this is a problem in the details though, and is not threatening to the general “consensus” regarding how water vapor amplifies the CO2 forced climate change.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 18 Nov 2009 @ 5:10 PM

  146. Hey, Rod, a broad sweeping answer:
    Results … about 666,000 for what caused the Enlightenment?

    A single specific page that sums it up pretty well:

    Shorter answer you may not like:

    It was the success of the notion that people could get together and create their own governments — including services that served people rather than rich lords, like lending libraries, post offices, and public education.

    In any society where the rich could simply take from people, the penalty for any innovation was you got robbed.

    Now people will complain that still happens. But they fail to notice the ring of soldiers protecting them from the wolves and pirates, provided by their fellow citizens because that benefits everyone. It ain’t robbery for people to get together do create things they can’t buy, or don’t want to buy when they can do them by organizing.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 18 Nov 2009 @ 6:48 PM

  147. Apropos several people’s issues — a good answer to the question about why we can’t seem to find smarter right-wingers:


    An article on Salon asks “Why Can’t We Have Smarter Right Wingers?”

    It’s been my own stark plaint for a decade — and not from any lefty reflex. Rather, as one who openly avows some libertarian and classic “conservative” views, sprinkled in a mostly-progressive goulash.

    Shouldn’t there be clear-headed voices, articulating the attractiveness of balanced budgets, national readiness, genuinely competitive free enterprise, and caution in international entanglements? Isn’t it good to have someone in the room demanding: “Prove that something really is broken, before using the the blunt instrument of the state to fix it”?

    I’ve long felt that the best minds of the right had useful things to contribute to a national conversation — even if their overall habit of resistance to change proved wrongheaded, more often than right. At least, some of them had the beneficial knack of targeting and criticizing the worst liberal mistakes, and often forcing needful re-drafting.

    That is, some did, way back in when decent republicans and democrats shared one aim — to negotiate better solutions for the republic…..
    —-end excerpt——

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 18 Nov 2009 @ 6:51 PM

  148. It seems I waded in to a conversation that had already had some legs. The road to the Industrial Revolution required the birth of “engineering science” (in the 16th and 17th centuries), and this is inextricably linked with the work of some of the greats: Newton, Hooke and Boyle most certainly; and if I thought a little harder then I’d probably come up with some more of the earlier greats without whom the Industrial Revolution would have had difficulty getting going. It’s a tad more than the Enlightenment being responsible for it.

    Comment by P. Lewis — 18 Nov 2009 @ 7:40 PM

  149. Rod B., Well, steam engines were pretty inefficient until Sadie Carnot provided his insights in the 1820s. Joule, Fourier, Clausius, and many others also contributed to transforming the steam engine from a dangerous oddity to an engine of prosperity. And I still contend that steam engines wouldn’t have gotten far without Newtonian mechanics. The fact of the matter is that science changed the way people look at the world. It provided us with a hope of understanding and controlling it

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 18 Nov 2009 @ 8:07 PM

  150. Guy, The answer to your question is pretty simple. If the human race doesn’t wise up and meet the scientific community half way, then we will die, along with the rest of our species. This is humanity’s midterm, and we haven’t been preparing for it. Some of us are still refusing to admit there’s a test. Most of us are praying to get by on generous partial credit. It would appear that no one is fully prepared. If we fail this test, our environment–the environment that fostered the growth of human civilazation, the only environment that civilization has known–changes, irreparably and for the worse. Moreover, this happens at a time when human population crests at 9-10 billion.

    So, you tell me. What do we do, apart from waiting for our progeny to curse us with their dying breath?

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 18 Nov 2009 @ 8:15 PM

  151. I think (FWIW) the “science or coal” debate is pretty sterile. It wasn’t just one thing that created the Industrial Revolution; it was the synergistic action of many things.

    And engineering and science tend to blend into one another at the frontiers; no experimentalist is without engineering smarts, and engineers take their theory seriously–albeit from a different perspective. (John Tyndall–surveyor and physicist–would have made a fine engineer, had he chosen that profession. Witness his famous demonstrations and apparatus.)

    I think it’s a case of “when it’s time to railroad, you railroad.”

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 18 Nov 2009 @ 9:54 PM

  152. Hank (146), fair answers…

    Comment by Rod B — 18 Nov 2009 @ 10:53 PM

  153. is still only intermittently working for me; it works to come in ‘sideways’ via a Google search or other link. I left a query at “” reporting that some of us are seeing their “Site Not Configured” message off and on, trusting that they’re the right people to tell.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 18 Nov 2009 @ 11:42 PM

  154. CM, we cross-posted I think, so no worries. And you’re right – science hasn’t changed, but the public is ceasing to believe it. I think there’s a few psychological factors at work – for example, many don’t want to believe it so will cling to any hope from anywhere, and under an extremely fierce contrarian campaign they have optimistically bought into “doubt”. Another big factor is that the last 2-3 years many of us have had milder weather, and on a purely intuitive basis, it takes the reality off people’s radar (which of course has little-to-no scientific relevance).

    Which leads on to Ray’s comments. What DO we do? Would love a full blog post on this! I do think that the basic science case has got buried recently and now needs something both new and very grounded in facts. The whole scientific issue has become a) politicised (“they just want another excuse to raise taxes” and b) emotive (“Tony Blair still flies, they’re all hypocrites, I’m not giving up my 4×4”). People seem to be incapable of separating science from dumb conspiracy and general cynicism about the media and politicians, and I think that’s our starting point.

    And hence my paper database idea, really. Hardly the final solution, but a useful contribution if done right. I remember when watching An Inconvenient Truth, the contrast between the Science journal macro-study and the study into media coverage was one of the most persuasive elements. Let’s try and get back to this – as concrete analysis as reasonably possible of where science really is. Crucially – make it as broad, watertight and as objective as science can. Sadly in this particular battle I think we have to forget the IPCC, Copenhagen etc – we need something powerful which has nothing to do with governments and pressure groups.

    Gee, one or two more recent peer-reviewed metadata studies would be an excellent start…

    Comment by Guy — 19 Nov 2009 @ 3:30 AM

  155. Hank (& anyone else with that problem): I fixed this (in Firefox) by removing real climate from my cache and cookies. Now works fine after a couple of days of the same message you’re getting.

    Comment by ffrancis — 19 Nov 2009 @ 6:52 AM

  156. thanks ffrancis, that should’ve been obvious to try and seems to have worked.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 Nov 2009 @ 8:54 AM

  157. #145: Chris, and Gavin (re: #130)

    For a given quantity of water vapor in a tropospheric column, different distributions of the water vapor will result in different magnitudes of the ‘greenhouse’ effect from the radiative absorption of IR by the water vapor.

    From IPCC AR4 Chapter 8, Box 8.1: Upper-Tropospheric Humidity and Water Vapour Feedback :

    “Tropospheric water vapour concentration diminishes rapidly with height, since it is ultimately limited by saturation-specific humidity, which strongly decreases as temperature decreases. Nevertheless, these relatively low upper-tropospheric concentrations contribute disproportionately to the ‘natural’ greenhouse effect, both because temperature contrast with the surface increases with height, and because lower down the atmosphere is nearly opaque at wavelengths of strong water vapour absorption.”
    “The radiative effect of absorption by water vapour is roughly proportional to the logarithm of its concentration, so it is the fractional change in water vapour concentration, not the absolute change, that governs its strength as a feedback mechanism.”

    The 3 papers under discussion found that the models do well at reproducing the total column integrated water vapor profile but have a systematic tendency to overestimate the moisture levels in the upper troposphere, and to underestimate them in the lower troposphere.

    Since the total amount is the nearly the same in models and observations, the presense of any extra water vapor in the upper troposhere (compared to observations) must correspond to a decrease of that quantity of water vapor in the lower troposphere.

    Since water vapor is present at much greater concentrations in the lower troposphere, a decrease of water vapor in the lower troposphere will diminish the greenhouse radiative effect in the lower troposphere by a much smaller amount than the greenhouse radiative effect in the upper troposphere will be increased for an increase of the same quantity of water vapor.

    This seems to show that models are overestimating the greenhouse warming from water vapor?

    Response: You might think so, but it is more complicated. A better way of looking at it is to think about the effective emitting height of the IR from the water. Since all the models have the same temperature controlled decrease in humidity with height (more or less), the consequence of having too much upper trop water is that the mean emitting height will be slightly higher than in the real world. However, the feedback depends on the change of the emitting height in a warmer situation, and so the model’s sensitivity might not be that sensitive to the exact location (and so it proves). More generally, the sensitivity of any change in the models is only loosely connected to biases in the mean climatology. – gavin]

    Comment by Terran — 19 Nov 2009 @ 10:03 AM

  158. Chris, by the way, thank you for your article “Re-visiting climate forcing/feedback concepts”, which you directed me to – I found it well-written and very helpful.

    Comment by Terran — 19 Nov 2009 @ 10:10 AM

  159. Kevin McK. (151), you’re correct, of course, but talking away all the fun…

    Comment by Rod B — 19 Nov 2009 @ 10:30 AM

  160. Guy, the problem with your proposal is that you are assuming that evidence can convince people that climate change is an issue. However, we already have evidence–mountains of it. It should be obvious to anyone over the age of 30 that they are not living in the same climate into which they were born.

    This problem goes much deeper than evidence. It goes to getting people to believe something they really don’t want to believe. If they buy into science, then this is possible. If they reject science then we’re just waiting around until we become extinct.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 19 Nov 2009 @ 11:32 AM

  161. Gavin said,
    “[Response: We have never claimed to my knowledge that no papers purporting to be skeptical of AGW have ever been published.”

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 17 November 2009 @ 2:42 PM
    “The problem is that the denialists have no science, no evidence. All they have is a nagging suspicion that all the experts must be wrong because their conclusions don’t allow unlimited consumption in perpetuity.”

    This regular drumbeat by the Rays that skeptics have nothing is blatantly wrong and inconsistent with the
    acknowledgments by fellow team members.

    Obviously the skeptics have science, evidence and peer reviewed publications.
    You may debate it, disparage it and reject it but claiming it doesn’t exist is not wise.

    [Response: You appear to be having a bit of a logical thinking fail. “Paper in peer-reviewed literature” does not imply ‘science and evidence’. There are many papers that are wrong, that misrepresent evidence and distrort science. G&T, Khilyuk and Chilingar are prime examples. What evidence or science is that? – gavin]

    Comment by John H. — 19 Nov 2009 @ 1:44 PM

  162. #157:

    Gavin: “[…] the consequence of having too much upper trop water is that the mean emitting height will be slightly higher than in the real world.”

    Exactly – the models have a higher effective emitting height, which means a lower emitting temperature and less escaping energy through OLR ie. a more powerful ‘greenhouse’ effect than the the real world.

    [Response: No. The emitting temperature is always the same, and the net GHE in the models can’t be very different from the real world since it is constrained by the solar input (which equals the IR output at TOA at steady state) and the surface temperature (which sets the surface LW up). The differences you get are a Watt/m2 or two (out of ~150 W/m2), which is a small error. – gavin]

    Comment by Terran — 19 Nov 2009 @ 3:37 PM

  163. Ray, we recently had an exchange involving Newton.

    If we can set aside for the moment his role as (co-)inventor of the calculus and his seminal work in optics, I should like share with you my understanding of his contribution to mechanics.

    3rd law: Action and reaction are equal and opposite. Hardly insightful. I walk on the floor: the floor supports me. Commonplace.

    1st law: (Law of inertia). Everyone knows it and experiences it. Try turning quickly when you’re running: you can’t (without difficulty). Commonplace.

    But the 2nd law: P = mf (giving away my age). Just an amazing synthesis of the apple and the planet. Maybe science’s most wonderful insight, modestly attributed by Newton (the shoulders of giants) mainly to Kepler. (Poor old neglected Hooke).

    And the Principia? Just the embodiment of the Enlightenment. Altogether dumbfounding.

    Ray, when Newton has been your lifelong hero, it is galling to be asked if you’ve ever heard of him.

    Sorry if this is OT.

    Comment by simon abingdon — 19 Nov 2009 @ 3:55 PM

  164. #162:

    The emitting temperature isn’t constant because the absorbed solar input varies with changes in albedo and solar irradiance at the TOA.

    I came across this concise description of the ‘greenhouse’ effect, which I hope I can use to demonstrate the point I’m trying to make concerning a model-overestimated GHE :

    “In the terrestrial spectrum, there are large numbers of absorption lines (which are broadened by both Doppler and pressure effects), owing mostly to the triatomic molecules water vapor and carbon dioxide, but with some notable contributions from other trace species such as methane. Water vapor content decreases sharply with height, but there are still large water absorption effects at 11 km. Taken together, the relative opacity of the atmosphere to terrestrial radiation makes for a strong “greenhouse effect”. ”
    From the MIT Program in Atmospheres, Oceans and Climate.

    Increasing the WV in the upper trop wil increase the opacity there. Decreasing the WV in the lower trop will decrease the opacity, but not as much because of the differences in existing concentration. The lower trop’s high WV content can sometimes make it completely opaque to IR radiation in WV’s absorption ranges, so lowering the WV wouldn’t change the GHE in those situations.

    It would seem to follow that the model atmospheres, with distributions which has more WV in the upper troposphere and less in the lower than the real word does, will be more opaque to terrestial IR radiation and so have a stronger greenhouse effect, following from the definition above.

    Comment by Terran — 19 Nov 2009 @ 6:44 PM

  165. So, Terran, where did you get the wrong idea Gavin just corrected?
    You stated it as though you thought it were a fact. Your own work?
    Someone else told you? Where’d you get it?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 Nov 2009 @ 11:42 PM

  166. If we can set aside for the moment his role as (co-)inventor of the calculus and his seminal work in optics, I should like share with you my understanding of his contribution to mechanics.

    3rd law: Action and reaction are equal and opposite. Hardly insightful. I walk on the floor: the floor supports me. Commonplace.

    1st law: (Law of inertia). Everyone knows it and experiences it. Try turning quickly when you’re running: you can’t (without difficulty). Commonplace.

    Net results: millions dead in WWI due to Newtonian mechanics making it possible to create accurate artillery tables.

    Not significant, of course. Everyone dies, eventually, anyway …

    Comment by dhogaza — 20 Nov 2009 @ 12:18 AM

  167. Something lighthearted, with a serious message, that all should check out in the lead up to COP15.

    some levity… now carry on!

    Comment by juice — 20 Nov 2009 @ 5:14 AM

  168. John H., I would suggest that you might look into how often the denialist diatribes have been cited since their publication.

    Most often, you will find zero or at must a citation in a refutation. The denialists simply do not present a coherent framework for understanding climate. The consensus model does.
    So should we reject the only model that allows us to understand the climate simply because it tells us things we’d rather not here? That’s the question facing the human race–whether policy will be guided by science or anti-science.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 20 Nov 2009 @ 5:57 AM

  169. Simon Abingdon, Sooooo…. let me get this straight. Newton is your idol, but you just never bothered to consider the implications of his work? Or you just don’t understand it. Because it’s really, really hard to imagine the industrial revolution occurring without Newton’s influence.

    As I say, the coal was always there, and it had been known since ancient times. Kind of hard to argue that energy was the sole driving force behind the industrial revolution. Human understanding is a greater driver than fire.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 20 Nov 2009 @ 6:03 AM

  170. “3rd law: Action and reaction are equal and opposite. Hardly insightful. I walk on the floor: the floor supports me. Commonplace.

    “1st law: (Law of inertia). Everyone knows it and experiences it. Try turning quickly when you’re running: you can’t (without difficulty). Commonplace.”

    Simon, FWIW, I think you’re underestimating the amount of insight required to look clearly at the mundane. (Perhaps you’ve read about those (20th-century) critics of Goddard who thought that rockets couldn’t work in hard vacuum because they “need something to push against?” They clearly had flunked 3rd law, despite their “commonplace” experience of its consequences.) And formalizing it certainly was consequential, as has already been pointed out.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 20 Nov 2009 @ 8:17 AM

  171. Guy (~154, 19 November 2009 @ 3:30 AM):

    Use “communicating science” in the RC site search to find several topic threads on this subject. This might be helpful for refining your ideas.


    Comment by Steve Fish — 20 Nov 2009 @ 2:17 PM

  172. #169 Ray. Ray, of course you’re quite right. If the Chinese had had a Newton they would have got farther than gunpowder.

    I got suckered in to arguing with you that the exploitation of fossil fuel resources was what drove the IR. But yes, there could have been many Abraham Darbys discovering how to make coke and iron, but only one Newton. He really was extraordinary, and I agree that most of the aspects of the western lifestyle we now enjoy are thanks to him.

    Ray, I’m 66 (before retiring I logged over 10,000 hrs in Boeings and the Airbus BTW) but I still have a lot of resistance to the idea that AGW could be true. (My protected childhood perhaps). However, I do think the current Hadcrut thing is very tacky. Wouldn’t want to identify with that at all. RC is for me always the authentic blog and source of climate info.


    Comment by simon abingdon — 20 Nov 2009 @ 3:44 PM

  173. Gavin,

    From the paper “Mechanisms for climate variability during glacial and interglacial periods” (Loving & Vallis 2004) :

    “Reducing greenhouse gases reduces the effective emitting height of the atmosphere and cools the climate, and in our model increasing the planetary emissivity (e) is a parameterization for this.”

    Changing the emitting height by changing the opacity of the atmosphere to terrestrial radiation is more or less the definition of the greenhouse effect. With greater opacity, the emitting height of the downward LW radiation decreases, warming the surface, and the emitting height of the spaceward LW increases, meaning less energy lost to space, keeping the planet warmer.

    This is my understanding of it, at any rate.

    Comment by Terran — 20 Nov 2009 @ 8:12 PM

  174. #165: Hank, it’s my argument, though probably not an novel one.

    Comment by Terran — 20 Nov 2009 @ 8:26 PM

  175. Simon, that was very gracious, and I appreciate it. FWIW, I apologize for the snark. It probably came across as more vitriolic than it was intended.

    As to anthropogenic causation, I’ve been over the science in as much detail as I can, given that I am only a physicist and not an expert. I really don’t see any way to avoid the conclusion that we are seriously altering the climate. The consensus model has too much explanatory and predictive power to be seriously wrong–and the same forcings and feedbacks that drive anthropogenic warming are indispensible in that model. The theory and all the evidence say we’ve got a serious poblem.

    We agree on the East Anglia hacking. The hackers, and those using the private communications to smear science and scientists are lower than snakesh*t. It is just another reminder of caliber of the anti-science camp.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 20 Nov 2009 @ 9:03 PM

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