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  1. This poll is very good news. My brother is a journalist, and he and I had a long conversation recently about how climate science is reported. His basic view is that the media, as a business, essentially has to base their reporting on the public’s understanding of an issue. As long as the public continued to view climate change as a “controversy”, taking a side was viewed as biased. I pointed out that the media has continued to report the “controversy” long after the climate community reached consensus, and did so be reporting the opinions non-climate scientists as a counterpoint to true climate scientists. To which his reply was to remind me that I was a “skeptic” in 1999-2001, and because I was not convinced that climate change was definitively anthropogenic (I basically stand by that, as at the time we still hadn’t established things like whether the ocean is a net source or sink of carbon) I was against conclusively ruling out natural variability. I have since become convinced that natural variability is not responsible, as more and more work has been done.

    The upshot is that it takes time to change the popular narrative, even with an engaged press. If the public has come around to seeing that global warming is real and anthropogenic, we can hold out some hope of political progress. But it’s still going to be awfully slow going to convince people of the pressing nature of the risks.

    [Response: Dear Eric, I started to find the scientific case for anthropogenic warming compelling some time in the mid nineties, and naturally, different observers would come to this conclusion at somewhat different times. But I am puzzled by your comment on oceanic carbon uptake, because this issue has no bearing on the question. By the sixties, it was well-established science that CO2 concentration is rising due to fossil fuel emissions, and in the nineties we certainly knew that the observed rise represents only 57% of what we have emitted. It was therefore clear that the remaing 43% had to be taken up by the natural system, which thus acted as an overall sink – regardless of whether this carbon is in the ocean or elsewhere. At the time you were still skeptical, you could legitimately have been unconvinced that warming is anthropogenic, but not that the CO2 rise is anthropogenic. For questions of science history like this, I again recommend Spencer Weart’s book “The Discovery of Global Warming” and his web site. – Stefan]

    Comment by Eric E — 23 Aug 2006 @ 4:07 PM

  2. I posted this under the previous topic. In contrast with the Zogby poll, the Pew Center poll conducted last June found that 41% viewed global warming as “very serious” and 33% said “somewhat serious”. Only 41% agreed global warming is due to human activity. So most Americans appear to believe global warming is a problem, but a majority does not believe it is due to human activity. So convincing the American public that GHG emissions need to be reduced remains to be accomplished, according to this poll. You can see the poll results at It would be interesting to have the Pew Center poll run again since the June poll preceded the heat wave and the Inconvenient Truth movie.

    Comment by John Bolduc — 23 Aug 2006 @ 4:11 PM

  3. There’s a lot of research in the psychology litereature about how folks detect trends. The one I always point to is a phenomena called “depressive realism”. Subjects were given randomly blinking lights and a control panel that did nothing to the pattern of blinks. They were told to learn how to control the lights by experimenting with the switches. “Normals” said that they were learning to control the lights, and clinically depressed folks said that the switches didn’t do anything. Why the actual phenomena wasn’t called adaptive optimism or something like that puzzles me. But it does reflect on how the public may put off endorsing strong moves against climate change assuming that they have more control available than is the case.

    Comment by JP Valentik — 23 Aug 2006 @ 4:14 PM

  4. six of one AND half-a-dozen of the other (please): it seems to me that the effective counterforce to global warming will be individual decisions and actions; this is based on cynicism about the effectiveness of governments, as well as a notion that the root cause is individual energy-use patterns (read ‘squandering’); and individuals have to be convinced one-at-a-time

    i have been tempted to say this here before – scientists could better reach people with clear statements, words like ‘multidecadal’ are all very well …

    that said – it sure is good to see a number like 70%

    i trust everyone here has already seen the exposé by Canadian Charles Montgomery in the Globe on the denial lobby in Canada: the Globe keeps their stuff locked up, you can also see it at the guy’s own website:

    be well.

    Comment by David Wilson — 23 Aug 2006 @ 4:15 PM

  5. Gavin wisely said: “given our extraordinary ability to see patterns in noisy data, we often end up associating the theme with our own experiences.”

    The “vast right-wing conspirators” ;-) know this all too well, and that’s why FauxNews works so well. The same “noise” is re-re-repeated so often that for some people it becomes their reality. Anyway, that’s how I explain the ’04 election. It’s nice to know that the mainstream media include just enough good noise about climate change to have a positive effect on publicly held reality.

    Comment by Doug — 23 Aug 2006 @ 4:20 PM

  6. I’m not convinced that, as Eric phrased it, we can “rule out” natural variablity. A lot has been accomplished in disseminating the evidence that natural variablity plays a small role in the current unfolding changes of climate, and that’s all to the good. But the idea of excluding any of the forcings from public scruting seems risky because the varied forcings can gang up on us, in cumulative effect.

    When I talk about natural variablity to people who are curious about these questions, I tell them that one of the spookiest scenarios is that where natural variablity turns against us at a time when greenhouse forcing is already creating plenty of risk. Double whammy? There may not be a lot of evidence for that right now, but remember, greenhouse forcing has committed to some risk for one to three or more centuries, which offers plenty of opportunity for risks that don’t seem imminent today.

    As I understand it, there are at least four kinds of climate change: natural variation, greenhouse forcing, land-use forcing, and particle forcing (associated with cloud formations that lead to cooling). In the latter case, we’d see a potentially risky situation if efforts to introduce particles happens to be followed by a major volcanic eruption that pushes the cooling in the direction of the Little Dryas.

    University students seem to quickly grasp that the varieties of climatic change can combine, interact, producing a cumulative effect. Maybe the general public can benefit from inclusive discussion of such scenarios.

    Lance Olsen
    Cold Mountain, Cold Rivers
    Missoula Montana

    Comment by Lance Olsen — 23 Aug 2006 @ 4:24 PM

  7. Re #2 & #5

    This is also an effect of the pernicious effect of “he said, she said” faux balance journalism. Reputable journalists are creating an impression of a “split decision” from the experts, while at the same time disreputable journalists and political leaders are aggressively pushing the denialist message. The net impression (depending on one’s mix of news sources and one’s gullibility) is that the denialists have the edge.

    Comment by shargash — 23 Aug 2006 @ 4:29 PM

  8. Ok 70% believe, but the more telling part in the poll is the attitude that major industries should reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to improve the environment without harming the economy. Translation, the global warming stuff is horrible, but don’t ask/require me to do anything.

    Comment by Mcwop — 23 Aug 2006 @ 4:34 PM

  9. Lance your concerns are well founded. The network of forcings is complex. There is both constructive and destructive interference between them all. “Rogue waves” are not only possible but in the long run probable. I’d hate to contribute to a “rogue wave” by trying to “fix” the climate.

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 23 Aug 2006 @ 4:36 PM

  10. In an older topic earlier today, I cited how PR firms are packing weblogs with their spam.

    A poll wouldn’t be susceptible to astroturf — which suggests the weblogs that are so full of denial don’t represent the public, and that people polled have started to understand there’s a problem.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 23 Aug 2006 @ 4:47 PM

  11. gavin wrote:

    “… scientists, who continually stress that single weather events can’t in general be attributed to climate change but that changes in statistics might be …”

    Of course a single weather event like Katrina can be “attributed” to climate change.

    If someone smokes two packs a day of cigarettes for decades and then dies of lung cancer, it is entirely appropriate to “attribute” his death from lung cancer to his tobacco smoking, even though some individuals may smoke just as much tobacco for just as long and never get lung cancer, and other individuals who have never smoked tobacco at all get lung cancer and die.

    We know from epidemiology that there is a correlation between smoking tobacco and death from lung cancer, we know the biophysical mechanisms by which the carcinogenic constituents of tobacco smoke cause cancer, and so when we know that a person who died from lung cancer was a lifelong smoker, it is entirely reasonable to attribute his death to smoking.

    Similarly, we know that there is a correlation between observed anthropogenic global warming of the ocean surface waters and the observed increase in the size, power and duration of hurricanes, and we know the physical mechanism by which anthropogenic global warming causes bigger and more powerful hurricanes (and indeed in the specific case of Katrina, it was clearly the abnormally warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico that caused it to explode into a monster after it passed over Florida), so, similarly, it is entirely reasonable to attribute Katrina to anthropogenic global warming.

    I really think that scientists should stop saying that individual extreme weather events cannot be “linked to” or “attributed to” anthropogenic climate change. Of course they can.

    [Response: This soon becomes a debate about the meaning of words like “attribute”. Clearly, it would not be scientifically correct to say about an individual that “he died of cancer because he smoked”, because you can’t be sure about this. You could say “he probably died because he smoked”, which reflects that we know he greatly increased his risk of getting lung cancer by smoking, but there is also a random component to it.
    With hurricanes, it may be useful to distinguish the highly stochastic aspects (like whether and where a tropical storm starts, and what path it takes) from more deterministic physical aspects – namely the effect that high sea surface temperature has on hurricane development. The effect of sea surface temperature (SST) is not a statistical link, it is a direct physical link which acts on each individual hurricane and not just on a statistical ensemble (and is hence used in day-to-day intensity forecasting). I think it is correct to say that high SST has made Katrina stronger along its path and has contributed to the disaster, together with other factors like where it struck and the poor preparation for such a foreseeable event. -Stefan]

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 23 Aug 2006 @ 4:54 PM

  12. Polls like this one (and an earlier poll looking at similar attitudes in other countries) show a growing acceptance that climate change is a real phenomenon. But like in all political polls, you all need to know the intensity of the opinion/feeling and how it ranks in terms of action people think the government should take. It is hear that I still think we have some way to go.

    Comment by Michael Gillenwater — 23 Aug 2006 @ 5:15 PM

  13. SecularAnimist,

    It seems to me you have it exactly backwards, but I don’t know how to explain it as the analogy you used is a very good one to support the opposite point. You can not prove what caused the individual’s lung cancer, though a strong statistical correlation in a population makes that a less than interesting fact when deciding to light up or not.

    WRT Katrina and the summer heat wave convincing people that GW is here and now and a problem, I guess this is just people holding the correct opinion for the wrong reasons and let’s accept it with gratitude.

    It is a dangerous thing to purposely use such things in a misleading way, though, as the next cold snap makes you look like a liar!

    The population is full of misconceptions, I for one do not rank the misconception that Katrina was caused by CO2 as a high priority to correct. I would not say it, and will correct people who say it to me, but I don’t feel any urge to go out of my way to stamp it out.

    Is that wrong?

    Comment by Coby — 23 Aug 2006 @ 5:20 PM

  14. As more public opinion polls stack up–expressing meaningful collective awareness that humans are a factor in altering climate–the issue will be significant fodder for political election discourse.

    However, what solutions will be ultimately proposed, and the actual effectiveness, holds my keen interest.

    In the course of implementing a near zero carbon lifestyle and economy (that seems to be possible with current technology), it will be interesting how the huge financial stakeholders (coal, oil, nuclear) leverage their media and influence. For example, Paul Scott, of PlugInAmerica, has told me he drives all year, and powers his home using solar (PV) generated electrons. This kind of decentralized power generation, while empowering individuals, changes the order of things with some winners and some losers.

    In agreement, Iâ��d submit the public awareness shift is result of recent Broadcast TV, cable, magazine, Gore movie, and other alternative media climate themed showings–more than any widespread deep cognitive understanding of the issues. Still heartening news, nonetheless.

    Comment by Jim Redden — 23 Aug 2006 @ 5:39 PM

  15. Climate is constantly changing. If you asked these same people if they would rather have the same weather as 250 years ago, they would all say yes. Hell, that was the last part of a mini Ice Age. We have been living in what has probably been the optimum time for our species.
    We shloud not expect it to continue indefinitely.

    Comment by Margaret M — 23 Aug 2006 @ 6:01 PM

  16. I think there is an issue with journalists being sufficiently informed to challenge the politicians that try to shirk their responsibilities with regard to global warming.

    Too often I see articles in which journalists simply accept politicians comments unequivocally. There was a rare case in Australia recently in which a journalist actually challenged a politician on his carbon pricing policy. In this case the politician ended up looking pretty silly, if only more could do the same.

    The situation in Australia is not great in this regard. Our prime minister has decided not to support emissions trading, and even though our states have banded together to create a scheme, there doesn’t seem to be much hope that it is going to get off the ground.

    Comment by Tim Burrows — 23 Aug 2006 @ 6:09 PM

  17. #6, Natural variability is fine, it happens as often as a change of winds, you must take a look, say with a view from the International Space station instead of a look from your living room window.
    Global average temperatures do not deny natural variability, but they show a constant trend, upwards, not like a roller coaster, natural variations occur with ever changing weather systems constantly. A look at the world from afar offers a different conclusion, the back yard view is much more variable, should not be applied convincingly for AGW arguments, not in times of climatic transitions..

    Comment by wayne davidson — 23 Aug 2006 @ 6:26 PM

  18. RE: #15 – Let me share how I run my factory. I look at yield and fall out weekly, QTD, rolling 13 week and on even longer time scales. For the shorter time scales, if I “alarm” on a positive spike, I need to make sure that I alarm at a higher alarm limit than I would for an alarm based on one of the longer time series. Do you understand why I do things this way? Do you understand why the level of innate variation in climate is so important to characterize on many different time scales? Do you understand why “constant trend upwards” statements regarding what is, in terms of Earth history, a short time frame, get challenged?

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 23 Aug 2006 @ 6:37 PM

  19. I think the best way to explain all this to uninformed people is the analogy of loaded dice. Admit that many factors affect whether or not any particular event occurs, but one of them is the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. So increasing that concentration loads the dice in some direction. Climate scientists think they know a reasonable amount about the sort of changes that might occur and an increase of extreme weather events should be one of them. But even if the climate scientists are wrpng about specific predictions, the edfault position should be that something will happen and it is foolhardy to assume it will be benign. The onus should be on those who argue we should continue to increase our emissions of greenhouse gases to show that there will not be significant effects.

    Comment by Leonard Evens — 23 Aug 2006 @ 6:38 PM

  20. With regards to “Given that pattern, it is probably overly optimistic to expect scientists, who continually stress that single weather events can’t in general be attributed to climate change but that changes in statistics might be, to have much success in conveying these finer points to the public directly.”

    I wonder if it might be better to put this another way (when refering to a particular hurricane for example): Similar events are possible without global warming, so individually are not proof, but higher temperatures do increase the average strength of tropical storms and also the average sea level, both of which increase the danger from storm surges.

    Comment by Chris Rijk — 23 Aug 2006 @ 6:44 PM

  21. For perspective let’s not forget that in previous polls 75% of Americans were convinced that Saddam Hussein was behind 9/11!

    Comment by Carl Christensen — 23 Aug 2006 @ 7:22 PM

  22. Coby,

    WRT Katrina and the summer heat wave convincing people that GW is here and now and a problem, I guess this is just people holding the correct opinion for the wrong reasons and let’s accept it with gratitude.

    It is a dangerous thing to purposely use such things in a misleading way, though, as the next cold snap makes you look like a liar!

    When they say this I simply respond “Remember it’s global averages that are important”.

    The population is full of misconceptions, I for one do not rank the misconception that Katrina was caused by CO2 as a high priority to correct. I would not say it, and will correct people who say it to me, but I don’t feel any urge to go out of my way to stamp it out.

    Did you read Dr. Curry’s paper? Given the info in table #1 and the fact that we are still 10 years from the peak I’m not sure you are correct when you say this is a “misconception”. Yes, we can’t know for sure with regard to any specific storm but the stats are shocking.

    “The strength of the tropical storm activity during the period of 1995â��2005 (which is at least a decade away from the expected peak of the current AMO cycle), relative to the previous maximum 11-year period of 1945â��55 (Table 1), shows a 50% increase in the total number of tropical storms, number of hurricanes, and number of category-4 and -5


    Comment by Wacki — 23 Aug 2006 @ 9:29 PM

  23. Re #6
    Concern about unpredictable random events shouldn’t be used to determine action. They can either amplify or counteract actions, for good or bad. Global climate change, by itself, is net bad, at least in that people have to move to follow the desired climate, and probably change their technologies. Counteracting it is, in that sense, net good. On the other hand, change is how evolution happens.

    If we or nature went too far in cooling the earth, yes, people would have to move. But ice piled high on land at the poles would drop the sea level and make much more land available at shore lines in temperate and tropical areas, plus, on the average, probably improve weather in those areas.

    Comment by Dan Robinson — 23 Aug 2006 @ 10:04 PM

  24. RE 10 (Hank Roberts):

    Hank, that’s a good link.

    I started the Dano character after watching the spam on TCS, after the then-CA Governor announced a ‘Kyoto-lite’ for the state and that day a number of commenters from Michigan gave instructions on how to start a recall and further detailed actions.

    The issue is how certain public dialogue is gamed. I believe that polls can reflect astroturf activity, and that websites can mobilize a demographic to action – galvanization is the key to public action and spam can serve to galvanize. That the poll numbers mentioned in the post are steady, however, may indicate across a broad spectrum spam is ineffective (but I don’t think that’s the point – concentrated action is).



    Comment by Dano — 23 Aug 2006 @ 10:09 PM

  25. I forgot to include a couple of thoughts on #22. Do what you think is best based on predictable senarios, and be prepared for all most likely outcomes.

    Comment by Dan Robinson — 23 Aug 2006 @ 10:17 PM

  26. … Televangelist Pat Robertson, for instance, said very recently that it was the latest heat wave that finally convinced him. …

    Some people don’t think of heat waves as being severe weather events even though heat waves contribute much to many weather related problems: heavy power use, less work, worsening drought, fires and heat fatalities. In the US, July is usually the warmest month of the year.

    July of 2006 was very warm for much of the US … ‘the U.S nationally averaged temperature during July was 77.2°F (25.1°C), 2nd warmest July on record.’ …

    The first week of August was also very warm in the Midwest and Northeast (4-8 degrees F above ‘normal’ for July 30 – Aug 5, 2006, according to the DOC/DOA Weekly Weather and Crop Bulletin.

    How much of the six week (July 1- Aug 6, 2006) heat in the US could be viewed as just due to variability in weather and how much could be viewed as due to global warming?

    Comment by pat neuman — 23 Aug 2006 @ 10:38 PM

  27. I wish someone would evaluate the heat released from the munitions in escalating world conflict. This could be a contributing factor also. Climate depends on millions of factors. Since man began to smelt metals the C02 has been on the rise.

    Comment by Robert Wagner — 23 Aug 2006 @ 11:30 PM

  28. I think it is dangerous to be happy that the public believes GW for the wrong reasons. This is suscptible to backfiring on the next reversal.

    Scientists could do a lot better in communicating complex ideas – but unfortunately there are few gifted like Carl Sagan to do so. Nevertheless, ensuring that the public understands the basic science would be of immense benefit in counteracting the disinformation promulgated by GW deniers.

    Comment by Alex Tolley — 23 Aug 2006 @ 11:39 PM

  29. I just ran across this weatherman’s view.

    This continues to be alarming but not in the way trained professionals like this claim. You have to blame individual political leanings on this. Just Count the fallacies.

    Comment by Mark A. York — 23 Aug 2006 @ 11:41 PM

  30. re #11 by by SecularAnimist: Sounds much like impeccable and erudite analysis leading to preposterous conclusions. So, some smoke and never get cancer, others don’t smoke and get cancer, and yet others smoke and get cancer. The latter is an AHA! moment???!!! Other than matching some pre-conceived notion, it’s on the surface silly.

    Comment by Rod Brick — 23 Aug 2006 @ 11:44 PM

  31. I don’t understand the concern over polling. Are we waiting for the right percentage to prove our notion, as in science through democracy? Or is it just the excitment of converting sheep to follow the herd of independent minds? In either case, I’m afraid science is not a democratic process; though advocacy is.

    Sorry, I’m just an old lay scientist iconoclast trying to keep everyone’s feet on the ground.

    Comment by Rod Brick — 24 Aug 2006 @ 12:03 AM

  32. The insurance industry seems to accept anthropogenic global warming as real:

    From today’s Hartford (CT) Courant (excerpt)

    Many Insurers Thinking Green – They’re Offering New Products, Services Aimed At Reducing Global Warming
    August 23, 2006
    By DIANE LEVICK, Courant Staff Writer

    While global warming poses the danger of heavier losses for insurers, the industry has started to mine the business opportunities by offering products aimed at mitigating the environmental problem – along with claims, a new report says.

    Some insurers are using new premium credits and risk management programs that will encourage more energy-efficient construction and driving and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, said a study issued Tuesday by the Ceres coalition of investors and environmental groups.
    But more companies need to adopt innovative approaches to tackle the problem over the long term, the report said.

    Global warming, fueled by the emission of such gases as carbon dioxide, is believed to be changing climate and leading to more intense hurricanes, droughts, floods and wildfires. The study comes nearly a year after Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, causing an estimated $45 billion of insured damage, a record for a hurricane.

    “Climate change is perhaps the greatest threat the insurance industry has ever faced,” said Ceres President Mindy S. Lubber during a teleconference Tuesday. “And the time has come to assert its leadership again.”

    Many insurers have raised rates, imposed new or higher wind deductibles, and shrunk their business in hurricane-exposed areas, and the report says they’re forgoing about $3 billion a year in premiums as a result. In Florida and Louisiana alone, more than 600,000 homeowners’ policies were dropped or not renewed in the past year, the report said.

    The increased risk, however, “creates vast opportunities for new products and services” to help consumers and businesses reduce their losses while reducing pollution and its climate effects, Lubber said.

    The report identifies 190 such products and services that are either available or under development at dozens of insurance companies, brokers and other insurance organizations in 16 countries.

    Fireman’s Fund, for example, is introducing premium credits for certified “green,” or energy-efficient, commercial buildings. The company also plans new green products, including a provision to replace conventional damaged property with improved energy-efficient property.

    General Motors’ GMAC Insurance offers mileage-based discounts of 5 to 40 percent using its Onstar technology to track driving patterns, the Ceres report says. Although other insurers have long asked how many miles people drive, they tend to have larger mileage categories with more limited breaks on premiums…

    The St. Paul Travelers Cos. is rolling out premium discounts for hybrid electric-gasoline vehicles, saying data shows drivers of hybrids are less likely to have accidents than people who drive gasoline-powered vehicles.

    Insurers can also provide coverage for carbon-reduction capital projects and consulting services in designing and managing such projects, Ceres said.

    In addition, some insurers are stepping in to cover risks involved in “carbon trading.” Many countries are capping their greenhouse gas emissions, and businesses that can’t meet their emissions targets can buy credits from those who are below targets.

    American International Group and broker Marsh & McLennan Cos. have launched carbon emissions credit guarantees, and the carbon-trading market in the European Union, alone, is expected to hit $30 billion by the end of this year, the Ceres report said.
    I suppose an optimist might say this is a conservative business decision to protect the industry’s bottom line that also provides much-needed incentives for people to make environmentally sound decisions. On the other hand, a pessimist might argue that the insurance industry is merely exploiting AGW to ,and drop risky policies; insurance underwriters will likely benefit whether global warming is real, or not (or less severe than predicted).

    Comment by Chuck Booth — 24 Aug 2006 @ 12:07 AM

  33. Robert, in #24

    The scale of heat released by human activity is on a vastly different scale than what is involved in global atmosphere and ocean systems. I can’t crunch those specific numbers, but here is a telling quote:

    A fully developed hurricane can release heat energy at a rate of 5 to 20×10^13 watts and converts less than 10% of the heat into the mechanical energy of the wind. The heat release is equivalent to a 10-megaton nuclear bomb exploding every 20 minutes. According to the 1993 World Almanac, the entire human race used energy at a rate of 10^13 watts in 1990, a rate less than 20% of the power of a hurricane.

    Comment by Coby — 24 Aug 2006 @ 12:27 AM

  34. Concerning comment 4 and Professor Ball: It doesn’t matter whether the climate change is natural or human-caused. Starvation kills you just as dead either way. See the book: “The Long Summer, How Climate Changed Civilization” by Brian Fagan
    2004 Basic Books
    ISBN 0-465-02281-2
    Summary: Smaller climate changes than the one we have made so far have caused the fall of many civilizations. Brian Fagan lists more civilizations that fell because of minor climate changes than I ever knew existed.
    So what are you going to do when Iowa becomes a desert and the price of bread reaches $10 per slice? Regardless of the cause of the climate change, we have to control the climate or die. We have to keep the climate stable and optimal for the agricultural technology that we already have. New technology can’t be deployed instantly no matter how fast it is invented. And the next famine will be global. We could loose 6 Billion people, including those rich business people and Professor Ball.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 24 Aug 2006 @ 3:05 AM

  35. Placing responsibility for individual weather events with global warming is a fool’s game. Yet, increased forest fires, more severe and widespread heat waves and draughts, larger and more powerful storms, are all predictable consequences of global warming.

    Most predicable, a warming earth will soon start to emit considerably more greenhouse gases than humans. Carbon sinks will become carbon emitters-like forests, permafrost, and the oceans. Particularly alarming is melting methane hydrate, which likely has caused severe bouts of global warming in the past.

    • There is an estimated 400 billion tons of methane trapped in permafrost ice.

    • An estimated 50% of surface permafrost will melt by 2050, and 90% by 2100.

    • Methane is more than 20 times as strong a greenhouse gas as CO2-the sudden release of just 35 billion tons of methane would be like doubling the CO2 in the air.

    • Ocean bottom ice will start to melt-releasing some of the estimated 10,000 billion tons of methane trapped in it.

    Comment by Brad Arnold — 24 Aug 2006 @ 3:42 AM

  36. John Bolduc, post 2, the Pew poll is interesting but what should be worrying is that people put a very low priority on doing anything about the problem. There is a difference between Democrats and Republicans but even Democrats put global warming barely higher than immigration as an issue to be dealt with. I would be curious to see how high the issue climbs in people’s priorities when mass migration starts to happen.

    It is interesting to see that Spain and France are two countries which are particularly worried about the issue. One can guess why and it probably has something to do with water shortages in both territories. France has already predicted a fall in agricultural yields for this year. Spain of course is in the front line for people fleeing Africa.

    The Economist about two issues ago published a good special on The Horn of Africa detailing drought, famine and over-population as plaguing that particular part of the earth’s surface – leaving aside the unremitting violence in that region.

    I hope that The Horn of Africa is not a model that we will all follow shortly.

    Comment by Eachran — 24 Aug 2006 @ 5:51 AM

  37. What will the public believe after a few cold winters or even years? Human memory is very short and our climate observations short and disputed.

    Relying on public feelings and evangelists for ‘evidence’ is surely no way to run public policy. A sign of desperation by teh ‘global warming ‘alarmists’? Or is it a sign of the failure of populism?

    The idea of humans changing climate is by no means new and has been
    used for political purposes for centuries, if not longer. Just another
    version of the politics of fear, note it is always the future that will be worse, diverting attention from present problems.

    Not so long ago it was the next ice age, then the death of the oceans, then the population bomb, limits to growth and the death of the forests from acid rain. People like to be scared, and when there is money to be made out of the scares as well (not always!) they get taken up by insurance companies, research and then regulators – get ‘institutionalised’. Supportive scientists get the limelight, for a while.

    Beware of another green myth! It will cost you dear (but may enhance energy security and will certainly bring nuclear power back to the ‘West’. It is well on the way…

    Comment by Sonja Christiansen — 24 Aug 2006 @ 7:03 AM

  38. Re #23 and “change is how evolution happens.”

    So what? Volcanoes exploding is how Pacific islands are built. Does that make volcanoes a good thing? The fact that evolution takes place doesn’t mean we have to help it along. Natural selection works by time and death — whose children do you want to die so that evolution can be helped along?


    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 24 Aug 2006 @ 8:27 AM

  39. Re #37 and “The idea of humans changing climate is by no means new and has been used for political purposes for centuries, if not longer. Just another version of the politics of fear, note it is always the future that will be worse, diverting attention from present problems.”

    This is an ad hominem argument. If you have evidence that anthropogenic global warming isn’t happening, present your evidence. Insulting those who disagree with you gets you nowhere.


    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 24 Aug 2006 @ 8:31 AM

  40. re: 39. Quite true. Furthermore, the very idea that a layman thinks they know more then the consensus of literally thousands of climate scientists throughout the world and essentially every major scientific society across the world is probably the ultimate height of sheer arrogance. Sadly such insults without facts or data within the realm of science are part of the skeptics/denialists repertoire when the science does not support them. This was also recently seen following the release of “An Incovenient Truth” with many attacks on former VP Gore that had nothing or very little to do with the scientific issue.

    Comment by Dan — 24 Aug 2006 @ 8:55 AM

  41. Coby #33, the 10 trillion watts of energy (1990) you mention is dwarfed by the couple watts per sq meter for anthropogenic GH gasses over 500 trillion square meters of earth. Also the hurricane energy is being absorbed elsewhere, not additional, so it can’t be compared to the anthropogenic energy inputs.

    Comment by Eric (skeptic) — 24 Aug 2006 @ 9:11 AM

  42. I keep getting mailings from Senator John McCain about doing something about global warming. There is a reasonable chance that, whichever party prevails, we may have an administration committed to controlling greenhouse gas emissions in 2009. Changing Congress may take longer, but it seems likely the US will change direction significantly in the next 5-10 years. If the US starts providing leadership, it may have a significant global influence, and China and India may be brought on board. Unfortunately, even when the commitment is made, it can take some time for changes to actually be made, so we may not have that long to wait.

    Comment by Leonard Evens — 24 Aug 2006 @ 9:48 AM

  43. Re #37: You read too much Crichton. Forget Crichton.

    Comment by Florifulgurator — 24 Aug 2006 @ 11:23 AM

  44. Hi Eric (currently #44),

    I have no disagreement with what you say. The figures were only intended to illustrate the vastly different scales of heat energy between global climate systems (if a single hurricane involves that much energy, imagine how much is in the system) and human activity, specifically heat released from weaponry (if it takes a ten Mt bomb/20 min to match one hurricane, clearly the current use of weaponry will not have a significant global impact).

    Re changing US political rhetoric: this is clearly a hopeful thing, but the challenges are far from met by simply having some campaign promises. Even if a passionate advocate such as Al Gore ran and won the presidency, the entrenched corporate powers will not roll over easily. The democrates are always appealing when the Republicans are in power, but so far the kinds of fundamental changes needed never seem to occur.

    But hope burns eternal…

    Comment by Coby — 24 Aug 2006 @ 12:01 PM

  45. This is just one of many polls on this subject; for the full context people should read this as well:

    Comment by Chris Mooney — 24 Aug 2006 @ 12:56 PM

  46. #29 Mark, Amazing, a name calling meteorologist claiming that AGW has no facts backing it up, without explaining the current warming trend, aside from its “natural”, with oozing assurances that the great urban sprawl of humanity, I suppose also found in the Arctic (with huge temperature increases of late), explains the flaws in GT records. May be during the Miocene, the time when CO2 concentrations was about the same as now, there was a lot of Polar ice? Or this alligator skull found on Ellesmere Island was moved in flight by argentavis seeking to have lunch in a cold place?

    Now, seriously, what is needed is a meteorologist or anyone with a contary view, specifically finding the flaw not found by those 2000 IPCC scientists. Such a claim must be scientifically compelling, not like name calling. I’ve read many such poorly researched articles, they have the same easy to read slant, totally designed for mass consumption, designed to steer away the public from a proper course of reasoning.

    Comment by wayne davidson — 24 Aug 2006 @ 1:47 PM

  47. “with oozing assurances that the great urban sprawl of humanity”

    How about something more scientific, such as the areal distribution of humanity. A density function of course.

    A transform, related to the level of development, could be applied, leading to reasonable estimates of anthropogenic energy dissipation / power / work. Classic stuff, work applied at an interface. Hey, guess what, it’s one o’ dem boundary condition thingies!

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 24 Aug 2006 @ 2:43 PM

  48. > munitions

    I’ve wondered, not about heat released, but about how much biologically (eventually) available iron and nitrogen got flushed into the ocean during and after WWII. I suspect it’s trivial (at the rate sunken ships and aircraft would rust, anyhow) compared to annual windblown iron-containing dust. And for explosives, I’d imagine the value of those as fertilizer are trivial compared to nitrogen oxides in rainfall from internal combustion engines.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 24 Aug 2006 @ 3:33 PM

  49. RE # 29

    Mark, thanks for providing the link to “Global warming or global whining/”

    The man cannot fathom the source of increased CO2 concentration except to surmize it must be attributed to bad breath.

    However, one legitimate peer responded with the following letter to the editor. In the interest of full disclosure, it read as follows:

    Physicist rebuts meteorologist

    I am writing to respond to Jim Woodmencey’s article “Global warming or global whining?” from the August 2-8 2006 edition of Planet Jackson Hole. It is evident from Mr. Woodmencey’s article that he was galvanized by Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth” albeit not in a manner intended by the filmmakers. On this, at least, we agree. I found the movie in question to contain as much hyperbole as sound scientific reasoning. But countering one set of ill-formed conclusions with another serves no one. The asymmetry here is that Mr. Gore has little substantive background in atmospheric science whereas Mr. Woodmencey has a degree in meteorology and ought to know better.

    Among atmospheric scientists, physicists, oceanographers and others who study Earth’s energy balance there is virtually no debate on either the existence or the causes of global warming. The mechanisms for global warming are among the most well understood in climate research and are really not all that difficult to grasp. Although it is true that climate on Earth has vacillated (in some cases wildly) in past epochs there is no evidence in the anecdotal, historical or paleoclimatological records of a strong simultaneous upswing in both carbon dioxide concentration and temperature in such a compact temporal signature.

    To claim that scientists do not understand how to subtract background readings from temperature data is laughable. To further downplay the significance of a global increase of 0.5 degrees C in temperature in 100 years reflects an astounding ignorance of how sensitive the ocean-atmospheric system is to perturbation. If Mr. Woodmencey really believes that humans contribute substantially to global warming due to respiratory processes then he is welcome to hold his breath for as long as he wishes but scientists are able to largely identify CO2 in the atmosphere by source. The significant increase in atmospheric C02 levels is not due to breathing, it is due to changes in land use and use of the atmosphere as an industrial CO2 dump for the past 150 years.

    Mr. Woodmencey’s article reaches its height of inadvertent humor when he complains about Mr. Gore’s “connect the dots” graphics while simultaneously claiming that a 20 percent increase in atmospheric CO2 in less than 50 years isn’t really significant because it represents only an increase from 0.0315 to 0.0380 percent. I’m guessing that neither chemistry nor statistics are Mr. Woodmencey’s strong suits as that statistically very significant increase is largely responsible for a rapid and increasingly dramatic change in climate that we are currently experiencing.

    Is global warming real? Yes. Do we know the causes? Almost certainly. Can increases in tropical storm frequency and ferocity be linked to global warming? Yes, though due to the complex nature of boundary conditions in the atmosphere the link is statistical. Do we know where climate change is going? That’s a little more speculative but most of the computer models have been good at predicting what we’ve seen to date (except that they consistently err on the conservative side) and future trends do appear to indicate an exponential increase in global warming, at least in the short term. Is that good or bad? I don’t know. But change is coming.

    Martin Hackworth
    Idaho State University
    Department of Physics

    Comment by John L. McCormick — 24 Aug 2006 @ 4:02 PM

  50. Jim Redden wrote in #14: “As more public opinion polls stack up–expressing meaningful collective awareness that humans are a factor in altering climate–the issue will be significant fodder for political election discourse. However, what solutions will be ultimately proposed, and the actual effectiveness, holds my keen interest.”

    Independent (formerly Republican) Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont introduced a bill in the Senate on July 20 that would require, among other things, that the USA reduce its GHG emissions by 2020 to 1990 levels, and by 2050 to 80 percent below 1990 levels. Sounds good to me. More info:

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 24 Aug 2006 @ 4:06 PM

  51. RE 47 (Sadlov):

    How about something more scientific, such as the areal distribution of humanity. A density function of course.


    Most human societies distribute themselves along transportation corridors and proximate to arable land. That is: you must overlay multiple factors requisite for societies to function to gain useful information on the density function returned from your calcs [that is: wrt to high-quality aragle land density function, ‘sprawl’ is likely accurate to a high probability with a high significance].

    But anyway, wayne was using rhetoric to illustrate a tactic. Not every single word written on a blog comment thread can adhere to someone’s purported wishes for every word ever used in a discussion to be scientific. This is not an abstract.



    Comment by Dano — 24 Aug 2006 @ 5:01 PM

  52. Public opinion is largely modified by reading the newspapers, listening to the radio, and watching television. In this respect, the widespread acceptance of the threat of global warming in Britain is interesting, in that the media coverage has been far more comprehensive and analytical (with some exceptions). For example, see the following reports from Britain:

    “Climate change is a far greater threat to the world than international terrorism, the UK Government’s chief scientific adviser has said.”(Jan 2004)

    “New proof that man has caused global warming, From Mark Henderson, Science Correspondent, in Washington: The strongest evidence yet that global warming has been triggered by human activity has emerged from a major study of rising temperatures in the world’s oceans.” (Feb 2005),,3-1489955,00.html

    “Millions ‘hit by global warming’
    The increase in traffic is going to hamper CO2 targets
    Millions of people in England and Wales are being seriously affected by pollution and global warming, the Environment Agency says.”
    (Jun 2005)


    Oddly enough, the recent paper claiming global cooling of the oceans by Lymann et. al. was prepared after these two reports from Scripps and Woods Hole (to which the above news stories relate):;309/5732/284 (July 2005)
    “Penetration of Human-Induced Warming into the World’s Oceans
    Tim P. Barnett, David W. Pierce, Krishna M. AchutaRao, Peter J. Gleckler, Benjamin D. Santer, Jonathan M. Gregory, Warren M. Washington
    A warming signal has penetrated into the world’s oceans over the past 40 years. The signal is complex, with a vertical structure that varies widely by ocean; it cannot be explained by natural internal climate variability or solar and volcanic forcing, but is well simulated by two anthropogenically forced climate models. We conclude that it is of human origin, a conclusion robust to observational sampling and model differences. Changes in advection combine with surface forcing to give the overall warming pattern. The implications of this study suggest that society needs to seriously consider model predictions of future climate change.” (June 2005)
    “Dilution of the Northern North Atlantic Ocean in Recent Decades
    Ruth Curry and Cecilie Mauritzen
    Declining salinities signify that large amounts of fresh water have been added to the northern North Atlantic Ocean since the mid-1960s. We estimate that the Nordic Seas and Subpolar Basins were diluted by an extra 19,000 ± 5000 cubic kilometers of freshwater input between 1965 and 1995. Fully half of that additional fresh water – about 10,000 cubic kilometers – infiltrated the system in the late 1960s at an approximate rate of 2000 cubic kilometers per year. Patterns of freshwater accumulation observed in the Nordic Seas suggest a century time scale to reach freshening thresholds critical to that portion of the Atlantic meridional overturning circulation.”

    I included some more comments on the Lyman paper at (comment #65)

    I’m guessing that after these two papers were published in Science, some folks at NOAA got together and decided they needed to support a contrary opinion, and made the funding available for that purpose. There is clearly a group at NOAA that has devoted a lot of time and effort to attacking climate research on all fronts – even if they have to contradict themselves to do so. This mimics the approach that the climate skeptics used some years ago to attack the climate models based on satellite measurements of tropospheric warming, one of Richard Lindzen’s favorite topics (which has now been resolved), until his more recent conversion to believing the models over the data. Idee fixe? An inability to accept contrary evidence is a symptom of that malady. (That accusation can fly both ways, but the science supports AGW – it’s just the eventual magnitude that’s debatable). As far as the current ocean warming rebuttal goes, without comprehensive polar region data, I really think that Lyman et. al have a very poor dataset (who can tell?) and their notion of radiative loss to space as an explanation for their results is also unsupported. I’m guessing that they chose their time period (2002-2005) after a first pass at the data. Deliberate selection of a limited number of years to include in their datasets is another hallmark of this NOAA group – what’s next? I’m waiting to see a ‘spotty dataset’ in which inconvenient years are not included in their time spans (Data from 2000, 2002 and 2006 shows a declining trend!).


    To get back to the British media, some news reports are not quite as reliable, for example:

    “The truth about global warming – it’s the Sun that’s to blame
    By Michael Leidig and Roya Nikkhah
    (Filed: 18/07/2004)
    Global warming has finally been explained: the Earth is getting hotter because the Sun is burning more brightly than at any time during the past 1,000 years, according to new research.”

    This has been refuted in quite a bit of detail, and any decent science journalist would have included a less definitive headline (maybe that was the editor’s choice, however). For details see the Realclimate discussion of solar issues and links therein:


    For comparison to the US media, look at what the Houston Chronicle is publishing (excerpted, as you can’t link directly to their archives – quite unlike the bbc) – and to prefix, I think there are other explanations for a reduced hurricane season so far this year:

    “Hurricane forecasts cooling off / Fewer named storms are likely as winds tame heat in the Atlantic, experts now say
    With record-breaking heat waves sweeping the eastern U.S. and Europe, it may seem odd to suggest that a cooler Atlantic Ocean bears responsibility for the subdued start to this year’s hurricane season. But that’s what is happening, forecasters say. Although the northern Atlantic is considerably warmer than normal, the tropical Atlantic – where most hurricanes form – is about 3 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than last year, when a record 28 tropical storms and hurricanes formed.

    As a result, the most well-known hurricane forecaster, Colorado State University’s William Gray, has dropped his prediction for the number of named storms this year from 17, which he made in late May, to 15. The forecast also calls for fewer hurricanes, down from nine to seven, and fewer major hurricanes, from five to three. So far this year, three tropical storms have developed, including the weakening Tropical Storm Chris, slightly more than normal for this time of year. Eight named storms had formed by this time in 2005.

    “Last year was just freakish early on,” said Phil Klotzbach, a research associate at Colorado State who now leads the study for Gray, an emeritus professor. “We’re not expecting anything like that for the rest of this year.” The temperatures are cooler largely because of stronger easterly trade winds, which have kept the Atlantic Ocean churning, bringing cooler water to the top. In addition, the higher surface winds have caused more evaporation, which also cools the ocean off. As a result, the tropical ocean temperatures are just slightly above normal for this time of year.”

    The Houston Chronicle’s choice of experts is not exactly surprising, though it is fairly revealing. I did find the new home of the Reynolds SST at NOAA; here it is: Not very user-friendly. I also wonder if they’ve changed their method of calculating the anomaly? (There is no description of the method that I could find). They’ve also eliminated their archived forecasts from the web-based dataset (because they were so far off for 2005?), and instead include this little disclaimer:

    “If you require archived forecast data prior to January, 2006, please contact Ludmila Matrosova directly at

    What is going on at NOAA?

    Comment by ike solem — 24 Aug 2006 @ 5:06 PM

  53. Re 52

    You seem to be suggesting that the recent Lyman et al paper on ocean heat content is an attempt at a rebuttal of global warming, hastily prepared by the folks at NOAA in response to papers showing ocean warming. (If I’m mis-stating what you’re saying, please say so.)

    That’s just bizarre. Josh Willis (now at JPL, but previously at Scripps with Dean Roemmich and Bruce Cornuelle) has been working on ways for assessing ocean heat content with Argo floats, XBTs etc for several years. In 2004 Willis, Roemmich & Cornuelle wrote a JGR article showing that the ocean had warmed fairly steadily from 1993 to 2003. Obviously that time series is of considerable interest and would have been extended as new data became available. I expect that Josh would have been surprised as anyone when the next couple of years’ data showed a significant drop. So he published that result along with a couple of new co-authors. Now, those new co-authors are affiliated with NOAA, so *perhaps* they were sent out by the NOAA powers-that-be to turn Josh Willis to the Dark Side. Then again, perhaps not.

    Anyway, the Lyman et al heat content numbers are hardly a refutation of ocean warming or global warming generally. They say that the ocean heat content in 2005 dropped back to the level of 2000, having exceeded this for the years in between. Their significance in terms of climate variability won’t be clear for a few years, until the data and the models have been re-examined and more Argo data have been collected. Furthermore, the heat content and sea-level data, taken together imply that the freshwater input into the Ocean has increased recently, which won’t be good news for the deniers (though of course it could be wrong).

    Re the suggestion that the loss of this heat to space is “unsupported”. Lyman et al point out that there’s nowhere else in the climate system for this lost heat to go, so it *must* have been radiated to space. This doesn’t mean that changes in the Earth’s radiative balance *caused* the ocean cooling–it could have been the other way round.

    Let’s just assume–until proven otherwise–that Lyman et al are not hired guns of the denier lobby, but scientists who are studying the Earth system using the available data (warts and all), reporting their resutls honestly and trying to assess their significance.

    Comment by Mark Hadfield — 24 Aug 2006 @ 6:08 PM

  54. RE: #51 – Dano, you once again missed the point. Density of human population. It’s very straight forward. The less straightforward part is the transform. For so called “1st world” countries the transform approaches a certain set of characteristics and for the least developed ones another certain set is approached. Then the continuum between the two. But still, I believe a good approximation could be done. Pielke Sr. appears to be on the right track with his notion of various types of anthropogenic forcing.

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 24 Aug 2006 @ 6:19 PM

  55. Re Comment #37

    A potentially ad feminam comment with some relevance to the mini-thread on Industrial Spam.

    The content and English-is-not-my-native-language flavor of Comment 37 suggest that Sonja Christiansen might be the same person as Sonja Boehmer-Christiansen, a Reader in Sociology at the University of Hull in the UK. Sonja.B-C was a regular contributor to the Climate Sceptics Internet mailing list in the early 2000s. Although having no educational background in the physical sciences, she had decided that the proponents of anthropogenic global warming were wrong and the sceptics were right and devoted herself to providing spurious sociological explanations for why the proponents were such bad people. She was the editor of the non-, or sub-, or quasi-peer-reviewed journal Energy and Environment, and offered her journal as a forum for the “sceptics” on the list to get their message out. More than coincidentally, Energy and Environment published both the piece-of-trash white paper by Soon, Baliunas, Robinson, and Robinson that Frederick Seitz had formatted to look like a PNAS paper and was peddling to several thousand of his dearest friends AND the first McKitrick and McIntyre hockey-stick hit piece. Uniquely in my experience with climate issues, Sonja.B-C is a left-wing “climate sceptic”.

    Of course, there are lots of Christiansens in the world and probably more than a few Sonja Christiansens, so the Sonja Christiansen of Comment 37 may be a completely different person.

    On a more substantive note, Sonja Christiansen wrote:

    “The idea of humans changing climate is by no means new and has been used for political purposes for centuries, if not longer. Just another version of the politics of fear, note it is always the future that will be worse, diverting attention from present problems.”

    This appears to assert that human society has never affected climate, and assertion for which there is a fair amount of contrary evidence. Consider the deforestation accompanying human settlement around the Mediterranean and elsewhere and the dispersal of agricultural societies to the ends of the earth from centers of agricultural innovation in the Middle East, China, and Meso-America.” Back in the late 1800s, the same sorts of economic interests now fighting understanding of climate change were trying to sell land in the Western Great Plains and would tell prospective land buyers that “rain follows the plow”. Their campaign destroyed John Wesley Powell’s sensible program for settlement and agricultural development in the arid West, with consequences that haunt us to this day. This time the stakes are much bigger.

    Best regards.

    Jim Dukelow

    Comment by Jim Dukelow — 24 Aug 2006 @ 7:01 PM

  56. Another followup to Jim Redden who wrote in #14: “what solutions will be ultimately proposed, and the actual effectiveness, holds my keen interest.”

    The US Public Interest Research Group published a report today entitled “Rising to the Challenge: Six Steps to Cut Global Warming Pollution in the United States” in which they lay out a six-point plan by which the USA “can reduce its global warming emissions by as much as 19 percent by 2020 by taking a set of aggressive but achievable steps toward improved energy efficiency and increased use of renewable energy, within the context of mandatory limits on global warming pollution.”

    Technical solutions exist and are ready to be implemented. What’s needed is the political will to implement them. The importance of shifts in public opinion such as indicated by this poll is that it suggests that the necessary political will may be coming into existence.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 24 Aug 2006 @ 7:32 PM

  57. RE 54 (Sadlov):

    Thank you Steve. I refer you to our previous discussion on how your assertion about my missing the point is erroneous.

    Nonetheless, lest we waste too much bandwidth on nits, perhaps you have a ref that does the density function with the GHCN record, and shows the bias you seem to be arguing for? Did not the initial stab at this idea say something different than your density f assertion, or do you have data you collected that say something different than Imhoff?

    Or perhaps you are preparing a manuscript for the ‘approximation’ you mention above? Will it appear in the first issue of Galileo?



    Comment by Dano — 24 Aug 2006 @ 7:44 PM

  58. I find it extraordinary that intelligent educated people are not aware that Katrina was both a hurricane and a disaster, and apparently have not looked beyond mainstream media coverage, which was almost exclusively of NOLA, to comprehend the extent of the coastline destroyed by Katrina’s surge. It is in fact the largest natural disaster this country has experienced, and that is true even if talking about the disaster areas that do not include NOLA. Since no one seems to know basic geography anymore I feel obliged to point out before going any further that NOLA is not on the coast, and when I talk about a disaster along the coast, I’m by definition not talking about NOLA. It is precisely in support of what people along the Gulf Coast call the “invisible coastline” that I am in the process of documenting the extent and severity of the surge this month, albeit in a fairly casual non-technical manner, but as best I can. I have spent this past year trying to figure out how I could find a forum to bring public awareness to the disaster, before the one year aniversary approached, of the miles and miles of coastline that were obliterated by the record surge, which surpassed all historical measurements for the northern Gulf Coast region.

    However, even though NOLA did not get the brunt of the hurricane, and even though the canal failures were exacerbated by design flaws and lack of ongoing maintenance, and so it was these canal failures that caused so much of the damage in that city, and not the direct effects of the hurricane, I cannot in my heart feel anything but sympathy and compassion for the people of NOLA. I certainly don’t understand snarky comments meant to imply that NOLA’s suffering was no more than they deserved for not putting money into maintaining an adequate levee system. Although the shortcomings were those of local government, it was ordinary people who suffered as a result.

    Also, not all the damage in NOLA was caused by levee failures. Some damage was caused directly by the hurricane. I know of a home that was destroyed because wind blew off part of the roof, rain came in, and because they couldn’t return for some time, mold destroyed everything in that home. So I have no problem with understanding NOLA’s damage as being the result of a hurricane: a natural disaster. But I’d be a lot happier if every person in the US understood that NOLA was only a very small part of the actual area affected by this natural diaster. How is it possible to put this into perspective? Katrina affected two-thirds of the entire state of Mississippi, and that is just one state out of several that were affected. Mississippi had to remove over 40 million cubic yards of debris, after the storm. Twenty-five million of that was directly along the coast. They did it in record time: ten months.

    The area of coastline that was affected by Katrina was about the same distance as the coast between, say, Baltimore and New York City. I’m curious to know, now that I’ve made you aware that miles of populated coastline and dozens of communities were either totally or partially destroyed, if your lack of compassion for NOLA extends to the people of the Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama Gulf Coast as well. Is there some specific number of people that have to die before you consider it a bona-fide disaster? Some minimum average income for the area? Perhaps some sections of the country “count” and others don’t? Some communities are important, others are not? Shame on you, regardless of whether your attitude comes from ignorance or prejudice.

    Comment by Margie — 24 Aug 2006 @ 10:03 PM

  59. re: 52


    These link might help in answering your question: ‘What is going on at NOAA?’

    NOAA Leadership

    NWS Headquarters Organization and Structure

    Comment by pat neuman — 24 Aug 2006 @ 10:18 PM

  60. A Europe-wide study on the arrival of spring (it’s coming earlier):

    Press release:

    Comment by Chris Rijk — 25 Aug 2006 @ 5:27 AM

  61. Here’s why the Sun can’t be doing it.

    The emission temperature of a planet, the temperature as measured from some distance away, can be found with this equation:

    Te = (S (1 – A) / (4 sigma)) ^ 0.25

    where Te is in kelvins, S is the Solar constant, A the Earth’s bolometric Bond albedo, and sigma the Stefan-Boltzmann constant. S at Earth’s orbit averages 1367.6 Watts per square meter, the Earth’s albedo is about 0.3 (assume this is exact for the moment), and sigma has the value 5.6704 x 10^-8 in the SI, which gives an emission temperature for Earth of 254.9 K.

    Global warming since 1880 or so has been about 0.6 K. How much would the Solar constant have to have risen to provide that much of an increase? Solving for S, we have

    S = 4 sigma Te^4 / (1 – A)

    Plugging our results for Te back into this equation, it gives S = 1367.9 (which shows the problems of using significant digits). If we take Te = 254.9 – 0.6 = 254.3, we get S = 1355.1. In other words, the Solar constant would have to have increased by 12.8 Watts per square meter to get the observed warming. The Solar constant has, in fact, risen by about 1 Watt per square meter over this time period. Solar can’t do it alone without violating conservation of energy.

    Now, there may be some feedback in the Earth system that “multiplies” changes in the Solar constant. But until the Solar freaks identify what that feedback is, their theory fails on basic scientific grounds.


    Comment by Barton Paul Levenson — 25 Aug 2006 @ 6:59 AM

  62. Abstracts, online early, from the journal Global Change Biology that reported the study on early spring (and late fall) that Chris refers to above.

    This is I think what convinces people — when everything you look at shows a small change and almost all the changes are in the same direction, you don’t think “random” you think it’s an effect.

    This is an amazing collection of abstracts well worth some serious attention by the climatologists — as in, please, folks, read and discuss:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 25 Aug 2006 @ 7:25 AM

  63. It really surprises me that Realclimate has mentioned a poll on Global Warming. On a site that supposedly seems to pride itself on the apolitical side of the the issue, why would the admin be bothered about a poll? It seems it could be in danger of dragging itself into the political wrangling over climate change and have the ‘misinformation mud’ accusation slapped over it.

    [Response: It was just a post pointing out some interesting results on how people in the US think about this issue. We’ll be back to the science soon! – gavin]

    Comment by Russ Hayley — 25 Aug 2006 @ 7:30 AM

  64. Dear Gavin, dont apologise please for including a poll result in your excellent material. I am sure that people who read the posts on this site know a cause from an effect and an alarmist from a denier.

    As for science I recall one of the group, I think it was Raypierre, writing about accessibilty not so long ago. Quite so.

    Dont weaken.

    Comment by Eachran — 25 Aug 2006 @ 9:43 AM

  65. Re: 63 Russ Hayley

    It really surprises me that Realclimate has mentioned a poll on Global Warming. On a site that supposedly seems to pride itself on the apolitical side of the the issue, why would the admin be bothered about a poll? It seems it could be in danger of dragging itself into the political wrangling over climate change and have the ‘misinformation mud’ accusation slapped over it.

    This poll reflects how well the general public understands the science of climate change. Do you think a first grade science quiz is political? What about the teacher perfomance evaluations? There isn’t a whole lot of difference between those two and this poll.

    Comment by Wacki — 25 Aug 2006 @ 10:29 AM

  66. A good first order surface measure of population density can be seen here.

    As to the general discussion, one should NEVER start a conversation on Katrina/heat wave/anthropic global climate change by saying “one can never attribute any single event such as Katrina/heat wave/etc. to anthropic global climate change. Some useful responses have been suggested above. I prefer “on average” followed by a pause.

    There are two reasons for this. First, if you are talking with a denialist, the burden is shifted back to him or her to make the attribtuion argument. If you start by making the denialists argument, you might as well grab another beer and go sit in the corner. Second, the answer “on average” might be sufficient for someone with a cursory interest, or who knows a bit, and it provides a platform on which you can build.

    In building your answer, NEVER say that you CANNOT attribute Katrina, etc. to anthropic global climate change. State your argument in a positive way, such as we know that man made climate change is warming the oceans and the seas. We know that warmer sea temperatures make for more intense hurricanes, so when we see a string of very intense hurricanes in very warm seas, where the temperature of the seas is what we expect from anthropic global climate change, why yes, we are very suspicious that some of this disaster was caused by man made climate change.

    BTW, that answer was much too wordy, but I hope the idea gets through.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 25 Aug 2006 @ 10:36 AM

  67. IMHO, taking Eli’s comment (now 66) and Hank’s (again) excellent links in [now 62] together, it should be simple enough to enjoy a decent conversation regarding global change. (BTW, the paper that utilizes Eli’s foto also has close-ups that are fascinating as well).

    After all, it is not just climate that is changing, but plants and birds too. Everyone can see that, every day, they have plants and birds in their backyards, but not everyone can see that every day they have climate in their backyard (scalar perception problem).



    Comment by Dano — 25 Aug 2006 @ 11:32 AM

  68. About the last paragraph of the post, how scientists might be more effective by focusing their efforts to explain the climate science to those (journalists, policy-makers) who set the dominant themes, I would say yes and no.

    Yes, conducting scientific research and communicating complex ideas to the general public are two different jobs that require different skill sets. So at times it would be better for the scientific community to communicate to the public through people who have more experience in public relations.

    No, maybe not for the general public, but for the interested public it is very helpful to be able to hear what the scientific community is saying, directly from the scientists. I think blogs like RealClimate are invaluable for this. If someone wants to find out more than just a short news item, there should be a source they could go to for more in-depth coverage.

    As far as why a science blog would do a post about a public-opinion poll, I’m pretty sure the scientists want to know if their efforts to educate the public are working!

    Comment by Joseph O'Sullivan — 25 Aug 2006 @ 12:44 PM

  69. #65 “This poll reflects how well the general public understands the science of climate change.”

    No it does not because it cannot. The results of the poll reflect what some of the general public have heard/read/studied (in order of likehood) about climate change. A public opinion poll cannot be used to determine how well any science is understood.

    #67 “Everyone can see that, every day, they have plants and birds in their backyards, but not everyone can see that every day they have climate in their backyard (scalar perception problem).”

    Nope, what people see every day in their back yard is weather, not climate. And they would need to keep detailed records over a 30 year period to attempt to ferret out the effects of climate. Plus, a single back yard is far from sufficient spatial scale to actually observe climate. Unless of course, the back yard in question just happened to be at a boundary or margin for the flora and fauna and plants and birds which occupy said yard and the changes in the temporal and spatial ranges of these could be observed. Well, maybe over 30 years one could determine some temporal aspects of climate in a yard.

    [Response: Actually, this statement is wrong, and it exposes a common misconception worth correcting here. An obvious counter-example is the seasonal cycle which itself can be considered a ‘climate’ signal (that is, a systematic shift in the statistics of daily weather variables), and one which has a highly predictable and easily perceived influence on daily weather statistics. But more subtle examples are the interannual variability associated with the El Nino/Southern Oscillation and North Atlantic Oscillation phenomena, which are certainly climate phenomena. In the case of the NAO, for example, in an article in Science from 2001, Thompson and Wallace established that a negative phase NAO winter is associated on average with a tripling (Orlando, Florida) to nearly tenfold (Paris, France) increase in the incidence of cold winter temperature extremes relative to normal, over the course of a season. This is easily perceptible in day-to-day experience. Other examples abound. – mike]

    Comment by Dan Hughes — 25 Aug 2006 @ 2:23 PM

  70. RE: #60 – I thought I’d pull just one thing out of the press release: “Their research also reveals a definite contrast with Spring arriving later in countries such as Slovakia, that have had recent decreases in temperature.”

    I have many questions about other aspects this study.

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 25 Aug 2006 @ 2:24 PM

  71. RE: “Unless of course, the back yard in question just happened to be at a boundary or margin for the flora and fauna and plants and birds which occupy said yard and the changes in the temporal and spatial ranges of these could be observed.”

    Funny you mentioned that. Our place is at such a boundary, between the typical “foothill” biome below 1000 feet and the typical “coastal highland” one above it, on the lee side of one of the Coastal Ranges. Simply put, below us is open coast live oak forest and savanna and above mixed evergreen forest. A few notable things over about a 15 year time frame. Firstly, within the “foothill” area the oaks are expanding. Secondly, more “highland” species such as Steller Jays and newts are showing up. Generally, the overall assemblage seems to reflect some sort of push into a slightly cooler and wetter regime, over the long haul.

    Comment by Steve Sadlov — 25 Aug 2006 @ 3:45 PM

  72. RE current 69 response (to Hughes):

    Thank you for the help Mike.

    Gardeners and birders often can indeed perceive climate in their backyards, and often – because of their familiarity with the seasons – can better relate observed phenomena to larger-scale phenomena. Gardeners notice earlier springs or droughty conditions because of the effect on their plants (and many keep records). Birders document the earlier return of migratory birds to the area because they watch which birds frequent their feeders and when (and many keep records).

    This information is among the many, many indicators present in the global change literature that Hank linked to above [BTW, thanks again Hank – I just noticed one of my undergrad advisors is a co-auth on one of the papers].

    That is: there is ample evidence for global change and it is not dependent upon certain totems named after winter sports devices.



    Comment by Dano — 25 Aug 2006 @ 3:55 PM

  73. I’ve always figured lay people would flip quickly from under-attributing effects to GW to over-attributing, once they accepted GW was happening.

    However, another way of looking at it is the environmentalist/precautionary view that some “people living in the world” might hold. That would be opposite science, and would be what I call the “medical model.” Since we know pretty well AGW is happening, then we could attribute all effects to it (that are supported at least somewhat in theory — maybe even throw in earthquakes, at least those near glacier melt regions) — and let others disprove that AGW had absolutely no causal impact on, say, Katrina whatsoever at 95% certainty…or 99% certainty…or (the denialist standard) 101% certainty.

    But it’d be a moot point even if they could prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that AGW had absolutely no impact on Katrina, since I’d still go on reducing my GHGs & saving money anyway!

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 25 Aug 2006 @ 4:34 PM

  74. Guess there’s still a lot of room for doubt about human-caused GW, as a recent Salt Lake Tribune story goes :( : “A new study published in the influential journal Nature reveals the Arctic had a tropical climate 55 million years ago, further adding to doubts that climate fluctuations are due to human activities.”

    Yep, blame it all on nasty nature…sure makes us feel good as we head into mega-Katrinas, etc. And we don’t even have to turn off lights not it use.

    Comment by Lynn Vincentnathan — 25 Aug 2006 @ 4:44 PM

  75. Yes, records over many years and over significant spatial scale define climate. Day-at-a-time-in-a-backyard does not define climate. Steve must have a big backyard.

    Comment by Dan Hughes — 25 Aug 2006 @ 5:03 PM

  76. Re: #69 (Moderator Response) Mike, what is your feeling about climate changes along western North America (high latitudes) and phase shifts in the PDO? In some recent personal coorespondence with the Alaska Climate Research Center, they indicated that the current 2006 cooling trend (Fairbanks -2 F from 30 year climatological mean through first seven months of 2006) in Alaska may be associated with a phase shift in the PDO. How do these regional observations line up with your understanding of the PDO?

    Comment by Bryan Sralla — 25 Aug 2006 @ 6:12 PM

  77. Re 69: No it does not because it cannot. The results of the poll reflect what some of the general public have heard/read/studied (in order of likehood) about climate change. A public opinion poll cannot be used to determine how well any science is understood.

    I used the *first grade* qualifier. I really don’t think there’s a whole lot of difference between getting the questions in this lesson plan right:

    and a public opinion poll on climate change right. I still think public polls is a *somewhat* reasonable way of measuring the combined effectiveness of things like, press releases, etc. Bleh arguing about this is pointless.

    Comment by Wacki — 25 Aug 2006 @ 6:19 PM

  78. The definition biologically for “Spring” and “Fall” isn’t the equinoxes — they’re describing behavior; pupation, emergence, arrival, departure, flowering. You have to look at each study — each species — and pay attention to which use day length, which use temperature, which use cues second hand from other plants or animals that are seasonal. The point is that so many studies over such a large area shows sudden changes, and that ecologies are built from coevolution including timing.

    Where the caterpillars’ timing is more advanced, and they have turned to butterflies before a bird species’ fledgelings are hatched, the caterpillars won’t serve as a food source.

    And then the farmers will notice a plague of caterpillars, perhaps.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 25 Aug 2006 @ 6:38 PM

  79. Re/ #74: Lynn was right to be wary of the Salt Lake Tribune piece. It is not actually a story, but an op-ed by David Ridenour, who has been paid handsomely for some years now to place anti-Kyoto press releases wherever they will be most visible. It is, to put it bluntly, disinformation.

    Comment by jre — 25 Aug 2006 @ 7:47 PM

  80. RE 79 (jre):

    Indeed. That particular facet of the campaign was launched some days ago and is gathering steam.

    Caveat: even on filtered news compilers like ClimArk, one must be critical and careful of what one reads (hence the value for some of he said-she said articles) – viewing the bio of the author may help (as it provides a clue in this case).



    Comment by Dano — 25 Aug 2006 @ 8:10 PM

  81. Ernesto

    In sort of but not really related news, the RealClimate folks display their usual int…

    Trackback by Dean's World — 25 Aug 2006 @ 11:33 PM

  82. There is a good example of what I was warning about in #66 on Andrew Dessler’s blog in the comments, starting with a comment from George Landis, definately on the denialist side”:

    “George Landis said…
    Oh, Oh, let me bill f.
    From Kerry Emanuel’s [MIT] homepage:
    “Q: I gather from this last discussion that it would be absurd to attribute the Katrina disaster to global warming?
    A: Yes, it would be absurd.”

    Quoting from the interview in detail is no help after that although Emanuel says all of the things that have been repeated here.

    So again, I will admonish folk NEVER to answer the way Kerry Emanuel did. Answer in the positive: On average yes, or there is good reason to believe that it exacerbated the situation, etc.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 26 Aug 2006 @ 12:38 AM

  83. You write: “This begs the question …” No, it RAISES the question! Begging the question is the name of an informal fallacy in logic. Come on!

    Comment by Bob Lane — 26 Aug 2006 @ 11:02 AM

  84. Stefan,
    In response to your question on how I could have based skepticism on ocean carbon uptake – I was an oceanography master’s student at the time, so certainly I had gaps in my knowledge at that time. And you are right that my skepticism was about whether warming was anthropogenic and not source of carbon. The issue as it appeared to me then was: we knew that some 40% of our emissions are coming out of the atmophere, but we didn’t know where they are going, and part of that was whether the ocean was a source or sink. Right or wrong, I interpreted that as an indication of vast error bars on physical mechanisms that precluded distinguishing natural variability from anthropogenic warming. Since then, however many other measurements have been made (and/or I have become aware of them) which confirm climate sensitivity and require anthropogenic warming to explain. My point was really just to illustrate how measurements like that have to percolate through various kinds of people. Hope that makes more sense.

    Comment by Eric E — 27 Aug 2006 @ 7:07 PM

  85. #61.

    Surely this equation apply on visible and perhaps IR? Recent research shows that the high energy cascades from the sun creates clouds in the atmosphere. Albedo is affected by aerosols which in turn are of 99% natural origin (such as forrests etc). However, there are still 1000 reasons why we should stop using fossile fuel, even if the natural variations are shown to be of a much greater magnitude than previously expected.
    Can any one explain how the Urban Heat Island effect is accounted for in he temperature readings? According to some recent theses and articles it can be signifikant, sometimes a couple of degrees more than a presumed average. Why is not very remote stations used as a reference instead, if there is a discussion about the magnitude of the UHI?

    Comment by Jan Lindström — 28 Aug 2006 @ 9:02 AM

  86. Re #85: For the GISS surface temperature record see

    From the abstract:
    (3) a more flexible urban adjustment than that employed by Hansen et al. [1999], including reliance on only unlit stations in the United States and rural stations in the rest of the world for determining long-term trends. We find evidence of local human effects (“urban warming”) even in suburban and small-town surface air temperature records, but the effect is modest in magnitude and conceivably could be an artifact of inhomogeneities in the station records. We suggest further studies, including more complete satellite night light analyses, which may clarify the potential urban effect.

    but read the entire paper for the nitty gritty details (there is an Acrobat file you can download). You can also find less technical discussions here and there

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 28 Aug 2006 @ 2:00 PM

  87. Re #85 and #86

    A few years ago (Nov 2001) I investigated the impact of UHI by using the Idso’s nice temperature database GUI (free at that time) to compare average temperature trends for 1979 to mid-2001 for the Jones et al. and MSU temperatures for some of the world’s “empty places”, places on the map where there are few nighttime lights.

    Location, MSU (deg C/dec.), Jones et al. (deg C/dec.)

    N. Quebec & W. Labrador, 0.31669, 0.32748
    N. Ontario & James Bay, 0.41266, 0.53266
    N. Alberta/Sask./Manitoba, 0.4238, 0.47048
    E. Yukon & Nunavut, 0.10099, 0.66523
    Alaska (N. of Fairbanks), 0.19095, -0.00815
    SW Alaska, 0.1955, -0.01285
    Arabian Peninsula, 0.02097, 0.32769
    Sahara, 0.1045, 0.34583
    W. China and W. Mongolia, 0.33462, 0.3284
    the Outback, 0.00745, -0.05663
    Amazon Basin, -0.18314, 0.17134
    Patagonia, -0.01297, 0.04853

    The correlation coefficient for the 12 MSU/Jones data pairs is 0.42645, which is not significantly different from zero, using the standard Fisher-z transformation to construct a 95% CI for r = (-0.19524, 0.8737).

    What is striking in this data is the general strong warming, particularly in the northern high latitudes and the general agreement between MSU lower tropospheric average temperatures and the Jones et al. surface temperatures.

    It would be interesting to see the same comparison using the current Spencer and Christy anomaly data, which has changed substantially from the 2001 version.

    A lot of the concern about UHI would go away if the surface data set compilers would generate a Voronoi tesselation of the surface and do an area-weighted average of urban and non-urban stations. This would have the effect of increasing the weight of non-urban stations in the average.

    Best regards.

    Jim Dukelow

    Comment by Jim Dukelow — 28 Aug 2006 @ 7:57 PM

  88. #87, Jim, really appreciate this info. The Yukon and Nunavut trend is particularly stronger than with MSU, any reason for this difference? In fact since 2001 I suspect that this rate is even greater for remote locations.

    Comment by wayne davidson — 28 Aug 2006 @ 9:42 PM

  89. Thanks to Jim Dukelow and Eli Rabett (86 and 87)

    “Urban heat islands occur mainly at night and are reduced in windy conditions. Here we show that, globally, temperatures over land have risen as much on windy nights as on calm nights, indicating that the observed overall warming is not a consequence of urban development.

    The reasoning behind this is that the major cause of urban heat islands is the reduced cooling that occurs at night when the “view to space” of the surface is blocked by buildings. In more rural areas, cooling can be stronger. This is more likely to occur in calm conditions, when air near the surface is less well mixed with air higher up. Since the UHI effect is reduced in windy conditions, if the UHI effect was a significant component of the temperature record, then we would see a different rate of warming when observations are stratified by calm or windy conditions. The absence of such an effect (which is what Parker finds) is, conversely, evidence of a minimal UHI effect on the record.”

    I´ve read articles showing that an important UHI factor is aerosols (pollutants) and the absorbance of surfaces. There must also be a substantial emission of heat from the buildings themselves not coming from the warming up by the sun. I also think that the effect of boundary layers could well extend trends very far from the urban areas. Turning everything round. What if the boundary layer whe are studying are “contaminated” of a magnitude so that they will not be affected as much by the wind as expected. At least european cities are built to withstand wind influences on the climate, preventing it to reach the surface by narrow streets etc. A work from Uppsala, Sweden shows that the mean temperature deviation from two meauring sites in the city, can vary between 0.28 (min) (season, windy and clear) up to 0.48 (max)(season, cloudy and calm) on annual basis. Assuming these results can be moved to be valid for other cities, does not that mean that assuming max 0.05 from UHI is an underestimation?

    The work can be found here (in english as well)

    Is still think that the reasoning behind the omitting of the UHI is a bit over simplified. I have done some research on so called micro-meteorology. This could apply to cities. I think the whole issue is very complex and needs much more attention before we really can say the warming trend is global as opposed to an integration of heat islands effects. Just taking a quick look at a map showing the different temperature trends globally I can not help asking the question; why are in broad terms, the warming trends so strongly correlated to urbanised areas and the cooling trends to remote locations.

    Back to the sun.

    I have seen only one article going through the suns influences not only studying the visible and IR-part of the spectrum after all the sun is emitting a lot more energy than that so why not at least trying to calculate the energy imparted throughout the whole electromagnetic spectrum? Also, what effect has the variations in the magnetic field from the sun? It must have an influence on temperature, but how large is it?


    There are articles showing that aerosols can due to their surface properties sometimes contribute to warming. This makes it more complex in the modelling work. But another factor pussles me, how is the aerosols accounted for when they finally have been deposited to the surface? Surely, they will affect albedo on glaciers for example. Since the aerosols mainly have absorbing qualities (regarding visible light and IR) could not the retraction of glaciers be attributed to such an effect rather then a temperature rise? Has anyone looked into that? It is known that aerosols can travel a long way. I was myself a part of a study looking at the emission of aersols in UK deposited in Scandinavia. We found that when the aerosols drops and travels near the water surface (North Sea) a boundary layer about the 2-100 meters above the maximum wave heights worked as a non-friction ice! I.e the particles are thought to drop into the sea but they may travel long distances before actually depositing. I´d guess the glaciers and other snow and ice -areas are full of particles changing the light and heat absorbing properties to a measurable degree? Does anyone agree?

    Comment by Jan Lindstrom — 29 Aug 2006 @ 4:31 AM

  90. Regarding my question if there is an article on energy consumption rate vs. temperature, there is one and they found a striking connection to the registered temperature trends! – engelska

    If what they show is true, could there actually be a substantial UHI-effect where the weighting factor of the city area is far too low? If this in turn is true then, on average, we should not see any warming trend in the oceans? According to a recent article there is actually a cooling trend right now (see below), however, for an extended period there is still a warming trend contradicting my suggestions above.

    “Recent Cooling of the Upper Ocean
    John M. Lyman1,2,3, Josh K. Willis4, and Gregory C. Johnson1
    Submitted 26 May 2006
    Geophysical Research Letters
    Accepted 31 July 2006
    Abstract. We observe a net loss of 3.2 (± 1.1) x 10^22 J of heat from the upper ocean
    between 2003 and 2005. Using a broad array of in situ ocean measurements, we present annual estimates of global upper-ocean heat content anomaly from 1993 through 2005. Including the recent downturn, the average warming rate for the entire 13-year period is 0.33 ± 0.23 W/m2 (per unit area of the Earth’s surface). A new estimate of sampling error in the heat content record suggests that both the recent and previous global cooling events are significant and unlikely to be artifacts of inadequate ocean sampling.”

    Comment by Jan Lindstrom — 29 Aug 2006 @ 5:42 AM

  91. (Re #90) Jan, it is important to remember that what is measured is a temperature anomaly (difference to a base period) at locations, not a temperature. So what counts is not the absolute temperature (which is higher in urban areas), but how that changes over time at each location.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 29 Aug 2006 @ 11:18 AM

  92. Good article here on California Sierra Nevada mountain studies:

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 29 Aug 2006 @ 2:13 PM

  93. RE 92 (Roberts):

    I continue to enjoy your links Hank. Compare the discussion in that article with a discussion about Andean glaciers on a different type of climate website.



    Comment by Dano — 29 Aug 2006 @ 3:03 PM

  94. Re #90

    Well, I read the Nigro et al. paper that Jan pointed us to and it strikes me a being some sort of joke. The authors confect a transient heat transfer equation

    c_eff*(dT/dt) = CapPhi + Delta_Phi + little_phi – k*T^4

    where CapPhi is solar flux at surface, Delta_Phi is solar cycle variation in solar flux at surface, little_phi is human energy consumption, T is surface temperature in K, and

    c_eff = 4*10^22 J/K is the global heat transfer coefficient.

    The authors claim that the value of c_eff “suggests” a value 3.5 +/- 2 meters of the earth’s surface that is “involved in the warming process”. This effective depth might make sense were not 70% of the Earth’s surface ocean, which will act very differently in absorbing heat than solid earth. The temperature T on the left hsnd side is the surface temperature, but the temperature on the right hand side (controlling the loss of heat from the system) ought to be the temperature at some point high in the atmosphere.

    CapPhi is roughly three orders of magnitude bigger than Delta_Phi, which is probably two or three orders of magnitude larger than little_phi. Finally, little_phi is a reasonable proxy for anthropogenic carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrogen oxide emissions, which really do have an impact of global temperatures, unlike the simple conversion of fossil fuels to thermal energy.

    If you look at Figure 1, it doesn’t really support the authors assertions in the text.

    The whole thing is just silly.

    Best regards.

    Jim Dukelow

    Comment by Jim Dukelow — 29 Aug 2006 @ 5:30 PM

  95. Re#59, hi pat,

    That does help explain things.

    Last week’s issue of Science contained an article relating to Western US hydrology and increases in wildfires that you might find interesting:

    I haven’t looked over it yet, but I think it will be interesting to read the article and then review some of your prior posts on the topic of hydrology. More feedforward carbon effects, seems to be the gist.

    Comment by ike solem — 29 Aug 2006 @ 7:56 PM

  96. re #95


    Thanks for the link to climate change, fires and hydrology out West. Many people understand that hydrologic change is part of climate change, except NOAA’s NWS meteorologists who remain skeptical that climate change is happening.

    I’d like to know more about how fossilized leaves from bean plants were found in the Big Horns which Scott Wing said had migrated 1,000 miles north from the latitude of Louisiana to escape the heat which preceded the Paleocene Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) 55 mya. I wonder how he reached the conclusion that the plants were escaping heat in the South preceding the PETM? I think drought, fire and the rising sea had a large role in the migration. I posted a similar comment (#38 of the entry by Eric Steig called Is Antarctic climate changing?). I have an impression that Eric Steig dislikes many of the posts which I’ve made since RC began in 2004. but I don’t know why. Anyway, that’s the reason for making a comment similar to #38 below the entry on Antarctica. In #38 of the entry on Antarctic, I questioned what polar amplification means for areas in the South and Upper Midwest (where average Jul-Aug daily minimum temperatures are increasing). I posed the question to Eric Swanson, who seems to me like he’s a well respected climate scientist by his comments and the comments which Eric Steig made recently. I don’t know much about you but you also seem to be a well respected scientist (by the nature of your comments and those of others at RC).

    It must be rewarding to earn that type of respect. I wouldn’t know, not having earned any genuine respect from other scientists lately. I can blame myself in part for that. I also blame arrogance I’ve seen from NWS supervisors and staff. Meteorologists are arrogant as a result of having studied the atmosphere and having gained operational experience making weather predictions which they say save lives and property, although other factors are no doubt involved which make a person seem arrogant. I’ve been told I came across as arrogant for spring runoff outlook inter-agency meetings held at the Corps of Engineers in St. Paul and the NWS North Central River Forecast Center in Chanhassen, MN. That surprised me when I learned that. In trying to appear confident when giving the spring flood outlooks, instead it seems that others got the impression that I was arrogant, not confident of my work. Oh well, I need to forget about all that now and get back to prairie gardening for wildlife, and being a better husband, which is much more rewarding and less stressful than working for NWS in hydrologic modeling and forecasting (29 years and 5 months).

    Comment by Pat Neuman, Chanhassen MN — 30 Aug 2006 @ 7:12 AM

  97. I didn’t read all the comments, I hope I’m not repeating anyone. I don’t want to discount the effect of the media — but (anecdotally) I often hear people talk about “when I was a kid.” My mother-in-law for example used to ice skate on ponds which haven’t frozen in over 20 years. When she starts saying things like this, everyone around chimes in with his or her own experience… So I think people’s experience with the weather over decades (and not just recent severe weather events, as you mention) leads them to believe in global warming.

    Comment by Jennifer — 30 Aug 2006 @ 7:07 PM

  98. The people in the US are responsible for the majority of anthropogenic carbon now present in the atmosphere and oceans. The discussions at realclimate have been unsuccessful in changing public perception on global warming enough to result in meaningful reductions in US greenhouse gas emissions to date. Although several dozen posts at rc since Nov 2004 have identified the main reason* for the failure in changing public perception on global warming, the rc scientists have ignored the reason and those commenting at rc have ignored and ridiculed the reason given.

    * reason – The National Weather Service has failed in it’s responsibility to help educate the people on climate change which is shown in the article linked below titled: ‘Arrogant meteorologists are downplaying global warming’


    Comment by Pat Neuman — 5 Sep 2006 @ 9:13 AM

  99. RE #63: a poll tells us the depth of knowledge of the people polled??? Wacki, you must be wacky. (I’m so sorry; I hate ad hominems but the pun was just irresistible…)

    Comment by Rod Brick — 5 Sep 2006 @ 11:22 PM

  100. re #56 and Secular Animist. Using the USPIRG for technical and economic justification is really a stretch. I admire and respect the people at USPIRG (even though I, being a crabby conservative, disagree with most of their contentions and assumptions) but for what they are: political activists. Scientists and economists they ain’t.

    Comment by Rod Brick — 5 Sep 2006 @ 11:44 PM

  101. Gavin wrote … This begs the question whether people’s experience of severe weather has convinced them that climate change is occurring.

    It doesn’t matter if people are convinced that climate change is occurring or if people think that climate change has a major effect on weather extremes – unless they are willing to try to change what they do about it.

    You may want to check out my new link.

    Comment by Pat Neuman — 6 Sep 2006 @ 8:52 PM


    Comment by Stephen Berg — 14 Sep 2006 @ 2:38 AM

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