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  1. Yes, I get the cartoon. Is it science or is it not? Time will tell, many now accepted ideas were “just not scientific” when they were first developed–until we needed them!

    Comment by John Wiley — 5 Mar 2006 @ 10:23 PM

  2. More to the point John, how many “just not scientific” ideas were just wrong (for a semi-comprehensive, but amusing listing see

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 6 Mar 2006 @ 12:24 AM

  3. Sorry, my eyes aren’t so good nowadays, but is the guy with the calculator named Stewie or Stevie?

    Comment by John Hunter — 6 Mar 2006 @ 7:32 AM

  4. Stewie, definitely Stewie. Does it matter for any particular reason?

    Comment by Chris — 6 Mar 2006 @ 1:12 PM

  5. And let’s not forget that what has often been accepted as scientific fact is later debunked. And the corollary, what often passes for scientific “fact” is not fact…….

    Comment by Lisa — 6 Mar 2006 @ 2:50 PM

  6. Reminds me of this, somehow:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Mar 2006 @ 2:56 PM

  7. Funny, I could have sworn it said “Stevie”…

    Comment by Nick — 6 Mar 2006 @ 4:29 PM

  8. Hmm, if I understand it right, then ANY politized science is bad, because it tends to stroll off the facts (and this is also in respect to pesticides, or nuclear power (where facts are oftened ignored)).

    I think they have a deal, especially when it comes to religion, but it’s not the religious right that critisizes man-made climate-change, but rather sceptics…

    However, I like this cartoon, especially if one followed the battle between creationism and evolution or the neglect of facts and complexity in politics at all… (As if Scientists can proclaim one easy step to solve the problems, as if a democratic consensus in science mattered at all…)

    Comment by Max Schwing — 6 Mar 2006 @ 5:14 PM

  9. Here’s another cartoon which I feel pretty well sums up the CO2/GW hypothesis:

    Comment by nanny_govt_sucks — 6 Mar 2006 @ 6:34 PM

  10. Re: 9
    I’m not sure I get the point. Atmospheric C02 goes up, temperature increases – where’s the miracle? The theory has been around for years.

    I do think Gary Trudeau misses an important point, however. ‘Situational Science’ is itself controversial. Mr. Trudeau should give its detractors equal time in his strip.

    Confused? Not thinking about global warming anymore? That’s the point…

    Comment by Peter Backes — 6 Mar 2006 @ 7:10 PM

  11. Time will tell, many now accepted ideas were “just not scientific” when they were first developed–until we needed them!

    since they are plentiful, at least from your perspective, you wouldn’t mind giving some specific instances, would you? of SCIENCE now, not inventions or technology.

    Comment by Jan Theodore Galkowski — 6 Mar 2006 @ 7:27 PM

  12. Re: # 11
    1) The idea that stomach ulcers are caused by bacterial infection was roundly ridiculed, and got the Nobel recently.
    2) Tectonic plates
    3) That mitochondria are prokaryotes living in a eukaryotic cell
    4) that the earth goes round the sun
    I think that’s a few to be going on with :)

    Comment by per — 6 Mar 2006 @ 8:03 PM

  13. Re #12: Which of your examples were once considered scientific fact, then later debunked?

    I was under the impression that each of your four hypotheses, while originally controversial, became accepted after a lot of research and hard work, and have yet to be debunked.

    How does this differ from the AGW hypothesis? While originally controversial, it has become accepted, and has yet to be debunked …

    Comment by Don Baccus — 6 Mar 2006 @ 8:38 PM

  14. Oops, I mistakenly thought posts #11 and #12 were referring to post #5 … my goof.

    Scratch that post if you can :)

    Comment by Don Baccus — 6 Mar 2006 @ 8:44 PM

  15. regarding “(1)”, that’s “normal science”. that is, it is a reasonable hypothesis, however skeptically it was received, which was proven true. the Nobel affirms that.

    “(2)” was surely a paradigm shift, but in actuality, it had little or nothing to do with Wegener’s “continental drift” hypothesis, which is probably what you consider the object of ridicule in that case. indeed, plate tectonics was the achievement of a single guy, J Tuzo Wilson, somewhat anticipated by Arthur Holmes and David Griggs. even so, if you consider Wegener, his ideas were only ridiculed in the United States but were accepted in Europe. and, of course, Wilson was trying to explain the new evidence from seafloor spreading measurements and geomagnetic reversals, not merely the origin or shape of continents.

    “(3)” isn’t quite correct. mitochondria are not independently living organisms. for example, they’re not capable of apoptosis apart from their host cell, nor do they undergo mitosis except when signalled by the host. the idea of a prokayotic origin of mitochrondia is widely accepted today but that’s because endosymbiosis is recognized now as a more widespread biological relationship than it once was, notably with respect to chloroplasts, plastids, and kleptoplastidicity. the idea is if the mechanism exists today, why couldn’t it exist then?

    “(4)” is actually quite old, traceable at least to ancient Greece. it’s just too bad the result was forgotten in the following centuries because it was inconsistent with a particular religious world view and its accompanying philosophy.

    Comment by Jan Theodore Galkowski — 6 Mar 2006 @ 8:50 PM

  16. “Atmospheric C02 goes up, temperature increases”

    Like in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s?

    Comment by nanny_govt_sucks — 6 Mar 2006 @ 8:52 PM

  17. i think from the standpoint of policy the emphasis upon whether or not there is warming due to anthropogenic sources is misplaced. what is far less controversial is that there is warming. whether or not the warming is natural or anthropogenic, its consequences are all the same.

    as a result, i think the effort oughtn’t be upon trying to mitigate anthropogenic sources, although desirable in the long run. instead, what’s needed is a major program to begin to prepare for its many deleterious consequences. warming is irreversible now.

    Comment by Jan Theodore Galkowski — 6 Mar 2006 @ 8:58 PM

  18. > 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s?

    Good for you, Nanny, you’re thinking scientifically.

    “Since 1751 roughly 290 billion tons of carbon have been released to the atmosphere from the consumption of fossil fuels and cement production. Half of these emissions have occurred since the mid 1970s.”

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Mar 2006 @ 10:02 PM

  19. Tsk! I didn’t cite that properly.
    Here you are:
    Data so you can check the numbers:

    CITE AS: Marland, G., T.A. Boden, and R. J. Andres. 2005. Global, Regional, and National CO2 Emissions. In Trends: A Compendium of Data on Global Change. Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge, Tenn., U.S.A.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 6 Mar 2006 @ 10:11 PM

  20. Like in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s? … when global temps DECREASED?

    Comment by nanny_govt_sucks — 6 Mar 2006 @ 10:33 PM

  21. Hi nanny,

    There are many factors that affect the global climate, CO2 being just one, though at the quantities we are plaing with it is a critical one. Given this fact, it is not the brick wall you make it out to be that for a period of time other forcings were able to dominate, especially as this was relatively early on in the CO2 pulse we are in the midst of (hence Hank’s references).

    Check here for an overview of the various forcings over the last century:

    As you can see, stratospheric aerosols provided a very strong negative forcing at around the time you note global temperatures fell slightly (haven’t we covered this before??)

    Comment by Coby — 6 Mar 2006 @ 11:01 PM

  22. “haven’t we covered this before??”

    With some hand waves.

    “As you can see, stratospheric aerosols provided …”

    The magic aerosols again. The problem is that the regions where aerosols are produced show warming not cooling in recent times, and the 1940-1975 cooling trend is seen in many parts of the globe where aerosols were not a factor. So your claims are not backed up by any observations that I’m aware of. So we still have:

    Comment by nanny_govt_sucks — 6 Mar 2006 @ 11:08 PM

  23. nanny,

    This is not a problem because the aerosols do not hover over the place they are produced. Think of Pinatubo! It, like any large volcano, had a global effect despite being a rather local phenomenon. That seems to me a reasonable observation to back up my point.

    What do you say? Your expectation is that stratospheric aerosols only affect the region in which they originate but obsevations don’t support this. Can we put that misconception to rest?

    Comment by Coby — 7 Mar 2006 @ 1:25 AM

  24. I think Nanny’s getting it. Yes, we had a slow trend of cooling for a while there — lots of coal being burned, lots of sulfur. Heck, lots of high sulfur diesel oil too, that’s what’s burning in the furnace in the house I grew up in still, that’s what the farm coop delivers for heating oil. Corrodes the heck out of the chimney, too, that sulfur.

    Half the CO2 produced from fossil fuels burned up til the mid-1970s, most of it the sour oil and coal — and a slow cooling trend if anything.

    Then comes the mid-1970s. The other half of the CO2 produced from fossil fuel happens starting then. More refined fuel. Kerosene in jet engines, not just in oil lamps. Hugely more fossil fuel burned, as much in thirty years again as had been burned before. Big change.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Mar 2006 @ 2:10 AM

  25. In the next few years, we should be able to completely refute the argument that solar fluctuations are a primary reason for the change in surface temperatures. Apparently, the “Solar Minimum has Arrived”:

    Comment by Stephen Berg — 7 Mar 2006 @ 3:25 AM

  26. Re #23,

    Coby, the Pinatubo was a stratospheric injection of a lot of SO2 at once, which spread over both hemispheres and lasted several years as sulphate aerosol. The human induced SO2 is emitted in the lower troposphere and has an average lifetime of only 4 days, before raining out. Thus the human made aerosol cooling (and changes in cooling with changes of emissions) should be seen in the main wind direction of the sources, which are by far largest in the NH. But temperatures (including ocean heat content) are increasing faster in the NH…
    See further my comment on aerosols on RealClimate

    Comment by Ferdinand Engelbeen — 7 Mar 2006 @ 8:50 AM

  27. I have a question relating to a point that the skeptics troll out. It is the issue of the predicted Ice-age in the 1970’s. Does anyone know who was the author of this theory and why it was raised? It is raised by the skeptics now as an attempt to discredit the current climate scientists and their findings.

    [Response: See here – it’s a complete red herring. -gavin]

    Comment by Lawrence McLean — 7 Mar 2006 @ 8:55 AM

  28. Re 27 and ideas in the past:

    I spent a couple of interesting hours recently looking through British geology textbooks from the late 50s and mid-70s. Interestingly, none of them suggested a coming ice age (not for tens of thousands of years anyway). Both explained that CO2 levels were rising and that one would assume this to lead to higher temperatures, but that this seemed to be cancelled out because the ocean took up so much of our emissions and because of human sulphur aerosols off-setting the warming. Not far off the mark, as far as the situation at that particular time went. Fascinatingly, the book from the mid-70s said that there was one climate scientist – Wally Broecker- who predicted that the greenhouse warming was on the verge of overtaking the aerosol cooling effects and that by the year 2000 the planet would be warmer than it had been in 1000 years.

    Almuth Ernsting

    Comment by Almuth Ernsting — 7 Mar 2006 @ 11:12 AM

  29. re 27. The global cooling myth (RC Jan. 2005) says: “people were well aware that extrapolating such a short trend was a mistake (Mason, 1976).”

    I too am aware that extrapolating short trends can be a mistake but I am also aware that trends should not be taken lightly when a lot is at stake concerning the outcome.

    During recent decades, overall temperatures and humidity have been increasing while variance (annual, monthly, diurnal) averages have been decreasing.

    Globally averaged SST has increased about 1 Deg C over the last 50 yrs.

    Global warming feedbacks are expected to increase the rates CO2 accumulation and global warming in this century (and next?).

    With decreasing variance in annual (and decade) temperature, predictive capability should increase.

    In Science, James C. Zachos, et. al, (June, 2005): [During the
    Paleocene-Eocene thermal maximum (PETM), sea surface temperature (SST)
    rose by 5 Deg C in the tropics and as much as 9 Deg C at high latitudes, whereas bottom-waters temperatures increased 4 to 5 C. The initial SST rise was rapid, on the order of ~1000 years, although the full extent of the warming was not reached until some ~ 30,000 years later.]

    The PETM was an especially intense (rapid rate) warming period in
    Earth’s past.

    In “Ancient Climate Studies Suggest Earth On Fast Track To Global Warming”, Santa Cruz CA (SPX) Feb 16, 2006″

    [Human activities are releasing greenhouse gases more than 30 times
    faster than the rate of emissions that triggered a period of extreme
    global warming in the Earth’s past, according to an expert on
    ancient climates.

    “The emissions that caused this past episode of global warming
    probably lasted 10,000 years. By burning fossil fuels, we are likely
    to emit the same amount over the next three centuries,” said James
    Zachos, professor of Earth sciences at the University of California,
    Santa Cruz.]

    The rate of ocean surface warming of 1 C over the last 50 years (fig.
    at NCDC) when extended 1,000 years out = 20 Deg C, which would be
    around 4 times the rate of warming which took place during the
    especially intense period of rapid global warming for the first 1,000
    years of the PETM.

    It is likely that there was a substantial amount of ice near the poles during the period which preceded the global warming that led to the PETM (i.e. prior to PETM warming, global climate state may not have been greatly different than the current?). “A relative sea-level fall (~30 m) immediately preceded the late Paleocene thermal maximum, during which sea-level rose again by ~20 m. This rise may have been eustatically controlled, possibly through a combination of thermal expansion of the oceanic water column and melting of unknown sources of high-altitude or polar ice caps in response to global warming.”

    The rate of ocean surface warming of 1 C over the last 50 years (fig.
    at NCDC) when extended 1,000 years out = 20 Deg C, which would be
    around 4 times the rate of warming which took place during the
    especially intense period of rapid global warming for the first 1,000
    years of the PETM.

    … “Based on sea-level history, we have proposed that ice sheets existed for geologically short intervals (i.e., lasting ~ 100 ky) in the previously assumed ice-free Late Cretaceous-Eocene Greenhouse world (36).” … These ice sheets existed only during “cold snaps,” leaving Antarctic ice-free during much of the Greenhouse Late Cretaceous-Eocene.” … 25 Nov 2005 article in Science, The Phanerozoic Record of Global Sea-Level Change (Miller, K.G. et. al.).

    These scientists used “cold snaps” to mean lasting 100 ky. Makes one wonder what they’d call the thawing rate over the last 50 years.

    Based on the analysis above, it is unreasonable to think that rates of warming have been more rapid than over the last 50 years, thus it is also unlikely that such rapid warming as in recent decades is related to non anthropogenic causes, and likely entirely or nearly entirely due to human activity. It is not unreasonable, given the potential outcome, to consider a 50 year trend in evaluating futures, along with climate modeling results. I also think it may be a mistake to take the recent 3 year analysis of conditions in Antarctica with a grain of salt. It would be unfortunate for climate scientists, fearing faulty ridicule concern the global cooling myth scare, to underestimate global warming signals that seem drastic for fear of being ridiculed. Such has been the case, frequently, in hydrologists under predicting extreme flood level out of fear from being called chicken little by their coworkers, colleagues and/or supervisors.

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 7 Mar 2006 @ 11:42 AM

  30. Re 28 (old geology texts)

    Cool. Can you provide citations? I’d love to find copies and post some excerpts.

    Comment by Tom Fiddaman — 7 Mar 2006 @ 12:48 PM

  31. Here is a comment I recall a few geosciences department scientists harping on about five years ago:

    “We know for sure that the Antarctic system is isolated from the effects of global warming due to the influence of the circumpolar Antarctic current. We are also sure that the Greenland ice sheet is stable and won’t be melting anytime soon. So these ideas of rapid climate change are really overblown.”

    So… it looks like they were entirely wrong. I should also mention that one of these guys was working summers at a Houston oil firm – a lucrative position. Yes, scientists are subject to political and financial pressures, and these pressures often lead them to sing the song they think their audience wants to hear.

    Take a look at the March 06 Washington Post story on the gutting of various environmental satellite programs:

    This is the idea behind this kind of science budget: what we don’t know won’t hurt us. In fact, we don’t want to know! Those pesky scientific facts…

    Comment by Ike Solem — 7 Mar 2006 @ 12:54 PM

  32. Re #12 1) The idea that stomach ulcers are caused by bacterial infection was roundly ridiculed, and got the Nobel recently.

    I think it is inaccurate to say that the idea that stomach ulcers are caused by bacterial infection was “roundly ridiculed.” In 1983, Drs. Barry Marshall and Robin Warren reported that they had identified a bacterium that was responsible for stomach ulcers. Their report was met with both interest and skepticism – the latter because Marshall’s and Warren’s findings defied conventional wisdom that bacteria could not survive in the highly acidic environment of the stomach, and earlier studies on stomach contents had offered no convincing evidence that bacteria were present. Marshall and Warren conducted a series of careful experiments (reported in The Lancet and Annals of Internal Medicine in the late ’80s and early ’90s) to convince themselves and their critics that yes, bacteria can live in the stomach (under the mucus layer, where they are protected from the HCl), and yes, they do cause ulcers (and possible cancer). This seems to be a textbook example of the way science is supposed to work.

    Comment by Chuck Booth — 7 Mar 2006 @ 2:15 PM

  33. > Washington Post
    This sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
    “… _Last month Scripps’ Valero was notified that the Deep Space Climate Observatory, a project he has led for more than seven years, would be canceled. The spacecraft has already been built, but NASA is reluctant to spend the $60 million to $100 million it would cost to launch and operate it. … it would have hovered between Earth and the sun at a distance of roughly a million miles, it would have been able to observe the entire sunlit surface of the planet constantly.”

    This is the L1 position — same satellite discussed earlier under other names, cancelled yet again? Or with extreme prejudice this time, have they decided to quit paying the storage locker rent and landfill the satellite?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Mar 2006 @ 2:18 PM

  34. Thanks for the information, Ferdinand. I accept that my volcano comparison may not be appropriate. I clearly don’t know enough about aerosols and won’t comment further til I can rectify that.

    [Response: Coby — don’t feel too bad. You weren’t entirely right, but Ferdinand’s comments about aerosols are rarely completely on the mark either. I applaud his efforts to read the literature, but am a little frustrated by his refusal to learn from what people tell him. Nonetheless, read the papers Ferdinand mentions. He’s often right about what’s worth reading, even if often wrong about the implications. With regard to the pattern of mid-20th century cooling, as compared to the aerosol response, there is no question that there are some strong features of the observed cooling that are consistent with aerosol response. These come out most impressively in Tapio Schneider’s analysis of 20-th century variability, which appeared a while ago in J. Climate. This was a completely model-free data analysis that yielded a pattern very much like the expected aerosol cooling. Now, there are some places where you get cooling in the observations that isn’t clearly connected with a local aerosol effect. This is hardly surprising. First of all, the mid-20th cooling is not sole-ly a response to anthropogenic aerosols. You have variations in solar forcing and volcanic activity as well, which also is being offset in some places by CO2 effect more than in others. Moreover, when you change one thing in the atmosphere, things like the Hadley cell response, Rossby waves, jet streams, ice movement all redistribute the response, which means you can’t necessarily match things feature for feature with the forcing. On top of it all, the signal at that time is very small, so small errors in the SH observations, or internal variability, can cloud the signal. Much of this was very well discussed in the 2001 IPCC report, and no doubt the forthcoming report will be even more complete. Add to that the possibility that there are some forcings that aren’t done completely right in the models yet, probably — black carbon and indirect aerosol forcing. I’d worry if the match were too perfect. So, we match a lot of the extreme pattern of cooling, and we match the global mean. More importantly, the much bigger late-20th century warming is fingerprinted very well. There’s stuff to think about, which is why people are still working on this, but nothing that casts any real doubt on the aerosol hypothesis. Again, if somebody thinks they have a better theory for mid-20th century climate, they ought to turn it into mathematics and play for real. –raypierre]

    Comment by Coby — 7 Mar 2006 @ 3:19 PM

  35. Re the cooling and Ice Age – National Geographic did an article on it in 1976. I do not remember what the split was in scientists agreeing and disagreeing.

    Comment by Gerald Machnee — 7 Mar 2006 @ 5:36 PM

  36. 1970’s global cooling?

    You want to see some deliberate obsfurication of science by people who are directly manipulating you personally? Read on:

    Deliberate omission of a sentence from the U.S. National Science Board’s writing.

    “In 1972, the U.S. National Science Board concluded that “judging from the record of the past interglacial ages, the present time of high temperatures should be drawing to an end…(included punctuation-Richard)leading into the next glacial age! However, the warm 1980s…(my punctuation-Richard)and it concludes “It’s no coincidence that “greenhouse effects” seem to appear after warm spells only to quietly disappear a few years later”, “Skywatch West: The Complete Weather Guide:”, “Changing Climate” chapter. published in the last four years. Richard A. Keen,

    So the U.S. National Science Board stated in 1972 that we are going into an ice age, right? Well, he’s a meterologist, a scientist and it’s a published book, so it must be true, right?

    Do you want to see the very next sentence that he deliberately left out according to a direct full quote from Wipedia that directly says the opposite?

    “In 1972, the U.S. National Science Board concluded that “judging from the record of the past interglacial ages, the present time of high termperatures should be drawing to an end…(origional punctuation-Richard)leading into the next glacial age.”

    Next are the direct following words omitted by Keen. “However, it is possible and even likely that human interference has already altered the environment so much that the climatic pattern of the near future will follow a different path.”

    So, now Keen’s (who is printing in a non-peer-reviewed journal) reader thinks that the official U.S. National Science Board says that we are going into an ice age…but it is a deliberate lie…and unscientific.

    Many statements like this create and spread scientific myths by people who cannot print real science in peer-reviewed journals because their evidence does not stand up under scientific scrutiny.

    This is not science. This is terribly damaging personal politics against the nations’ interests and against you personally. You need to start out with real facts. If you want to know what science really thinks, read the peer-reviewed journals, not political articles and books put out by idealogues.

    Comment by Richard Ordway — 7 Mar 2006 @ 5:37 PM

  37. Thanks Gavin, much appreciated.

    Comment by Lawrence McLean — 7 Mar 2006 @ 5:53 PM

  38. > 35

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 7 Mar 2006 @ 6:41 PM

  39. It is a skill of animals including us to be able to find patterns that are hidden in a lot of noise. Example, being able understand someone at a noisy party. From my own observation I sensed a change in climate in the late 1970’s. By the way, I grew up in Wollongong, in south-eastern Australia. One change was that obvious cold fronts stopped coming through, these were a regular and very familiar weather pattern, especially in the summer time (at least one per week) until the late 1970’s. These storms were quite wonderful, their features were wind that was: strong (but not dangerous), steady and from one direction only, heavy but short lived rain and when they passed the air was cool and crystal clear. They had the affectionate name of “southerly buster”. The other noticeable change at that time was that winters used to come suddenly. Although the average climate statistics show a steady decline in temperatures from Summer to Winter weather, the actual pattern, prior to he late 1970’s was that we would get a last summer southerly buster that would herald wintry weather. Obviously the day in the year that had this event varied from year to year which meant that long term averages masked this pattern. Nowadays however, we get a slow drift into winter weather.

    My own observations are the primary reasons why I believe the Climate scientists.

    The question that I asked in this thread (#27) regarding the 1970’s ice age story, was the last point raised by the skeptics that I had not been able to find any information about. That has now been clarified for me, thanks again.

    In summary, from my review in reputable sites I have found that EVERY single point raised by the skeptics is rubbish.

    Comment by Lawrence McLean — 8 Mar 2006 @ 7:53 AM

  40. Re #39 – **In summary, from my review in reputable sites I have found EVERY single point raised by the skeptics is rubbish.**
    Riding on the bus I hear “the weatherman is ALWAYS wrong”
    Neither you or the riders have documented the data. There is intelligent discussion on both sides.

    [Response: There is intelligent discussion on many issues. However, the majority of the skeptic ‘talking points’ are red-herrings, strawmen or simply wrong. – gavin]

    Comment by Gerald Machnee — 8 Mar 2006 @ 10:22 AM

  41. Re #16 and “Atmospheric C02 goes up, temperature increases” versus nanny’s “Like in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s?”

    Okay, modify the statement to, “when CO2 increases, the temperature of the ground increases, all else being equal.” The point is, in the ’40s through ’70s, negative forcings dominated. You bring up an objection, the scientists find an explanation for the anomaly (aerosols), and then you reject their explanation with your comment about “magical aerosols.” It just seems to me you want to believe what you want to believe and the hell with the evidence. The scientists can’t win.

    A lot of cities were burned in the 1940s — Hamburg, Dresden, Tokyo are the ones that come to mind just offhand. We also bombed the oil fields at Ploesti. There was a lot of debris in the atmosphere in that period. It’s no coincidence that when governments began controlling particulate pollution, in the 1970s, the upward temperature trend started up again.

    More CO2 in the air, hotter ground, all else equal. Scientific fact. Reject it at the cost of everybody knowing you’re an ideologue who puts his fanaticism ahead of empirical evidence.

    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 8 Mar 2006 @ 11:04 AM

  42. re 34.

    I gave a different explanation than the aerosol hypothesis for the early-mid 20th century climate, link (3) below.

    Warmer 1930s-mid 1950s: (1) “rise in solar forcing during the early decades of the 20th century” (2) El Ninos: early 1940s – early 1950s

    Cooler mid 1950s to mid 1970s: La Ninas (2)

    (3) .. comments 117, 141

    Also see:

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 8 Mar 2006 @ 11:54 AM

  43. Re #40 Response by Gavin: Check “Hurricanes and Global Warming – Is there a Connection?” Read the last several posts where one of your contributors was suggesting that the Hurricane off Brazil was caused by global warming. Then there was another post wondering if the earthquakes were caused(strengthened) by typhoons (also suggesting they were strengthened by global warming).
    Your comment applies to both sides.

    Comment by Gerald Machnee — 8 Mar 2006 @ 12:46 PM

  44. Trying to clarify and quantify what the pesky Scientific Facts exactly are I have done a lot of reading of past threads in this website and found this assertion by Gavin:

    “…there are good reasons to expect CO2 levels to continue to grow. Any conceivable growth rate (even a constant 1.5ppm/yr) will add by 2050, another ~1W/m2 to the climate forcing. Add in the current radiation imbalance of ~1 W/m2, you have at least 1.5 deg C surface warming to come (assuming a canonical 0.75 C/W/m2 sensitivity)”.

    So Gavin predicts a warming of the surface temperature of *at least* 1.5 deg C for the next 5 decades or so, which is very much in line with the IPCC mean estimate of about 3 deg C for the next 100 years. However, the current warming of the surface is accepted to be around 0.18 deg C/decade (even less for the lower troposphere, according to most measurements, even though GCMs generally predict a tropospheric amplification of AGW, especially in the tropics). This means that, at the currently observed warming rate, Gavin’s most conservative predictions will actually fall short by around 40%.

    Am I right in assuming that we should thus see a rapid increase of the GW trend in the coming years/decades? Is it OK to infer that, failing some major negative forcing (such as a big volcano eruption or solar irradiance decrease) there’s no reason for this 0.18 deg C/decade GW not to increase from now on? Should the models/physics on which Gavin’s predictions are based be assumed wrong if the said increase is not realized in as short a period as, say 5 or 10 years (absent the above mentioned negative forcing/s)?

    If my reasoning is correct we might actually be close to finding out how indisputable the pesky scientific facts are.

    Comment by Mikel Marinelarena — 8 Mar 2006 @ 3:25 PM

  45. RE 43:

    Two economists were walking down the street when they noticed two women yelling across the street at each other from their apartment windows.

    “Of course they will never come to agreement”, stated the first economist.

    “And why is that”? inquired his companion.

    “Why, of course, because they are arguing from different premises”.

    Maybe the difference in your ‘two sides’ has to do with the tenacity of holding on to information. I wonder if the folk who read the (few) media reports of AGW=tsunami still believe the “connection” after reading the corrections, backed by scientific analysis.

    Just a thought.



    Comment by Dano — 8 Mar 2006 @ 5:31 PM

  46. RE: #39. Well then based on your logic, if I look at the weather at my locale over some 40 years, then we are surely on the verge of a glacial. But obviously this is only a local observation, subject to significant non-global factors. This is something where I can sheepishly say I agree with Dano….. :-)

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 8 Mar 2006 @ 6:01 PM

  47. Re # 44

    No, your reasoning is incorrect. The warming lags the forcing, as the ocean heat capacity slows the response down. We have some unavoidable additional warming, and the additional 2 W leading to 1.5 C seems a realistic estimate of what we cannot avoid.

    However, just as today we see an imbalance, in 50 years we will also see an imbalance. The total warming does not show up until the system re-equilibrates, several decades thereafter.

    If we implement sufficiently large cuts in CO2 emissions as soon as is feasible without major economic disruptions, we *eventually* see (according to the conventional wisdom) about 1.5 C of additional warming, about double what we have already seen. Most of that effect will occur within three decades thereafter. Which leaves us neatly in the right ballpark. 8 * 0.18 = 1.44 , so no major acceleration of the trend is required.

    If the estimated sensitivity of surface temperature per TOA W/m^2 is high or low, the amount of temperature change we are already committed to goes up or down.

    In fact, the emission scenario discussed here is very optimistic, so we do in practice expect the trend to accelerate.

    Comment by Michael Tobis — 8 Mar 2006 @ 6:29 PM

  48. re 39. Lawrence, you wrote that from your own observation you sensed a change in climate in the late 1970’s. When did you become convinced that rapid global warming was happening? When did you become convinced that greenhouse gas emissions from using fossil fuels for power generation is causing rapid global warming? Have you made an effort to reduce your GHG emissions and tried to convince others to reduce GHG their emissions? I’d like others to share their experiences on these questions, and I would too if I thought others wanted to see that.

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 8 Mar 2006 @ 6:45 PM

  49. Local climate changes —

    In the 35 years I have lived here, it seems that the climate has indeed warmed. Milder, dryer winters are particular noticable but it seems to me the growing season is longer. In the 1970s tomatoes often froze and it was necessary to pick the whole vine to bring it indoors. No longer required.

    Since coming here I have always walked to work. Should get around to more insulation in the attic.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 8 Mar 2006 @ 6:56 PM

  50. re.

    Re. Comment by Hank Roberts


    This is a National Geographic Magazine (NG) article reprint that I have read before. It is a “public” magazine….not considered a real peer-reviewed scientific journal by the scientific community. NG can print whatever they want. It is not “Science”, “Nature”, “Journal of Geophysical Letters”, etc.

    In fact, this lie was given at Congressional testimony as well as in the Washington Post.

    …and he got away with it. Check this exact Congressional record with the US Library of Congress as I personally did.

    “patterns and perspectives in environmental science: national science board, 1972. Lib. of Congress cat 73-600219. Part III, chapter 1, p55.”

    The whole deleted paragraph is there.

    You can email them (Lib. Congr.) the request and get a fax or copy of it, etc. Look at their website and request a copy of “Pg 55”.

    Do a Google search on these exact words and you will see who is lying to you…

    “Judging from the record of the past interglacial ages, the present time of high temperatures should be drawing to an end … leading into the next glacial age.”

    They censor out the following sentence,

    “However, it is possible, or even likely, that human interference has already altered the environment so much that the climatic pattern of the near future will follow a different path.”

    This changes the meaning 180 degrees from “Scientists think we are going into global cooling in the 1970s” to scientists did not say this at all.

    These people/organizations that show up on Google with this search think they have a heck of a lot of money and ideology to lose.

    Comment by Richard Ordway — 8 Mar 2006 @ 7:10 PM

  51. Richard — yes. That’s explained — with examples and much more — on the site where that link took you (the collection there is maintained by one of our RC hosts).

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 8 Mar 2006 @ 7:32 PM

  52. Re #36, #38 and #50. Thank you both for posting a couple of important links related to “impending ice age” that seems to be the big bugaboo among the skeptics. I have been following the contrarian comments to George Musser’s blog post in SciAm Observations, in which he asked skeptics to state which aspects of climate change they don’t accept, why they don’t accept it and what information they would like to see to convince them.

    Many of the points that are brought up have been answered in the posts here and on other sites (Pew Center for Climate Change, UCS). What struck me are three points that are repeatedly brought up:

    1. Climate change science is driven by environmentalists.

    2. Scientists have been wrong before, especially when warning the public (here is where the ’70s ice age argument comes up).

    3. Climatology is driven by anti-capitalism.

    I have been reading about what George Lakoff has written about framing, and (as I have found out when arguing about science to laypeople) arguments that carry great weight with scientists, like appeals to the peer-review literature, mean little to the general public. What is termed “common sense” carries more weight for them. that is why Crichton gets such a wide audience. He spouts off the “scientists have been alarmist and have been wrong before argument”, provides a few distorted examples and when people start nodding in agreement to his “common sense” agruments, brings up his “and the global warming scare is just like the other times scientists have been wrong” schtick.

    Comment by Deech56 — 8 Mar 2006 @ 9:48 PM

  53. Nice Summation: “1. Climate change science is driven by environmentalists.

    2. Scientists have been wrong before, especially when warning the public (here is where the ’70s ice age argument comes up).

    3. Climatology is driven by anti-capitalism.”

    You want to know which of these “pesky little scientific facts” scares me the most… and it should every reader who cares about their children. It is something the “contrarian” skeptics cannot address.

    We are running an experiment. It is an indisputable experiment on the Earth. We do not know the outcome. It is the changing of the atmosphere the most in 400,000 years by adding 30% more carbon dioxide into the air. This is indisputable even by them.

    To ignore this, one of the most basic facts, is to be irresponsible to our children and to our country. You simply have to take this issue seriously and not make up lies about it. We do not know the results of this experiment. We simply do not know. But they will.

    Comment by Richard Ordway — 8 Mar 2006 @ 10:24 PM

  54. Re #52 — Thank you for the link. Informative!

    Comment by David B. Benson — 8 Mar 2006 @ 10:51 PM

  55. Comment to response to 34:

    Ray, Coby, just something to think about:

    One reason of the temperature decrease from 1940-1970 theoretically might also be multidecadal internal climate variability. However, the evidence up to now is weak:

    From the research I know it seems not clear if there is something like an internal climate oscillation on a multidecadal time-scale with a distinct physical process behind it, as is e.g. El Nino on the interannual time-scale. We find such multidecadal variability in observational data, like PDO or AMO with periods in the order of about 50-70 years. Eric pointed out in his response to #1 in that until now there is little evidence for a physical process producing the AMO. The same is true for the PDO. However, there are several model studies, that show AMO-like patterns as a response to variability of the Thermohaline Circulation (e.g. Vellinga and Wu 2004, Knight et al. 2005). In principle an internal multidecadal oscillation of the THC doesn’t seem unplausible physically, although for yet unknown reasons. However, there remain open questions:

    1. observations cover hardly two cycles. They show a quite regular behaviour, but this might also be by accident (see below). And it is hard to find some obvious regular behaviour in reconstructions (e.g. Gray et al. 2004,
    2. the fact alone, that models show an oscillation of a frequency in the same order of magnitude than the AMO is not convincing at all. Looking at Figure 2 in Gray et al. you can find “oscillations” with frequencies of about 100 years or 200 years, while the 70 year cycle, which seem apparent in the observational period, doesn’t show up at all. And the first peak is out of order anyway (at least the amplitude). I for my part can’t see any regular pattern. It looks very much like noise.
    3. quasi-oscillations in time-series can occur by accident. Let’s take the example of global temperature: Let’s suppose there is only little forcing until about 1905, then we have a forcing by increasing solar activity and for a small part rising GHG’s until about 1940, then the solar forcing stops, we have increasing aerosol forcing, volcanism, and decreasing solar activity (all cooling), which balance the increasing GHG forcing until about 1975 and afterwards strongly increasing GHG forcing, with the other factors more or less constant. This leads to a nice step-like pattern just through the accidental superposition of several irregular forcings. If you detrend this data (as is done for the calculation of the AMO), you end up with a very nice oscillation with a 70-year period. And this oscillation shows striking similarites to the AMO (same period, same phase, similar features, similar amplitude (0.3 vs. 0.4 K)…
    4. Gray et al. note, that the AMO shows up on the hemispheric and even global scale. This does not necessarily mean that there is a physical process in the Atlantic which influences global climate: the similarity of the AMO and the (detrended) global temperature pattern could also mean that the AMO is only the expression of the global variability caused by external forcings (somewhat altered by regional influences and feedbacks). Not easy to decide in view of the numerous interactions…

    However, the possibility that there is an internal oscillation of the THC superposed on the effect of external forcing, as suggested by the models, still remains. Maybe it accidentally just fits more ore less the “fake” oscillation of other forcings – not very likely, but possible, if the simulated THC oscillation is real.

    In summary, the AMO pattern of the 20th century might be the result of an internal multidecadal oscillation of the THC as well as just the result of the sum of external forcings (solar, volcanism, aerosols, GHG), or also a mixture of both. The possibility of AMO (or THC, respectively) influence on the1940-1970 cooling remains open.

    Moreover, in this context it’s not evident to attribute the increase of the AMO (and the corresponding increase of Atlantic SSTs) during the last two decades exclusively to a natural cyle. It might also – at least partly – just represent the warming due to GHG’s, as explained above. Which weakens the arguments for the advocates of a “natural” increase of Atlantic hurricanes…

    Comment by Urs Neu — 9 Mar 2006 @ 6:16 AM

  56. re 55. 42.

    Warmer late 1920s to 1930s due to surge in SOLAR.
    Warmer 1940s to mid 50s due to frequent EL NINOs.
    Cooler mid 1950s to mid 1970s due frequent LA NINAs.
    Warmer late 1970s to current due to accumulation of GHGs. .. comments 117, 141

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 9 Mar 2006 @ 8:52 AM

  57. Re #48

    I started to realise that the climate was getting warmer sometime in the early 1980’s. The changes that I mention in #39 figured in my thinking bringing me to the opinion that the rise in Carbon dioxide must be starting to have an affect. I did a degree in Chemical Engineering and in that course I learned how CO2 acts as a greenhouse gas, that is, it is tranparent to short wavelength infrared radition but reflects long wavelength infrared (just like glass). I also appreciated that although CO2’s greenhouse affect is much weaker than H2O, it does not have H2Os self limiting effect, H2O condenses into liquid when its concentration exceeds its physical maximum vapour concentration, that is, clouds form, reflecting the short wave infrared. CO2 however has no maximum concentration and always remains transparent to short wavelength infrared. I figured this out myself. Another contributing factor, came from a very old Aunt, who told me in the early 1980’s that she remembered it snowed twice when she was a child in Wollongong (before 1910). If you go to your atlas and look carefully where Wollongong is (about 34 degrees South, and on the coast, check out: you will realise it is inconcievable such a thing happening now.

    If any skeptic looks at the climate link I have just given, sees the record minimum of -0.5 degrees celsius (June) and jumps to the conclusion that snow should be not unusual. Then they are wrong. I can guarantee that temperature would have occured on a still, dry and very clear Winters night. When it is cloudy in winter in Wollongong now, you would be lucky for the temperature to be less than 10 degrees C.

    As far as rapid change, I have not really thought of it in those terms until very recently. I live in Canberra now and it is really obvious that the weather is getting warmer. There is less and less snow every winter, hills that used to be snow covered don’t get any now. Summers are getting hotter and longer. Air conditioning was rare in Canberra, very common now. It goes on and on.

    The skeptics have a grip on the mainstream media here in Australia and I just could not believe what they were saying, as it did not correspond to what I and every one I know was observing first hand. That is why I looked for and found this website.

    As far as my own effots to reduce GHG: I ride my pushbike as much as possible. I own a 4 cylinder (2 litre) car, which gets about 7 litres per 100 kilometers, I buy so called green energy, which is a way of subsidising the development of wind generators. I try and buy things that last and are made locally (rather than transported long distances), I recycle. Within the context of the society I do my best.

    I tend to figure things out for myself (although, I am not arrogant and do not hesitate to seek out information from others, I am certainly aware of the limitations of my knowledge) and I am quite ruthless on ideas and theories when they do not match with objective reality. I sent the link of the cartoon in this thread to a friend of mine and his response was:
    “Hi Lawrence,

    I used to refer to “hate conditioning” but I suppose “fear and doubt conditioning” helps to convince us educated types.

    Ever since the second world war we’ve lived a virtual world where we see the world through the media rather experiencing it first hand and we need such experts to help draw the right conclusions from what we see.

    Before then the Sunday surmon tried to stop us from drifting too far off the correct analysis/interpretation track.



    Comment by Lawrence McLean — 9 Mar 2006 @ 9:32 AM

  58. Re #53: Thanks. Another point that comes up is that of causation vs. correlation of temperature and CO2 levels. Among the strongest evidence I have seen is in the 2001 IPCC Report comparing the models if natural or anthropogenic or both sets of forcings are considered. The fact that CO2 is a greenhouse gas is simple physics. Another talking point is that money that would go towards reducing greenhouse gases (according to them, only a possible problem) should be spent reducing third world poverty, malaria (known problems). I have seen this enough times I can only imagine that this point came from somewhere.

    I know that the scope is scientific and not political, but the credibility of scientists is important. It’s those “pesky facts” vs. “common sense” again.

    Comment by Deech56 — 9 Mar 2006 @ 3:21 PM

  59. Re 55, Urs Neu:

    Thank you for a long and informative post on temperature trends vs the AMO (Amplification of Mankind’s Output? :-) ). For some time, I’ve wondered how a climate scientist might go about determining how much of North America’s recent warming is attributable to AGW, how much is attributable to the AMO, and to what extent the AMO might itself be driven by AGW. (It seems to me that all natural cycles must be expressions of various forcings, such as solar insolation, GHGs, aerosols, etc, so I find it hard to see how any natural cycle would not be affected at least a little by AGW.) Not being a climate scientist myself, I hadn’t made much progress. Your post is quite helpful. I’m reminded of Dr. William Gray’s (the AGW denialist and hurricane season prognosticator, not the Gray in the paper you link to) focus on the AMO. He seems to think the AMO has a significant influence on global temperatures, and, whenever he trots out his prediction that ‘the earth will begin to cool’, I suspect it is due primarily to a belief that the AMO is the proximate cause of the recent global warming, and therefor, the warming will eventually peak, and global temperatures will thereafter decline. It would be ironic, if anthropogenic influences were in fact the primary cause of recent Atlantic SST variability, the appearance of oscillation being due to coal power’s output of aerosols which cause cooling, but are relatively short-lived, as well as CO2, which is longer-lived and causes warming. (That would also be quite worrisome, given the response of hurricane activity to Atlantic SSTs.) Even if AMO is a natural cycle in its own right, with a primary cause independent of AGW, it seems unlikely that the end of the AMO’s hot phase would result in more than a brief stall in warming.

    Comment by llewelly — 9 Mar 2006 @ 4:28 PM

  60. Re #59 – **I suspect it is due primarily to a belief that the AMO is the proximate cause of the recent global warming**
    You had to make this up – that is why there is such a misunderstanding of warming issues – too many rumours. Neither Dr. Gray nor any other reputable scientist have said that AMO causes GLOBAL warming. The AMO has been linked to higher Atlantic SST and a higher incidence of hurricances during that period.

    Comment by Gerald Machnee — 9 Mar 2006 @ 6:07 PM

  61. Re 60, Gerald Machnee:
    In retrospect, it was irresponsible of me to say that Dr. Gray believed that the AMO was the proximate cause of global warming.

    However … if you, or anyone else knows why he has forecast the earth will begin to cool, I’d like to hear it…

    Comment by llewelly — 9 Mar 2006 @ 6:28 PM

  62. re 57.

    Lawrence, I’ll need a little more time to check out Wollongong. Your story was interesting, even motivating! Rather than say what my answers are to the questions I asked you yesterday, I’d like to ask you, and others at RC, to take a look and comment on the NYC indymedia article I posted today, link follows.

    Should we trust NWS flood predictions?

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 9 Mar 2006 @ 6:57 PM

  63. > “earth will begin to cool”
    Can you give us a reference/footnote/cite for this assertion? All Google is finding for me is the assertion without any source on “discussion” websites. I suspect people are getting it from some original source, but what is the source?

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 9 Mar 2006 @ 7:09 PM

  64. Re 63, Hank Roberts, here is a link to his statement on the web site of the US Senate Committee on Environment and Public works:
    This is the document I was thinking of, but I have fumbled (or confused with a similar statement) the exact wording. Here’s the relevant sentence:

    I anticipate that the trend of the last few decades of global warming will come to an end, and in a few years we will start to see a weak cooling trend similar to that which occurred from the mid-1940s to the early 1970s.

    This seems roughly equivalent to me, but if someone else feels it is not, I appologize for any confusion.

    The article on
    uses the phrase ‘begin to cool’. I don’t have time (or sound on this computer) to listen to the linked audio to hear his precise words. I assume – until someone says differently – that in the audio file Dr. Gray does indeed say ‘begin to cool’, and that I misquoted his prepared statement because he said something slightly different in the spoken version, and I failed to double-check the document I was thinking of. The audio file is from the same September 28, 2005 committee hearing as the statement I link to above.

    Comment by llewelly — 9 Mar 2006 @ 9:18 PM

  65. Re: 58

    The idea that money would be better spend on things like providing clean water and preventing malaria in the third world comes from the Lomborg group, he of the Skeptical Environmentalist. It relies on economic models which are very strongly influenced by the initial assumptions – if you assume huge costs associated with AGW mitigation and assign large dollar benefit amounts to providing fresh water then your conclusion is pre ordained. The fact that the people involved in making and using these models have no apparent desire to provide money for any of the proposed actions anyway makes the whole excercise more of a way to generate debate points anyway.

    Comment by Andrew Dodds — 10 Mar 2006 @ 4:15 AM

  66. RE: #65 Thanks. It’s hard enough keeping up with the scientific literature (but easier than in the past thanks to RealClimate) without trying to read up on all the contrarian ideas.

    Comment by Deech56 — 10 Mar 2006 @ 9:29 AM

  67. Re #47 Michael: Thanks for correcting my reasoning. I was missing the forcing-warming lag in this particular prediction of Gavin’s.

    However, further up in the same thread he explains:

    “Even in the extremely unlikely event that there is no further growth in emissions, the current planetary energy imbalance (estimated to be almost 1W/m2) (due to the ocean thermal inertia) implies that there is around 0.5 C extra warming already in the pipeline that will be realised over the next 20 to 30 years. Any growth of emissions above that will lead to more warming.”

    So, again, just to compensate for the current energy imbalance in Gavin’s estimations we have a warming trend of about 0.2 C to keep up with in the next 2-3 decades. And we’re not quite there yet.

    Besides, as you said, we’re just talking about the most conservative and optimistic scenario here, with NO further emissions growth.

    So the essence of my proposition seems to hold. Am I right in saying that, allowing perhaps 5 years for the possibility of internal climate variability and absent any major negative forcing, we must start seeing a manifest acceleration of the current 0.18 C/decade trend (and hopefully a correction of the tropospheric inconsistency) in the near future for your models to get validated?


    [Response: No relaxation process will cause an accelaration of warming after the forcing is stabilised – it would go slower and slower until the imbalance was negligible. However, the imbalance is currently growing and so the system is being pushed further out of equilibirum – that eventually will cause the temperature rises to accelarate. According to our projections the trend of around 0.2 deg C/decade or maybe a little more will continue for the next few decades (barring any large volcanic eruptions, or significant efforts to reduce emissions). -gavin ]

    Comment by Mikel Marinelarena — 10 Mar 2006 @ 11:19 AM

  68. Hmmmm …. my observations of real current conditions in California are being censored. Well, maybe this one will get by. Today, we have a wintry mix down to sea level, with the proper snow level at ~ 500 feet. A record outbreak in a number of ways, in particular, its lateness. Generally, in the past we’ve only gotten these between Dec 15 and Feb 15. Spring may well be disappearing from this part of the world.

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 10 Mar 2006 @ 2:19 PM

  69. re: 68

    So what? We just tied (and will likely break) today’s high temperature record here in my location in Virginia. But the much more important point is that specific local, short-term conditions have little bearing on the global or even regional averages over a year. Furthermore, even a location which ends up having a cooler than normal average yearly temperature is not inconsistent with global warming trends.

    Comment by Dan — 10 Mar 2006 @ 2:32 PM

  70. Steve, this was predicted, no surprise if you look for the info.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 10 Mar 2006 @ 3:03 PM

  71. And it hasn’t rained in Phoenix in 141 days, kicking the old record of 101 days set in 2000 into the toilet. Must prove global warming! But, wait! Portland just had its first march snow in 55 years yesterday. Must prove global cooling!

    Steve … local weather events prove nothing. As I’m sure you know. It is an accepted fact, even among professional skeptics, that global warming is real.

    Comment by Don Baccus — 10 Mar 2006 @ 3:44 PM

  72. Re: #64,

    The betting on the Earth cooling down is just a way for contrarians to inject some sort of questionability or doubt in the minds of the public and policymakers. In reality, the likelihood of a cooling such as from the 1940s to 1970s is so minimal that if one were to make such a bet, they would get very little in return, so it would be basically a waste of time.

    [Response: Gray has been offered a chance to bet on cooling but hasnt taken it – William]

    Comment by Stephen Berg — 10 Mar 2006 @ 4:18 PM

  73. Re #67: What ‘tropospheric inconsistency’ are you talking about? This one ?

    Because you are talking about a triumph of the big models, not a point of doubt. It turns out that the two independent streams of data showing no middle troposphere warming were probably wrong, and the models that failed to capture this behavior were right. This itself has been a major contribution of modeling efforts back to the observational branch. It’s a simple and compelling example of why the models are useful in advancing understanding.

    Now, you seem to be looking for some other way to falsify the models, quibbling about a difference in trend between 0.18C/decade and 0.2C/decade.

    You should understand that the observational trend is a crude and noisy statistic. The system has lots of internal wobble masking the trend, so the number cannot be measured precisely. The exact statistics to be used are not

    Similarly, no one claims that climate models are precisely right. One can only discuss whether some specific use of the model is correct or incorrect within some bounds.

    At present, nobody is asserting that the models predict the rate of increase of the rate of increase of global mean temperature to with 0.02 degrees C per decade per decade, nor that observations meaaningfully detect such a change.

    Another way to put is is that you would have to be watching the system for a long time for a signal like that to emerge from the noise. A five year observation just won’t be long enough to make that number meaningful.

    An instantaneous trend or an instantaneous trend of a trend (second derivative) are useful mathematical concepts, but in practice there is no direct measurement of the second derivative of global mean temperature that is meaningful in this context.

    You should look at the actual observations to clarify this. See

    Comment by Michael Tobis — 10 Mar 2006 @ 10:33 PM

  74. Pat,

    I am not familiar with the subject of the article, so I cannot judge it. A comment by a skeptic on this thread is interesting, Steve Sadlow #68. Here in New South Wales, Australia, we have just had our hottest summer on record (see: In neighboring Queensland it was so hot that cattle were dying from heat stress (not lack of water!). However south west Western Australia, which has a Mediterranean climate has just had one of its coolest summers (see: It seems that it was so hot in central and eastern Australia that it reversed the normal wind direction in Perth. The reason SW Australia was so cool was because it rained so much. Is that pattern similar in other Mediterranean climates, the comment by Sadlow indicates that sort of behavior is also happening in California, are both their winters and summers wetter and cooler? If so, it may explain some of the skepticism from residents in those regions. They can get away with saying their rubbish without being ridiculed by their neighbors.

    Comment by Lawrence McLean — 11 Mar 2006 @ 9:48 AM

  75. re 74.

    Lawrence wrote … They can get away with saying their rubbish without being ridiculed by their neighbors.

    Yes, I think that attitude is the main reason few people acknowledge climate change as a problem that’s already underway. Meteorologists and news anchors talk to the public daily about the same old roller coaster weather, not giving any acknowledgment to the fact that the roller coaster is starting at higher levels as years go by. The National Weather Service (NWS) has given strong support to the notion that nothing is happening, by saying nothing. NWS claimed climate change is too political and controversial, then said there’s no global warming problem. NWS has access to climate records that few others have and are in a position to inform the public about what’s happening but refuse. I was harassed by supervisors and coworkers at NWS for 5-6 years before NWS forced me out of federal service in July, 2005 after I had 29 years of public service in hydrologic modeling and flood prediction with NWS. I may seem bitter, but I don’t go to bed thinking I could have done more. I did everything I could but failed, which is a better feeling than not having tried anything and failed, for me anyway.

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 11 Mar 2006 @ 3:22 PM

  76. Pesky facts —

    At least the Scots are taking GW seriously. Yesterday I attended a talk by Mike Rivington, Macaulay Institute, Aberdeen, Scotland, entitled “Farm-Scale Modeling of Climate Change Impacts”. The study is government funded and will require many more months to conclude, intended to assist policy makers in the govenment and on the farm. He started with a regional modeling program from the Hadley Center and made necessary adjustments to calibrate it for scottish temperature and precipitation. His modeling was set for the year 2070.

    The first conclusion was that the variability in percipitation would make spring barley a risky crop, although it is now a scottish mainstay. The second was a big surprise: if livestock growers ‘extensify’ they will double their net income, given current govenment farm subsidies. Extensification means halving their herds and so their production costs. The third conclusion was that regional analysis was not sufficient. Since global economics matters to scottish farmers, global climate change matters as well. This was as much as he has simulated so far.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 11 Mar 2006 @ 7:22 PM

  77. Re #76 — This is a followup for Eachran and others interested
    in planning for climate change. This is not my specialty. In #76
    there are various names to try web trawling on. Using the search words ‘regional planning climate change’ produced oodles of hits.

    Comment by David B. Benson — 12 Mar 2006 @ 4:44 PM

  78. Where are those pesky facts?

    Excerpts: March 12, 2006, THE MELTING OF MINNESOTA

    What’s driving the changes?

    The warming of the Earth is widely attributed to three things: natural, long-term climate variation; alterations to the landscape such as spreading cities and forest clearing, and a buildup of heat-trapping gases — primarily carbon dioxide, methane and water vapor, known as “greenhouse gases” — in the atmosphere.

    University of Minnesota Extension meteorologist and climatologist Mark Seeley said he objects to fixating on whether humans are completely to blame for warming. That distracts from discussions on what to do about it, he said.

    “Scientific nitpicking disguises the fact that our vulnerability is not going away,” Seeley told a group of farmers in southern Minnesota this month. “That vulnerability is almost a national agenda item. It’s of more economic consequence than ever.”

    The National Academy of Sciences, and Minnesota climate scientists such as Seeley, also say a warmer climate could bring benefits: lower heating costs and energy use, increased yields for some farmers and more time for summer recreation. Some evidence also suggests increased CO2 may actually enhance some plant life, trees in particular.

    re 74, 75: No comment by staff at local NWS office.

    Pesky facts at link below.
    NOAA/ESRL Global Monitoring Division, Boulder, CO

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 12 Mar 2006 @ 6:48 PM

  79. Re# 76 The “tropospheric inconsistency” I was referring to is essentially this:

    “In the tropics, the agreement between models and observations depends on the time scale considered. For month-to-month and year-to-year variations, models and observations both show amplification (i.e., the month-to-month and year-to-year variations are larger aloft than at the surface). The magnitude of this amplification is essentially the same in models and observations. On decadal and longer time scales, however, while almost all model simulations show greater warming aloft, most observations show greater warming at the surface.”
    USCCSP Executive Summary Nov 05

    Of course I am not trying to falsify “the models”. I wish I had half the brains it would take to engage in such an attempt. All I’m doing, like many other laypeople interested in what’s happening to our planet, is trying to see if there is any way to ascertain the validity of those models and their dire predictions in the more or less near future (please excuse my not being a full believer yet). Speaking of which, I would rather see a more pedagogic and less militant attitude from experts like you towards the questions raised by simple observers.

    Now, going back to Gavin’s explicit predictions, if all the global warming we’re going to see in the next decades is that of the current trend (0.18 C/decade), or a bit more, by the year 2050 we’ll get a warming of around 0.8, or a bit more. Doesn’t sound like a lot. I don’t understand why Raypierre is trying to scare another poster about the disasters to come by 2050:

    However, I understand that the most likely scenario envisaged by climate scientists is one where CO2 emissions will continue to grow and the real warming will be larger than those minimum figures derived from the current imbalance. I guess that’s where those extreme figures of +5.8 C by the year 2100 (one of the IPCC scenarios) or some even higher estimates published in the scientific literature come from.

    I know that I’m not going to get any expert to make short-term predictions but let’s put it this way: even for Gavin’s optimistic scenario (at least 0.5 C GW in the next 20-30 years and -I infer- 0.8 C by the year 2050) to realize, let alone for the more pessimistic ones, we couldn’t see anything like a reversal of the current trend lasting more than a few years from now on, absent major negative forcings. If such an attenuation of the trend took place, the chances of even Gavin’s moderate predictions for the next quarter of the century to come true would become rather unlikely (simple arithmetic). Then one could deduce that something in “the models” was wrong, hence we do have a possibility of assessing the models’ validity in the short-medium term.

    Where am I wrong now?

    [Response:You’re failing to read what you’ve been repeatedly pointed at: the Aug 2005 Science papers: see and Why are you going round in circles? – William]

    Comment by Mikel Marinelarena — 12 Mar 2006 @ 10:22 PM

  80. William: you don’t stand any chance of convincing anyone who is not already in full agreement with you (which I have the impression is the only acceptable attitude you contemplate -here and elsewhere-, even for any newcomer to the GW debate!).

    Of course I have read those articles and of course nothing there contradicts the statement by the CCSP I gave above. Where is your point?

    Temperature observations of the troposphere used to show an obvious inconsistency with what models predicted (larger warming there than on the surface). Once Spencer and Christy’s satellite measurements were corrected, the newest models and observations “ceased to be inconsistent” (by means of the overlapping of the spread of those different models’ outputs and that of different observations, a way of solving inconsistencies that does not look very convincing to my eyes, but that’s another story). However, an inconsistency remains for the tropics, as clearly stated by the CCSP and either models fail to capture this behaviour or observations will need to be corrected further, in their own words.

    Do you not agree with this conclusion or did you get so carried away by S+C accepting the correction to their data that you still fail to see what the issues now are?

    As for the ONLY IMPORTANT point of my previous messages, I’m sure any neutral, non-militant observer will be able to see that it’s not quite me who’s going in circles. If the prediction is that we’ll see a warming of *at least* 0.5 C in the next 20 or 30 years but in the next 10 years we see a warming of less than 0.18 C (with no big negative forcing of the kind now contemplated in the models), it’s just not going to happen. What’s more, even if it were to finally happen by means of a rapid acceleration of the trend in the next decade, I don’t think that’d be something current models have an explanation for.

    Comment by Mikel Marinelarena — 13 Mar 2006 @ 3:29 PM

  81. Re #34 (comment)


    Sorry for the late reply, still a lot of work here, and only sporadic looking at RealClimate comments…
    About learning, I still learn everyday. Here and on other discussions and from literature. I admit that I am rather skeptical in accepting one’s comment, if the arguments are not very convincing. But I have no problems at all to accept what anybody says, if I made an error of any kind, or the science is clear to a reasonable extent.

    In the case of aerosols, there was no reaction at all on my detailed post on that subject, neither from RealClimate nor from the guest writers. Thus still in my opinion, I suppose that I have not made any substantial error in downplaying the effect of human-made sulfate aerosols.
    There may be a difference in scattering between (human made) tropospheric and (volcanic) stratospheric aerosols, but I haven’t found such a difference in the literature.
    What I have found is something (quite old) by Paul Crutzen and others, which even increases the doubt about the influence of anthropogenic sulfate aerosols: half of the anthropogenic SO2 drops out as dry deposit (which I suppose is not the case for stratospheric aerosols), and most of the rest doesn’t form new drops, but oxidizes in already existent cloud water droplets (and there are no, or very few clouds in the stratosphere).
    But even if the physical actions and properties were the same, that implies that only a very small direct influence of human made sulfate aerosols is possible.

    About regional influence in more detail: Scandinavia suffered from “acid rain”, only some 1,000-2,000 km from the main source (the English industry in that case), thus any direct effect should be detectable within that distance (even if this is in part leveled off by other more global influences). And the huge change in human emissions in Europe should give a detectable difference in trends between less and more polluted places in the main wind direction. Which I haven’t found in the relevant period for less polluted and downwind European places.
    In contrast, the abstract of the article by Tapio Schneider mentions localized cooling at the places with the highest sulfate load, but I have no access to the full article.

    And the fact that far more human made aerosols are released in the NH (and stay there), while ocean heat content increase is substantially higher in the NH than in the SH (when corrected for surface), isn’t very convincing for aerosol cooling (maybe the other types of aerosols even overrule the sign, as rural India is warming faster than nearby Diego Garcia in the SH).

    Oh, about an alternative theory. Have a look at the experiment by Stott ea., where they increased (within the constraints of the Hadcm3 model) solar (10x) and volcanic influences (5x). If one increases the Hoyt & Schatten solar reconstruction with some factor 3-5 (at the cost of the GHG-aerosol combination), one has a near-fit of the 1945-1975 temperature. And as you may be convinced now (those pesky scientific facts): after two satellite measured cycles, there is a direct influence of the solar cycle (as TSI) on (low) cloud cover. Thus any variation in current (and likely past) solar irradiation is fortified by cloud cover changes…

    More about glaciers within a few days…

    Comment by Ferdinand Engelbeen — 13 Mar 2006 @ 5:02 PM

  82. Re: 28 and 30 (old textbooks)

    I looked at the books when I went visiting so I don’t have them in front of me. The 1978 one which refers to Wally Broecker is “Earth” 2nd Edition, Front Press, MIT, by Raymund Siever.

    I am about 90% sure that the 1950s one I looked at was “Principles of Geochemistry”, Brian Mason, 1952-1958. It was far less specific than the other one.

    Interestingly, particularly in the 1978 book, there was some reference to increased albedo from oil on water (?) which sounds a bit strange, but certainly reference to the cooling effects of sulphour emissions probably offsetting the warming effects of increased CO2 emissions. Some information about the greenhouse effect in general and nothing about an imminent ice age.

    Almuth Ernsting

    Comment by Almuth Ernsting — 15 Mar 2006 @ 5:55 PM

  83. Mikel, you seem to be repeating, as your reason for questioning the models, the quote
    “model simulations show greater warming aloft, most observations show greater warming at the surface.”

    Did you have another reason for questioning the models? I wonder if you are basing your quoting of that just on the time stamp order of the dates of the publications? Or what else?

    If I understand this, the quote you repeat — “most observations show greater warming at the surface” — even as of its November 05 publication date was based on old info and the facts had been corrected by the Aug 2005 Science papers (I recall confirming followups in one of the November Science mag. issue letters columns as well).

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 15 Mar 2006 @ 10:22 PM

  84. Siever is excellent. It was one of my baby steps as a Freshman.

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 21 Mar 2006 @ 11:26 PM

  85. Protect Us From Facts
    Sometimes, it takes someone like Doonesbury to show us how we Democrats can be as happy as Republicans: forget about those silly facts. Click to enlarge via RealClimate…

    Trackback by The Left Coaster — 26 Mar 2006 @ 12:22 AM

  86. Following up #70 (relevance? on the cusp where enough weather starts looking like climate, and NOAA’s predictive ability) — the prediction of a cold wet March for the California coast is holding up nicely so far. See the predictions, via the link at #70 — NOAA also predicted no more below-average weather for many months hereafter.

    I wonder if the local meteorologists “marveling” at the weather (quote below is from today’s SF Chronicle story) knew of the NOAA prediction for March?

    “An unusual meshwork of atmospheric highs and lows is parked over the Pacific, pummeling Hawaii for days on end while diverting the jet stream south. Meteorologists are marveling at the pattern’s persistence, but the result is buckets of moisture being dumped on the Bay Area.
    One more day of rain will tie the record, 23 days of rain, for San Francisco’s wettest March…
    End quote

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 28 Mar 2006 @ 7:31 PM

  87. RE: 86. The most remarkable thing is that unlike the far more common “Pineapple Express” rainy pattern we get repeatedly during the course of most rainy seasons, the current particular pattern is not that one. It is, instead, a “Siberian Express” pattern of unprecedented duration. We’ve had it in place, with the exception of a short “Pineapple” interval for a couple of days, and a couple of short lived dirty ridges, ever since Mid Febrary. Today we were just above the triple point at my place and the precip was slush. I live at just under 1000 feet, quite near the coast, south of 40 N.

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 29 Mar 2006 @ 4:02 PM

  88. 87:

    The trof axis is too close to the coast and the lo center too far south for a Pineapple Express & these years are usu. below normal for those unfavored for lo position. In years where the trof axis is so close to the shelf, you have to look at the position of the los for your PWs: too far N and weak fronts, too far S and you get your synoptic situation but Bay Area or Big Sur happy as in late 90s (further S as is usually a bit later and LA gets their precip), and the frequent big double-barreled los you’re getting make wobblies and who knows which county gets the precip. Looks like to me this next one is going to track ~ the same as last one did.



    Comment by Dano — 29 Mar 2006 @ 9:55 PM

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