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  1. The word “my” is used in this article — who do you mean? Thanks, EK

    [Response: This refers to Gavin Schmidt. The post is by ‘group’ because we all wanted to welcome Isaac to the blogosphere.–eric]

    Comment by Eli — 14 Mar 2011 @ 9:48 AM

  2. My gratitude to Isaac Held, and a hearty welcome to the climate blogosphere. And this is a good opportunity to thank RC, the inspiration for so many of us.

    I suspect attempts to interfere with such communication by denialist politicians (Inhofe et al.). Stand your ground — we need you more than ever.

    Comment by tamino — 14 Mar 2011 @ 9:53 AM

  3. I just checked my web statistics. Guess what is the third-most popular item on my home page in the past week? Yes: my comments on The Day After Tomorrow! These have been near the top for all those years, ever since the movie came out.

    Comment by Stefan Rahmstorf — 14 Mar 2011 @ 10:04 AM

  4. There’s also a question of different audiences. Scientists who blog each tend to develop their own style, some more technical, some more populist. Each attracts a different audience segment. When I started blogging, I envisioned it more as a kind of open notebook science – expecting my audience to be my colleagues within the research community (or perhaps just my own research group – I didn’t really expect anyone else to read it). I think there’s a major role for the kind of blog that improves communication within a research community, as well as the more outward facing blogs.
    I’ve also found there’s a huge gulf of incomprehension between academics who do blog, and those who don’t, partly because blogging is treated with suspicion by “serious academics” and partly because if you haven’t tried it, you have no idea what the benefits are:

    Comment by Steve Easterbrook — 14 Mar 2011 @ 10:13 AM

  5. Realclimate has been a terrific initiative. Well done.

    And, according to our public opinion data, you are correct about the impact of the ‘Day After Tomorrow’, especially in England rather than North America.

    Comment by Peter Winters — 14 Mar 2011 @ 11:02 AM

  6. Glad to see this. Given all the personal attacks that are tossed at climate scientists, it’s a wonder that any decide to start blogging at all.

    Comment by Boris — 14 Mar 2011 @ 11:41 AM

  7. As the post says, it’s great when climate scientists reach out to us moviegoers and help us understand stuff on our level. My hopes up, I eagerly headed over to Held’s blog, and was immediately hooked by this teaser:

    I find the following simple two degree-of-freedom linear model useful when thinking about transient climate responses:

    c \,dT/dt \, = - \beta T - \gamma (T - T_0) + \mathcal{F}(t)

    c_0 \, dT_0/dt = \gamma (T - T_0)

    The image caption was captivating, too. Dunno about this simple model stuff, though. I mean, there’s a fine line between popularizing and dumbing down; will he manage it?!

    Okay, \end{irony}. I’m glad Dr. Held has joined the blogosphere and to be honest, I appreciate being shown a bit of the math now and again (it’s something I actually think RC could do slightly more often).

    But those of us who look to science to tell us if sea level rise could really make Kevin Costner grow gills, will just have to keep looking…

    Comment by CM — 14 Mar 2011 @ 12:11 PM

  8. … I appreciate being shown a bit of the math now and again (it’s something I actually think RC could do slightly more often).

    I disagree.

    I indulge in more math then most climate bloggers (it’s my thing), and it appears that Dr. Held does too. According to his own description, “The level of discussion is meant to be appropriate for graduate students in atmospheric and oceanic sciences.”

    We need such technical approaches, but we need less technical ones too. I think RC is the premier blog for climate science, and as such, I think it strikes a good balance between technical and popular levels of understanding. In other words, I think you guys have hit the mark and I recommend maintaining that level. For those who want more, there’s my blog for math, and Held’s for high-level climate science — but let’s not forget that the most important target audience isn’t so technically inclined.

    Comment by tamino — 14 Mar 2011 @ 12:45 PM

  9. Someone once asked me, as an atmospheric scientist, if there was any accuracy to The Day After Tomorrow. I replied yes in that I think you see Dennis Quaid with a Zarges aluminium box in one scene. I seem to spend half my working life hauling those around…

    Comment by James Allan — 14 Mar 2011 @ 12:53 PM

  10. tamino #10:

    RC is the premier blog for climate science, and as such, I think it strikes a good balance between technical and popular levels of understanding.

    Hear hear. Hooray for you guys, seriously. If there’s someone genuinely motivated to educate themselves, I heartily recommend they start with RealClimate. I don’t know how to reach the others, unfortunately.

    Comment by Daniel Goodwin — 14 Mar 2011 @ 1:03 PM

  11. One minor nit. I have some familiarity with GFDL, having long ago net with their folks and helped sell them supercomputers.
    It might be nice to add another paragraph update to this to explain the particular role of GFDL.

    Comment by John Mashey — 14 Mar 2011 @ 2:02 PM

    is a government web site. That means it is an easy target for Republican cost cutters and an easy target for WUWT and Rush Limbaugh. They will ask that Isaac Held be fired for misappropriation of funds, and misappropriation of funds is a fatal sin for federal employees.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 14 Mar 2011 @ 2:29 PM

  13. They will ask that Isaac Held be fired for misappropriation of funds, and misappropriation of funds is a fatal sin for federal employees.

    Not if it’s budgeted and approved, which surely it is if it’s being hosted on the agency’s site.

    Comment by dhogaza — 14 Mar 2011 @ 2:48 PM

  14. //”…is it that they think they have something to say and that it isn’t being widely said already”//

    I agree with this, but I’d add that there are in fact many things that need to be said more clearly, even if they are painfully obvious or “well-known.” SkepticalScience for example, recently awarded as a climate change communicator of the year, doesn’t really say too much “new” or that you can’t find in some other form elsewhere, but they provide a convenient rest stop to address virtually any skeptical argument one can find on the internet. Just as important, in sifting through their articles one can be linked to a large number of cutting edge research papers, and most of the authors there are rather good at conveying that information to multiple audience levels.

    I don’t understand why a scientist would shy away from blogging or outreach. If it is because there is still a derogatory label associated with blogging, they couldn’t be more wrong about its potential benefits in terms of education and outreach (RC is a big reason I decided to pursue climate science in a formal setting), and it’s also likely to raise awareness concerning their own work. If it’s because they feel like they have to have something “new” to say in order to say it (perhaps from too much exposure to dealing with the peer-review arena), once again, they could not be more wrong. I also never bought into the argument that professionals are “too busy” to blog, perhaps not to the extent gavin does, but even in being an active passing-by commeter on popular sites.

    Blogging in some way is about being original with how you convey information, rather than saying something original, and provides a great medium between basic wikipedia-level articles and technical articles for which curious students can self educate them about some of the nuances of climate issues. I recently did a post over at SkepticalScience replying to a quote in Lindzen’s public testimony where he said a completely CO2-free atmosphere would only be about 2.5 degrees colder than today. To my knowledge, there was virtually nothing on the web that would help a curious student interested in thinking through such a hypothetical scenario, or extending that to more realistic situations like getting into a snowball Earth or getting out. Bloggers can fill in that missing link, as well as provide an active Q&A forum through comment sections, something the scholarly literature is incapable of doing.

    I also think that many researchers could learn something from reading a few blog articles, as to be frank, many climate scientists don’t actually do a good job of answering questions a bit more difficult than “is Earth getting warmer?” That’s another story though.

    [Response: Nice comment Chris. Scientists will, of course, have all manner of reasons for why they do, or do not, contribute on blogs. Time constraints are a very legitimate reason, in my experience (especially over the last year or so for me). As for drawing attention to our own work, that is certainly nice to have happen if the attention is favorable, but it may not necessarily be so. Regardless, this really should not be the primary motivation for blog contributions, which should rather be to inform the public about the relevant science as a whole. Sometimes those two motivations intersect, sometimes not. There is, IMO, a lot of reticence in the academic community about getting involved in public “controversies”–whatever those are believed to be. Also, there are those who choose to make their public contribution strictly within the scientific primary and secondary literature–at least at certain career stages. The importance of this is not to be overlooked.–Jim]

    Comment by Chris Colose — 14 Mar 2011 @ 3:13 PM

  15. Edward, hence Isaac’s statement in his very first post …
    “I consider working on this blog to be fully consistent with NOAA’s outreach and communications policies.”

    Comment by GFW — 14 Mar 2011 @ 3:20 PM

  16. Why do I get the feeling whenever I read Comments on Real Climate that I am sitting around a campfire with the wagons circled and most of the fire is coming from beyond the wagons?

    Comment by Hiram Hornblowe — 14 Mar 2011 @ 4:29 PM

  17. Please provide something that can be picked up by ‘snopes’ so these viral denial epitaphs can be refuted.
    The attached spam (below) is circulating on the internet without as much as a counterpunch. People who read this crap, vote too. Doubtful they will read it here but I’m sure stuff like this constitutes about 99% of the science they will engage in this year.

    “The scientist Professor Ian Plimer could not have said it better! If you’ve read his book on Global warming you will agree, this is a good summary.

    (Embedded image moved to file: pic02995.gif)

    Are you sitting down?

    Okay, here’s the bombshell. The volcanic eruption in Iceland, since its first spewing of volcanic ash has, in just FOUR DAYS, NEGATED EVERY SINGLE EFFORT you have made in the past five years to control CO2 emissions on our planet – all of you.

    Of course you know about this evil carbon dioxide that we are trying to suppress – it’s that vital chemical compound that every plant requires to live and grow, and to synthesize into oxygen for us humans, and all animal life.

    I know, it’s very disheartening to realize that all of the carbon emission savings you have accomplished while suffering the inconvenience and expense of: driving Prius hybrids, buying fabric grocery bags, sitting up till midnight to finish your kid’s “The Green Revolution” science project, throwing out all of your non-green cleaning supplies, using only two squares of toilet paper, putting a brick in your toilet tank reservoir, selling your SUV and speedboat, vacationing at home instead of abroad, nearly getting hit every day on your bicycle, replacing all of your 50 cents light bulbs with $10.00 light bulbs…well, all of those things you have done have all gone down the tubes in just four days.

    The volcanic ash emitted into the Earth’s atmosphere in just four days – yes – FOUR DAYS ONLY by that volcano in Iceland, has totally erased every single effort you have made to reduce the evil beast, carbon. And there are around 200 active volcanoes on the planet spewing out this crud any one time – EVERY DAY.

    I don’t really want to rain on your parade too much, but I should mention that when the volcano Mt Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines in 1991, it spewed out more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than the entire human race had emitted in its entire YEARS on earth. Yes folks, Mt Pinatubo was active for over one year – think about it.

    Of course I shouldn’t spoil this touchy-feely tree-hugging moment and mention the effect of solar and cosmic activity and the well-recognized 800-year global heating and cooling cycle, which keep happening, despite our completely insignificant efforts to affect climate change.

    And I do wish I had a silver lining to this volcanic ash cloud but the fact of the matter is that the bush fire season across the western USA and Australia this year alone will negate your efforts to reduce carbon in our world for the next two to three years. And it happens every year.

    Just remember that your government just tried to impose a whopping carbon tax on you on the basis of the bogus “human-caused” climate change scenario.

    Hey, isn’t it interesting how they don’t mention “Global Warming” any more, but just “Climate Change” – you know why? It’s because the planet has COOLED by 0.7 degrees in the past century and these global warming bull artists got caught with their pants down.

    And just keep in mind that you might yet have an Emissions Trading Scheme – that whopping new tax – imposed on you, that will achieve absolutely nothing except make you poorer. It won’t stop any volcanoes from erupting, that’s for sure.

    But hey, relax, give the world a hug and have a nice day!”

    [Response: Oh dear. This is of course nonsense (the Pinatubo comment is particularly egregious) – and could merit a line-by-line rebuttal – but do you have a real source? – gavin]

    Comment by William Freimuth — 14 Mar 2011 @ 4:39 PM

  18. Facts are finite, falsities are infinite, which means there will always be more material for denialists to discuss. Further, I cannot see much value in setting up multiple blogs to discuss the same issue; I suspect scientists may be of the same mind. While you cannot compete on quantity however, when we consider quality, the advantages are all yours. Journalists need reliable sources, scriptwriters need credible scenarios; Real Climate helps provide them, and I hope encourages more scientists to take the plunge.

    Comment by One Anonymous Bloke — 14 Mar 2011 @ 4:44 PM

  19. Hiram #17 That’s because some idiot set the grass on fire.

    Comment by One Anonymous Bloke — 14 Mar 2011 @ 4:46 PM

  20. William Freimuth’s quote #18 comes from Carl Paladino, a former GOP gubernatorial candidate”,

    Comment by One Anonymous Bloke — 14 Mar 2011 @ 4:56 PM

  21. Regarding the “ARE YOU SITTING DOWN?” fable, using google I found it on quite a few sites. The oldest one I’ve found so far was posted in May 2010 ( ) . And there are variants on the theme.

    Interestingly, I also found a June 2010 rebuttal here;

    So far I haven’t found any true source. It seems everyone posts it without any attribution.


    Comment by Pete Wirfs — 14 Mar 2011 @ 5:37 PM


    Yeah, I sometimes get some pretty weird e-mail propaganda sent to me that’s obviously been forwarded countless times. If you’re not in contact with people who enjoy gettin taken in by this stuff, you may not be aware how pervasive and pernicious it is.

    I generally refer the immediate sender to Snopes, a site which seems to do a pretty good job of researching these sorts of things.

    A variant of this one came to me a few times a year or so ago:

    It was packed with a decidedly denialist slant, and I Snoped the senders on it. Can’t find the specific entry on it now though. Point is if you only happen to travel in tony circles, you may not be aware of a whole underground universe of misinformation.

    Comment by Radge Havers — 14 Mar 2011 @ 6:59 PM

  23. Skeptical Science does an excellent job of the information level part of the problem, with “Basic”, “Intermediate” and “Advanced” tags to many of the discussions. If you haven’t visited it in the last 12 months or so, please spend the time to do so.

    Comment by Damien — 14 Mar 2011 @ 7:13 PM

  24. Re: 13, 14 & 16

    From the 2010 Science Plan of the Science Mission Directorate (p.17):

    “The NASA mandate includes broad public communications. NASA carriers
    out Education and Public Outreach (E/PO) programs that capture the
    imagination and enhance knowledge. As a Federal agency, NASA has a
    responsibility to communicate information about its programs and
    scientific discoveries to the public… .”

    As a recipient of a NASA money (student research fellowship), I do what I can.
    whenever and wherever I can to fulfill this responsibility — but no blog.

    Comment by BillS — 14 Mar 2011 @ 8:09 PM

  25. Please add Dr. Held’s blog to your Other Opinions. (You might also consider adding Steve Easterbrook’s Serendipity and Science of Doom, as well. Also, a bunch of your links have gotten pretty stale, like Andrew Dessler)

    Comment by Francis — 14 Mar 2011 @ 8:30 PM

  26. I call Poe on #18….


    Perhaps anews

    Comment by wildlifer — 14 Mar 2011 @ 8:57 PM

  27. Bob Grumbine is a NOAA scientist and blogger, although his is not on an official NOAA site. His blog is one of the best

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 14 Mar 2011 @ 9:05 PM

  28. I call Poe on #18….

    No, he was pointing out that it was idiocy. “Poe” presumes the poster posts the content as truth.

    It’s interesting that its history only goes back to May 2010 … another anti-Obama, Dem congress lie.

    Comment by dhogaza — 14 Mar 2011 @ 11:57 PM

  29. 25 BillS: Thanks.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 15 Mar 2011 @ 12:45 AM

  30. The mass of men serve the State thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies…. A very few, as heroes, patriots, martyrs, reformers in the great sense, and men, serve the State with their consciences also, and so necessarily resist it for the most part; and they are commonly treated by it as enemies.
    – Henry David Thoreau

    Comment by Everett Rowdy — 15 Mar 2011 @ 1:34 AM

  31. As a layman who reads several climate blogs a day, I agree with Tamino @9, and others, that it helps to have different levels of technicality among climate blogs.
    Real Climate, Open Mind, Skeptical Science, Science of Doom have all helped me improve my underestanding of the science. Reading the more accessible Skeptical Science articles, for example, improves my ability to grasp what is being said at Real Climate or Science of Doom, which are a bit more technical. though not always.

    Other blogs have also been rewarding and informative

    Climate Progress
    Deep Climate
    Watching the Deniers
    Solve Climate
    Get Energy Smart Now
    My view on climate change
    Hot Topic
    Rabbet Run
    Only In It For the Gold
    Climate Sight
    Peak Energy
    Idiot Tracker
    Climate Feedback
    The Way Things Break
    AGW Observer
    Climate Crocks

    Okay, sometimes I read more than several.

    I often suggest that people go to Skeptical Science to learn something about the science. For some, Climate Crocks might be a better place to start. So there is a broad spectrum of the public that need varying levels of education on climate change.

    At most of these blogs, I often learn as much from reading the comments section as from the articles. What you all are doing is valuable. Keep it up.

    Gavin: If scientists are reticent about communicating with the public, how about simply showing up? What I mean by that, is that I’ve been imagining thousands of scientists showing up at the congressional climate witch hunts to collectively make a statement, with their presence.

    Comment by frflyer — 15 Mar 2011 @ 1:38 AM

  32. The wrinkle I offer that I discovered many scientists would be marginally comfortable offering their opinions if asked but saw it as an entirely different thing to initiate the expression of their opinion.

    I used to teach (arts) to the daughter of an English atmospheric physicist who studied under John Houghton. When I met her father I buttonholed him to try and fill in some of the many gaps in my knowledge of the greenhouse effect. After an hour or so, I realized he’d offered his own opinion on nothing, so I asked his opinion straight up about global warming, partly to see how he’d handle giving it. Even then he was a little oblique in his answer, and I was impressed with his dedication to science and disregard for his own take. I found that I trusted his advice the more because he was reluctant to be definitive.

    It must leave a bitter taste, trying to straddle the gulf between being accurate and being effective in the public discourse, and with critics taking any and every opportunity to rake muck and muddy the waters. Nevertheless, it is very interesting to observe intelligent people having to learn new skills, however reluctantly, to try and deal with a pernicious problem that is outside their formal training. I salute those that make the attempt.

    Comment by barry — 15 Mar 2011 @ 2:25 AM

  33. Its always pleasing to see another climate scientist enter the fray to try insert some truth into the propaganda filled wasteland of the web. The impact that I see locally that the denialist lobby has had on public opinion is somewhat scary.

    Its somewhat disturbing that they label climate scientist religious in their beliefs in man-made climate change when one doesn’t have to look to hard to see the similarities between denialist’s and young earth creationists.

    But then, one of Plimers closest skeptic allies is and young earth creationist, isn’t he?

    Comment by prettyfly — 15 Mar 2011 @ 5:39 AM

  34. Yeah,dhog, I guess I should have referred to the quoted text rather than the post. Sorry for the confusion.

    Comment by wildlifer — 15 Mar 2011 @ 6:42 AM

  35. Re: the volcanic spewing of foolishness referenced at #18, and others of its ilk, this comes to mind:

    “That’s the spirit, George. If nothing else works, a total pig-headed unwillingness to look facts in the face will see us through.” (Black Adder)

    Comment by CM — 15 Mar 2011 @ 7:16 AM

  36. “In my experience, when it comes to climate scientists, they perceive that what is missing is the context, background and the understanding needed to interpret climate data, a policy proposal or the latest paper”

    and, in my experience, this is often unexpectedly interesting stuff to read about, so more climate scientists talking about what they do in an engaging way the better. It will also be a useful tool against those who have suspicion of climate science and additional evidence for those interested in the real practices, and philosophy, of emerging science, as opposed to naive ideas about “the scientific method” or how science works.
    Thanks again for being a useful resource.

    Comment by paul haynes — 15 Mar 2011 @ 8:18 AM

  37. we all need a laugh break now and then…for (intentional) climate chuckles I go to this ‘skeptic’ parody site, which gets the paranoid, indiscriminate, and often self-contradicting outrage of the skeptics *just right*:

    [Response: Even better is Friends of Gin and Tonic–eric]

    Comment by Steven Sullivan — 15 Mar 2011 @ 10:16 AM

  38. Re: #38, if we’re naming our favorite denial parody sites:
    – the site that brought us Arctic Sea Ice: Staggering Growth. It’s genius.

    Comment by CM — 15 Mar 2011 @ 5:47 PM

  39. oh yeah, denialdepot is great too. FoGaT, though…hmm, that’s a little too ‘inside’ for me, I guess.

    Comment by Steven Sullivan — 15 Mar 2011 @ 7:03 PM

  40. I’d second denialDepot but my favorite entry there is how to cook a graph. Mind you Jaws was hilarious too. So many to choose from. The comments in the 2009 entries are particularly funny as so many thought the site was serious. The “about” sidebar is just brilliant.

    Comment by Phil Scadden — 15 Mar 2011 @ 7:09 PM

  41. @40 – I was one who took denialdepot seriously and took on the ‘denialists’ for a dozen posts. I made a nice foil for the wags, but they were a little uncomfortable at using my gormless sincerity and kept trying to hint at what the game was. I’m still not quite over learning what a schmuck I was, and it put my contretemps with real contrarians in a new light. Helped me loosen my grip in the general debate.

    Comment by barry — 15 Mar 2011 @ 9:37 PM

  42. Mind you, it’s a testament to denialdepot’s mimicry, and the depravity of what passes for ‘debate’ at contrarian sites like WUWT that some mistake their lunacy for the genuine article.

    Comment by barry — 15 Mar 2011 @ 9:46 PM

  43. Blogs by competent scientists are very valuable, but as Greg Craven points out, for non-scientists the opinions of single bloggers necessarily carry much less weight than peer reviewed articles or reports by recognized committees (IPCC, NAS, etc). Has the climate science community considered something like ‘The Faculty of 1000’ (F1000) ? This is a post-publication peer review system, not unlike RealClimate, but with a more formal structure and publication outlet. Such an organization would provide IPCC-like peer review, but could keep up with new research more easily than the IPCC assessment reports. If it had the imprimatur of a recognized and respected journal, it would rise well above the level of blogs, while providing a similar service.

    [Response: The Faculty of 1000 is a great idea and I’ve been reading it for years, but it still falls into the general category of scientific communication among peers, whereas blogs are aimed more widely.–Jim]

    Comment by Mark — 16 Mar 2011 @ 9:43 AM

  44. RE #43. Thanks for the response, Jim. I agree that blogs are more widely distributed outside the scientific community. However, I teach an intro to climate change course to largely non-scientists, and for an Accounting or English major, RealClimate, Issac’s blog and WhatsUp are equivalent.They simply do not have the analytical background to make a meaningful distinction. It isn’t because they are unintelligent, as similar talks with Honors College students (about 95% pre-Meds) produce the same Blogosphere-induced confusion. Perhaps a solution is hybrid of F1000 that has wider appeal than F1000, but the higher status of a peer-reviewed system. I think the method of assigning weight to various climate change sources by level of consensus and the scientific credentials of the backing organization (NAS ranks higher than AAPG, but AAPG ranks higher than the US Chamber of Commerce) is useful for non-scientists. Unfortunately it means that blogs by individuals must rank low. Lindzen, Singer, Pilkey Jr, Spencer all have PhD’s, just like us, and they make seemingly persuasive arguments. Somehow we need to reach the 95% of the population that hasn’t developed their analytical skills. RealClimate and SkepticalScience are great, and I direct students to them, but they are still independent blogs. An F1000-type arrangement adds creditability to the source.

    Comment by Mark — 16 Mar 2011 @ 2:13 PM

  45. Hi Re #8, There was a very interesting comment left on another blog here some months ago by Prof. Jed Barker, a Physics Professor from Australia. He has put together a pdf file describing 9 different levels at which information can be presented. Newspaper articles come at around level 4, with mathematical content coming at level 8. Level 9 is the level of the original stroke of genius from the discoverer. I would guess that RealClimate comes in at around 6-8, depending on the mathematical content of blogs. It would be really good if someone, here or elsewhere, could produce similar blogs to RealClimate but covering various of the levels defined by Prof. Barker.

    Comment by John — 16 Mar 2011 @ 8:43 PM

  46. Mark @44 “Somehow we need to reach the 95% of the population that hasn’t developed their analytical skills

    As a teacher of “an intro to climate change course” apparantly not teaching analytical skills nor anything about scientific method, why blame it on the “blogosphere” and the people doing the research?? If your students can’t sort the wheat from the chaff and figure out how to research references before they reach the end of your course, you as well as they should get failing marks.

    [Response: Out of line. He wasn’t blaming anything on anyone, just stating the reality of the situation as he sees it.–Jim]

    Comment by flxible — 16 Mar 2011 @ 9:43 PM

  47. Re: Mark

    Speaking as a lay person and general observer, I think Mark has a point. I’d ask it this way, if something were to happen, god forbid, to Gavin; what would be the fate of this site? Is there some mechanism in the way it’s run that would maintain the site and its standards down the road indefinitely?

    Establishing reliable websites that distribute widely recognized, good quality information –where there is so much competing noise– is a barely nascent activity, IMO. It’s more than a matter of branding, so much as providing a method or “seal of approval” if you will, that busy people can use as a touchstone.

    Re: flxible
    Well, OK. But I think the idea is to make the sorting task less onerous. Put another way, the status quo is less than perfect, no?

    Comment by Radge Havers — 17 Mar 2011 @ 1:54 PM

  48. flxible,I don’t think that is entirely fair. Kids aren’t born knowing this stuff, nor are they taught it in high school. How would you teach a college freshman–one with maybe 2 semesters of science in high school and maybe a freshman chem lab under her belt–to discriminate between a legitimate work and G&T, for instance? And keep in mind that many of their peers will have already been politicized into rejecting science. If this were easy, it would have been solved.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 17 Mar 2011 @ 2:12 PM

  49. If something were to happen to Gavin, there are a dozen others in the RC group that we would hope would step up to the plate, it appears to me to be a group endeavor, with one person being particularly well spoken and passionate. The posts here are well referenced and documented and RC certainly has more than a few “seals of approval” as a science blog.

    Yes the status quo is less than perfect, as it will always be for human society. The object should be to help folks [especially students] learn some critical thinking in their own interest. I’m not a scientist, but it sure doesn’t take a lot of “vetting” to tell the difference between RC and WUWT, a little critical thinking should do the job.

    [Response: Yes, but that’s a big part of the point–they have to be taught how to do that.–Jim]

    After all, if the IPCC and all the professional scientific bodies of the planet are saying one thing and a few political loudmouths say the opposite ….. ??

    Comment by flxible — 17 Mar 2011 @ 2:55 PM

  50. As a former video producer who worked for a news service focused specifically on environmental and energy policy issues, climate science issues garnered higher viewer numbers than most other topics covered. The audience we produced for were mainly policy professionals and so often the interest in the climate science shows were watched more for WHO said what than WHAT was actually said. The point is the debate of climate science still exists within the larger population as a ‘is it real or not’ question thanks in part to politicians and media professionals — perhaps if we could raise the conversation to a level beyond this amongst those groups we could expect more from the general population…

    Comment by Kelly — 17 Mar 2011 @ 3:49 PM

  51. I think the reason students are confused, aside from the fact that a portion of the population always will be such, is that the teachers are confused. Having another “formal” vetting group [committee really] regardless of the level of readership targeted will simply add to the confusion of the few J.Q.Publics that would pay any attention to it. The information is out there, from the raw data to the conclusions and possible futures, beyond that it’s a matter of comprehension and personal decision.

    A teacher faced with students that can’t tell the difference between RC and WUWT needs to figure out how to teach them to do so, not hand them off to yet another “expert” reference group. We’re faced with the reality that any hack can start a blog, the cat is outta the bag, the object should be to teach how to evaluate Science vs Opinion and Politics.

    IMO the phase climate science is at is problematic because it’s become a political question. We know human behaviour is having an effect; we know resources are becoming scarce; we know feeding a bloated population of consumers may be radically affected by changing climate – now what do we do about it? It’s not understanding climate science per se that’s creating the confusion, it’s become an existential question.

    Comment by flxible — 17 Mar 2011 @ 6:15 PM

  52. Blogs and blogging is simply not going to be effective. There are simply too many denialist blogs and simply too many denialists motivated to lie for their cause.

    If you want to be effective then you have to make a public appearance on public forums where the denialists are most active.

    There should be enough climate scientists available to saturate WUWT with real science. Similarly there should be enough motivation in the reality based community to monitor Drudge for climate stories and inundate the denialist comments made to those stories, with facts.

    The same can be said of Yahoo, and the other primary outlets for Climate Change Denial such as Faux News.

    Comment by Vendicar Decarian — 17 Mar 2011 @ 11:31 PM

  53. flxible,

    At some point, it takes education in science to tell science from fantasy. One would hope that a student could immediately learn to spot errors in reasoning that preclude scientific evaluation (ad hominems, non-sequiturs, and other logically fallacious lines of thought), but in fact many of the solid arguments against climate change (or evolution, or whatever) require some familiarity of the underlying mechanisms. There is for example an inherent logical fallacy in saying that “CO2 lags temperature in ice cores, therefore it can’t cause temperature to rise” but there is no such fallacy embedded within “CO2’s absorption bands are saturated, therefore more of it will not cause temperature to rise.” The error in the latter is purely scientific, and requires some training in radiative transfer to think through the problems.

    Certainly, it would not hurt to run students through examples like the ice core one presented above to exercise fallacy-spotting, but this can only go so far. Then, it would not hurt to point out the value of refereed literature and international assessment reports over blogs, but there’s no a priori reason why RC should be any better than WUWT. That requires some initiation into the field, how data is analyzed, etc.

    Any one of us in here could probably be fooled by a reasonably convincing blog on black holes or on how bridges are designed that actually had a bunch of scientific errors. I will agree that there needs to be some emphasis on how to think logically, but to understand climate (or any other field) inevitably means spending a lot of money on tuition and textbooks and going after a degree.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 17 Mar 2011 @ 11:38 PM

  54. re: 52 Chris
    “but to understand climate (or any other field) inevitably means spending a lot of money on tuition and textbooks and going after a degree.”

    I don’t think it’s quite that bad. See chart of expertise levels K0-K10, noting the log2 scale.
    For most people, the relevant question isn’t “Do I understand this?” but “Do I understand this well enough to know if it matters and be able to make relevant decisions? And if not, what else do I need to know, and who or what might be good sources?””

    The knowledge discovery process is a bit different, in that going from K3 to K5, one has taken a lot of detailed courses, that is, one is truly learning to understand the topic … and there’s no way most people have the time to do that.

    On the other hand, one can say:
    a) I will read a selection, try to understand where the mainstream is, what it agrees on, what’s arguable, and who the real outliers are. I will especially try to find people that have track records (in peer-reviewed literature) and high impact.
    b) When exploring some area, my level of exploration will vary from shallow to deep, i.e., I may not need to go very deep to verify something, or in fact, I may have to go very deep.

    I would observe that hiring managers, high-level executives and venture capitalists do this routinely, and of course, people inside a field know perfectly well the difference between the strong researchers and clowns. Such people often have to make large bets on incomplete information and there is never enough time to know all the details.

    At Republic Polytechnic in Singapore, the first week (17-year-olds, generally)includes training students to use the Web and assessment of credibility of sources. Of course, that ought to be even younger … like 6 :-)

    Comment by John Mashey — 18 Mar 2011 @ 1:59 AM

  55. Vendicar Decarian: “There should be enough climate scientists available to saturate WUWT with real science.”

    When would you propose they do climate science? Really, do you actually expect the denizens of WTFUWT to be swayed by logic and evidence? They’ve spent years convincing themselves that they shouldn’t listen to actual experts.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 18 Mar 2011 @ 8:10 AM

  56. Ray, “Vendicar Decarian” is a name with a long, consistent history. Look it up. Guess what this guy is trying to do, eh? Same as always. DFTT.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 18 Mar 2011 @ 10:08 AM

  57. Hello all,

    this is a very interesting subject. I noticed it when first posted, and have come back a few times to see what sort of replies would come of it.

    I appreciate this site very much, and all the comments in this thread in
    particular. This topic of “what can I do, what should I do as a scientist?” really is a difficult dilemma that I imagine most, if not all, climate scientists face today more than ever.

    To step out ‘personally’ into the public domain on such a polarised, politically charged and emotive subject as Climate Change and Global Warming
    is no small feat!

    I could chat away for days about this broader topic of “communication” .. I started a reply and then deleted it as I was getting too complicated and preachy imho.

    I would like to help, and feel that I have some good personal hands on experience with the issues involved online, and yet am not even a graduate let alone a scientist or a climate scientist. Still I feel that at another level, I know what is going on and what it is like for many of you.

    How to express that simply, without coming over as a wet blanket or critical, and with some level of credibility is a tough one.

    I can say that this is a great site, full to the brim with some very good people. I feel really privileged to able to have such close and direct access with real climate scientists, without having to travel to a 5 star hotel overseas for an expensive presentation and a maybe signed autograph and if I was lucky one ill-informed question from the floor where I would make a complete dill of myself. This is better, by far!

    Feel free to “hold this reply” and not post it if anything I say is out offline or confusing here.

    I will just bite the bullet and throw out a few top of mind things fwiw.
    Basically I am speaking to and about the RC site owners and to climate
    scientists in general.

    – Firstly, you are all very courageous to put yourself out there publicly,
    in a personal sense. This whole issue is a minefield today, and the personal
    risks you are taking a very real at all sorts of levels. I think it is
    important to acknowledge that openly and big time. You do not have to do
    this, but you do anyway. That is significant in my opinion, even if you may
    not quite realise it fully as yet.

    – You are in a Catch 22 situation if ever there was one. You are putting a
    red ringed bullseye target on yourself in the public domain – expect to be
    shot at and repeatedly, and in the back often.

    – Your greatest problem to overcome, in order to be successful in your goal
    has to do with the idea of “semantics” – it is the key to everything.

    – As scientists you operate in an elite group of specialists that work to a
    particular Modus Operandi … that MO will not take you towards your goals of
    communicating with the public and journalists. It is instead a barrier to
    your communications. As such you will always be misunderstood, and
    mis-represented in spades. That is unavoidable given the emotive issues

    – Your way of communicating here will be going over the heads of your target
    audience as described in your RC About page, most of the time.

    – Journalists (and Politicians) do not have the resources, the time, nor the
    head space to interpret what you say, what you really meant, and then
    re-write that in a way their readers will grasp easily. The IPCC fails in
    this regard, and they have the ‘resources’ and the responsibility already.

    – There is a “belief” running that if you just convey the facts of the
    matter, explain the science is genuine, that most people will just “get it”.
    Bzzzzzzzzzt wrong! People do not need to know the ‘science’ of how a motor
    car works, to understand how to drive it or to recognise it is a good thing
    to use and WILL make their life better. They just need to know a) it works
    b) where to buy it c) how to drive it … then they’ll work out the rest for

    – Focusing on the professional skeptics industry (aka bs artists), the
    thousands of anti-science blogs in cyberspace, and reacting to them by
    rushing out to “prove how wrong they are” is a wasted effort, and a waste of
    time. The more attention you give them the more oxygen you give them.

    – That includes when a Journalist or other important public opinion maker
    asks you a specific question about what X, Y or Z skeptic with FAUX
    credentials claimed yesterday. It is far easier to look past the initial
    surface question and find what lays below it – what doesn’t that Journalist
    know or fail to “get” which makes them vulnerable to such BS to begin with.
    And it is always more than just factoid item A or B, or the latest dataset
    and Computer Model.

    – 100 Al Gores is more powerful than 10,000 cutting edge scientists. TDAT
    wasn’t as good a lost opportunity than you think it might have been. More
    doom and gloom if, is not the solution as it is an opening for severe attack
    and more emotional responses.

    – “What’s in it for me?” is the question key that needs addressing.

    – Fear only works in emergencies and in the short term. People are a awake
    up to that and those that matter (the majority of educated people) do not
    TRUST such an approach. It’s red rags to a bull iow. Avoid it like the
    plague. Leave that to the politicians to try that one on to get an extra
    vote now and then, but Scientists need to stay above that game, whilst
    remaining truthful and accurate.

    – In your RC About page you say you want to stick to the science and avoid
    politics and economics … noble idea, it won’t work. If you want to go
    public and stand up for what you believe in, then you have to address the
    issues that people SEE as the issues, or don’t bother. This means dealing
    with things head on and openly as being as REAL no different than Climate
    Change itself is REAL. This does not mean you have to be partisan, or offer
    political solutions, or be economists either. But you have to be able to say
    why going in X direction is NOT or IS supported by the Science right here
    right now today .. and tomorrow, and the next day and everyday after that.

    – To do this effectively, Climate Scientists needs to be able to draw on the
    credible work, understanding, knowledge and help from the political,
    business, the environmental, and the economists of the world. If you are not
    aware of what there challneges are, their MO as well as your own, the
    “world” they live and work in .. then you are already behind the 8 ball when
    communicating effectively with the general Public and Journalists.

    – Everyone needs to be on the same page, even if 10,000 or 100,000 different
    individual “experts” only get to deal with just one letter printed in the
    Instruction Book of Climate Change For Dummies.

    Lastly, I would think that a new topic or several along the lines of “How
    can we more effectively communicate X, Y, Z to” a) Journalists b)
    Politicians c) the general Public … would be a useful addition to the
    TOPICS LIST .. and would in my opinion be a catylst for a surpirsing numebr
    of good and very practical ideas.

    IOW … rather than thinking “People blog for many reasons, but the most
    common is it that they think they have something to say and that it isn’t
    being widely said already.”

    Flip that to “What is that people NEED TO HEAR, WANT TO HEAR, but they
    aren’t as yet hearing it REPEATED ENOUGH already?”

    IOW one needs to first put yourself in the OTHER’S MOCASSINS … no point
    preaching to the converted, and no point in arguing with the Flat-Earthers
    either. They won’t change their dumbed down gullible beliefs and opinions
    until the Antarctic melts aways completely …. or they realise there is
    BUCK in it for THEMSELVES too!

    So, by all means keep doing what you are already doing, don’t stop that it
    is worthwhile. What you share and explain here for those above the norm is
    useful, and that gets shared around beyond this space.

    But the reality is that most people are simply not equipped to handle the
    complexities of the Science. Scientists are having troubles dealing with
    that, so how can one expect Mr & Mrs Joe Average to work out what the
    Science means?
    For I tell you honestly … as an example this post:


    You will lose 98% of people before the end of this sentence::

    “The fact that there is a natural greenhouse effect (that the atmosphere
    restricts the passage of long wave (LW) radiation from the Earth’s surface
    to space) is easily deducible from i) the mean temperature of the surface
    (around 15ºC) and ii) knowing that the planet is roughly in radiative

    And it is because of this type of “semantics”, and despite your good
    intentions that there already exists a booming CC Skeptic Industry.

    This will only ever be reversed when Mr Joe Average realises that it is the
    REAL CLIMATE SCIENTIST that is the REAL SKEPTIC, and that this other crowd
    are NOT Scientific but instead as mad a 15th Century Monk claiming that the
    Devil is in that there telescope and that the world is flat.

    That it is THEY that are the promoters of UNJUSTIFIED BELIEF, and not the
    sanguine professionals who rely on Logic and reason and repeatable
    experimentation to both PROVE their Theory and OPENLY adjust the THEORY when
    Proven WRONG with irrefutable EVIDENCE and not irrational fantasies and
    gross self-interest.

    All fwiw … I do mean well I assure you.

    Feel free to EDIT down or delete the whole thing if not appropriate for your


    sorry for the long rave .. I may as well go the whole hog here.

    I have been active on the internet since 1997, most of my time on written
    newsgroup forums from religion, to philosophy, to politics and all manner of
    Conspiracy Theories 99% of which are mindless bollocks. Know how to ‘search
    online’ and sort thru the spin to find the juice. In a former incarnation
    was a successful line Management & Marketing executive for Multinational
    Corporations in Australia. Educated myself about Climate Change slowly but
    surely, including reading the IPCC reports and comprehending what they say,
    and the limitations inherent in them.

    Few people can cope with the complexity, and are utterly unaware of the
    scientific model and how it works, or why.

    Since Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth there has been a vacume in the world’s
    awareness that has been filled by special interests, rank attention seekers,
    and rabid un-intelligencia.

    This manifests as:

    The solutions being:

    RE-assert that it is the SCIENTISTs that are the ‘ORIGINAL real-deal
    Skeptics’ …. and that the naysayers rely on pure assumption, ignorance of
    the KNOWN EVIDENCE n FACTS, operate without ANY and base all their claims on
    UN-justified False BELIEFS….

    IOW “NON-scientific flat-earthers from the Dark Ages”
    LAUGH then OUTRAGEOUSLY DISMISS their OPINIONS and BELIEFS outright (not the
    person but the idea itself) in a split second, without explanation, for
    being exactly what they are KNOWN to be!

    ie DEAD WRONG !!

    THEN tell the REAL STORY based on the PROVEN SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE .. then




    BENEFITS – What’s in it for ME, and MY Family and MY Community?

    FACE UP TO and DEAL with the SEMANTICS Issue … “terminology” must make
    sense to the average Joe … Most POLITICIANs and Journalists are an average
    Joe — TODAY they need to be handed their ‘talking points’ on a silver

    Both suffer a severe ‘credibility’ problem in the World … make it easier
    not harder for them to be “attacked” by the “skeptics PR machine” or they
    will remain SILENT.
    NEVER Forget the concept of the HUNDREDTH MONKEY …. talk to everyone as if
    they are that very one “hundredth monkey” .. ignore the non-scientific
    underpinnings of the theory. It works nevertheless.

    Explain YOUR OPINION and WHY it is right for YOU, and then re-explain it,
    and again explain it and re-explain it again, and again and again ….. all
    day everyday.

    ALWAYS MAKE YOURSELF [ or co-workers or website contact ] AVAILABLE FOR
    FOLLOW UP QUESTIONS, tomorrow, next week, next month …

    The Threats to overcome and Avoid are:

    The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune …

    Cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable FEELING caused by holding
    conflicting ideas simultaneously.

    The theory of cognitive dissonance proposes that people have a motivational
    drive to reduce dissonance.

    They [mature educated dte people 20-30% ] do this by changing their
    attitudes, beliefs, and actions.

    Dissonance is also reduced by [ irrational, emotional, frightened and
    confused people who fail to understand high end science 40-60% of people ]
    through justifying (rationalising away) , blaming, and denying.

    It is one of the most influential and extensively studied theories in social

    — Study up on it. For this a KEY issue of why it is exactly how it is
    today. People just want to FEEL better .. they feel better when others agree
    with them no matter what – they write the Blogs, and others feel better when
    someone gives them an OUT for not feeling so DUMB when faced with COMPLEX
    issues …. and they READ the Blogs and Vote according to HOW the CC Skeptic
    PR Industry tells them to Vote.

    RESPECT ALL PEOPLE as equals … everyone is “entitled to thier beliefs and
    opinions …. then DISRESPECT the IRRATIONAL un-supported OPINIONS and
    BELIEFS because YOU are entitled to YOUR OPINIONS no less than anyone else.

    BEST WISHES …. Sean

    Comment by Sean — 18 Mar 2011 @ 10:51 AM

  58. “RESPECT ALL PEOPLE as equals … everyone is “entitled to thier beliefs and
    opinions …. then DISRESPECT the IRRATIONAL un-supported OPINIONS and
    BELIEFS because YOU are entitled to YOUR OPINIONS no less than anyone else.”
    Maybe that could do with a bit of a rethink Sean.

    Comment by bushy — 18 Mar 2011 @ 12:33 PM

  59. Tangentially relevant, though I’m neither a scientist nor, strictly speaking, a blogger: My article on Arrhenius reached a milestone this morning: 1,000 page views.

    It’s a modest success, to be sure, but I’ll take it. Thanks to Realclimate readers for their support!

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 19 Mar 2011 @ 7:20 AM

  60. At the risk of being slammed by you guys, like you did the last time I made a comment, I have a question from something Mr. Colose said above. Do you understand CO2 saturation to mean that the absorption bands of CO2 are saturated and unable to absorb any more radiation?

    Comment by James R. Barrante — 19 Mar 2011 @ 8:35 AM

  61. Kevin,

    Congrats. It deserves to have a million views.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 19 Mar 2011 @ 8:56 AM

  62. 60, James,

    You asked:

    Do you understand CO2 saturation to mean that the absorption bands of CO2 are saturated and unable to absorb any more radiation?

    The section to which you are referring is this (emphasis added to point out where you stopped reading/understanding too soon):

    There is for example an inherent logical fallacy in saying that “CO2 lags temperature in ice cores, therefore it can’t cause temperature to rise” but there is no such fallacy embedded within “CO2′s absorption bands are saturated, therefore more of it will not cause temperature to rise.” The error in the latter is purely scientific, and requires some training in radiative transfer to think through the problems.

    To directly answer your question, no, absorption bands of CO2 are not saturated.

    To clarify, the 1st statement is incorrect due to a simple logical fallacy, i.e. the fact that the effect (temperature rise) appears to precede the proposed cause (CO2 increase) and therefore it cannot be true. The problem of course is that just because some of the temperature increase precedes increased CO2 levels that does not mean that all subsequent temperature increases are the result of that same cause. Some initial trigger causes temperatures to rise, which in turn increases CO2 levels, which in turn raise temperatures further (and the cycle continues for quite a while).

    There is no such basic logical fallacy in the 2nd statement, even though it is wrong. The flaws in the 2nd statement are more nuanced and so, as Chris says, require \some training in radiative transfer to think through the problems,\ although I’m not sure \training\ is the right word. You don’t have to be a genius with five years of education to understand it. You just have to be willing to listen with an open mind, and build a conceptual model that goes just a little beyond 2+2=4.

    Comment by Sphaerica (Bob) — 19 Mar 2011 @ 9:43 AM

  63. James Barrante,
    Individual molecules have lines. When you have a large mass of gas at a finite temperature, collisional and dopler broadening cause some of those lines to coalesce into “bands”. So what you are talking about is actually a fairly complicated statistical mechanical analysis. When you do it properly, you find that the tails of the lines are fairly thick, so while each addition of CO2 absobs less radiation, the absorption never completely saturates (that is, stops).

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 19 Mar 2011 @ 9:50 AM

  64. @60 James R. Barrante
    I have a question from something Mr. Colose said above. Do you understand CO2 saturation to mean that the absorption bands of CO2 are saturated and unable to absorb any more radiation?

    The bit of the education Colose mentions may be found

    Comment by Adam R. — 19 Mar 2011 @ 10:18 AM

  65. > Barrante
    No. Your book is wrong about that.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 19 Mar 2011 @ 11:32 AM

  66. Ray, thanks–you just made my day!

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 19 Mar 2011 @ 12:17 PM

  67. “When would you propose they do climate science? Really, do you actually expect the denizens of WTFUWT to be swayed by logic and evidence? They’ve spent years convincing themselves that they shouldn’t listen to actual experts.” – 55

    1. Responding to WUWT directly will take less time than blogging to a audience free blog.

    2. I don’t expect the denialists to be swayed. I expect them to be inundated.

    Question – To the General Public, what is the difference between a Blog that no one in the General Public will read and an article in Nature that no one in the General Public will read?

    Answer – Nothing since neither will be read.

    It follows that since articles in Journals have had no impact on the General Public in terms of Global Warming science, neither will a blog have any significant impact.

    Those in PR know that in order to present your views you must do so by presenting them to the eyes of the public rather than expecting their eyes to present themselves to you.

    This is something that Scientists perpetually fail to comprehend.

    Comment by Vendicar Decarian — 19 Mar 2011 @ 2:33 PM

  68. “so while each addition of CO2 absobs less radiation, the absorption never completely saturates (that is, stops).” – 63

    You should mention that this is true for both absorption and emission spectra. All bands broaden and this means that not only is there non-extinction of absorption due to optical depth, but also due to the fact that new radiation leaks into the absorption bands from the surrounding higher and lower parts of the spectra that stride the absorption bands.

    Comment by Vendicar Decarian — 19 Mar 2011 @ 2:39 PM

  69. I see some illogic was used to answer the earlier logic statement. Let us start with the premise that warming will lead to increased CO2 (I suspect I can get agreement here). This is a conditional logic statement which only states what will happen if temperatures increase. It is illogical to state that if CO2 increases that it was caused by a temperature increase as Chris points out above. It is also illogical to claim the reverse based on the original premise; that a CO2 increase will cause a temperature increase. The simple logic statement makes one claim only.
    The second claim is not a simple logic statement, but a fairly complicated scientific one. The absorption bands can be both numerous and wide. Even if some portion were to become saturated, as Ray stated, the remaining bands (or portions thereof) would continue to absorb radiation. The bands are also not CO2-specific, such that other molecules (i.e. water) will contribute to the absorption.
    While the first statement can be understood by any logical person, the second requires some scientific background.

    Comment by Dan H. — 19 Mar 2011 @ 2:40 PM

  70. No problem. I’m just trying to understand what you think saturation is. Let’s try this one. What would happen if the intensity of the incident radiation, the Io in the Beer’s Law equation, became smaller and smaller to a point where it was essentially zero. What would adding more CO2 do in this case. Let’s say CO2 is a sponge, and water is the incident radiation. Water on the floor. Throw sponges at it. They begin to absorb the water. Throw in more sponges. Water is finally completely absorbed by the sponges that are present. Now we throw in more sponges. What effect will that have? This is how I understand saturation.

    Comment by James R. Barrante — 19 Mar 2011 @ 3:02 PM

  71. James,
    Your sponge analogy fails to grasp that the sponges will also drip water–so we add sponges below them to catch it. They fill up and start to drip, and so on. The sponges below also fill in the cracks between the first–an analogy to the fact that adding more CO2 absorbs more energy in the wings/tails of the distribution.

    Vendicar Decarian…Hmm, I see over 14 million visitors to is available in 20 languages. You have a rather odd concept of “nobody”.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 19 Mar 2011 @ 4:27 PM

  72. James R. Barrante – co2 and it’s effects are not limited to your puddle on the ground. Regardless of how you understand co2 saturation, science understands it closer to the reality, sans “sponges”. As someone pointed out above, you really need to read this carefully, including part 2 linked within.

    Comment by flxible — 19 Mar 2011 @ 5:04 PM

  73. Dan H:

    Let us start with the premise that warming will lead to increased CO2 (I suspect I can get agreement here).

    Not likely to get agreement here given that it’s only true under certain circumstances. Can you name one such circumstance that’s not true today?

    Comment by dhogaza — 19 Mar 2011 @ 5:08 PM

  74. What would adding more CO2 do in this case. Let’s say CO2 is a sponge, and water is the incident radiation. Water on the floor. Throw sponges at it. They begin to absorb the water. Throw in more sponges. Water is finally completely absorbed by the sponges that are present. Now we throw in more sponges. What effect will that have? This is how I understand saturation.

    Now let’s repeat that thought experiment for the Pacific Ocean. How many years worth of the entire world’s annual production of sponges would one have to dump into the ocean before all of the Pacific Ocean’s water was soaked up by them?

    We’re no where near the point where the logarithmic relationship between CO2 concentration and consequential warming is such that doubling CO2 leads to effectively no additional warming. No where near that point.

    Comment by dhogaza — 19 Mar 2011 @ 5:15 PM

  75. flxible #49, the problem is that the few loudmouths have convinced many that “…the IPCC and all the professional scientific bodies of the planet” are wrong. People love to believe in conspiracies.

    Comment by Rob Savoie — 19 Mar 2011 @ 7:10 PM

  76. This is going down the wrong track

    No IR from the surface in the CO2 bands escapes to space, but rather it is quickly absorbed. CO2 in the atmosphere can interchange energy with the other molecules in the air and absorb and emit IR but it is only at ~ 7-8 km that the emitted IR light will escape to space.

    Increasing CO2 raises the level at which this happens, and that higher level is colder and less dense, which means that the amount of IR energy emitted is less. This deficit has to be made up by increasing the surface temperature so more energy in the non-ghg area of the spectrum will be emitted and restore the solar in IR out balance.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 19 Mar 2011 @ 8:02 PM

  77. This is going down the wrong track

    Oh, c’mon, it’s more fun to expose his analogy on his own terms, no? Obviously he has no clue what physics says, but that can come later, as the coup de grace, no?

    Cats toy with their victims … where’s your sense of fun?

    Comment by dhogaza — 19 Mar 2011 @ 11:08 PM

  78. James,

    The statement of interest I made earlier was meant to imply that for those wavelengths where CO2 can absorb strongly, at modern atmospheric concentrations most of the IR is already absorbed. There are two key reasons why this is wrong. First, as the figures in part 2 of raypierre’s post show, there is still much more absorption waiting in the wings under Earth-like conditions, so in fact CO2 is not “saturated” as modern spectroscopy is readily able to show.

    The second reason this argument is fallacious is that even if the absorption were saturated throughout the column, eventually you get to a high altitude where it is not saturated, since there are so few molecules that high. It is these thin levels where radiative balance is achieved in the opaque limit, so once you keep increasing CO2, you increase the altitude range at which point the atmosphere becomes optically thin enough to lose its radiation easily to space (for example within one unit optical depth when looking down). These are typically colder regions, so the whole planet can still emit less radiation until the temperature rises. This artificially constructed emission height is a strong function of wavelength, essentially set at the surface in the optically thin window regions and moving up to even within the stratosphere in the strong band centers. For a dense CO2 atmosphere (e.g., Venus), it would still become hotter through this mechanism even if “all the sponges soaked up the water.”

    There’s still many more nuanced things to consider which the RC posts have not fully covered, and there’s always a lot of treats embedded within radiative transfer that can give way to some surprises. Let’s consider a few extreme examples:

    –The figures in part 2 of the Angstrom series by Weart and Pierrehumbert are a bit incomplete in that they do not show more absorption features on the shortwave side of the graph, lower than 10 microns, where absorption can matter as well in a high cO2 atmosphere (at which point the forcing can become much stronger than the canonical logarithmic rule generally cited). On a hotter planet like Venus, there’s also absorption features close to 5 microns that are important, although there is still some competition with SO2 and water vapor. For very high CO2 atmospheres, eventually pressure broadening takes off too, and there’s room for pressure-induced opacity that makes CO2 a more effective greenhouse gas (see e.g., Moskalenko, 1979).

    –Note that the warming effect of pressure broadening is offset partly by increased Rayleigh scattering as the mass of the atmosphere increases (even without the thick sulfur clouds, the albedo of Venus would still be a relatively high 40%, e.g., Bullock and Grinspoon, 2001).

    –Now consider a case where CO2 is still high, but the planet is relatively cold (for example due to high albedo or luminosity). In this limit, the buildup of CO2 in the atmosphere is limited by its own saturation vapor pressure determined by Clausius-Clapeyron. CO2 condensation could occur, for example, on early Mars (it still does today at the poles), or during snowball Earth episodes in the winter at high latitudes. This would define the maximum CO2 greenhouse you could achieve, and condensation into CO2 clouds cools things down by raising the albedo, but also by making the lapse rate shallower from latent heat release, which in turn reduces the greenhouse effect. CO2 clouds however generate their own greenhouse effect, not so much through absorption and re-radiation, but through scattering of IR! This is much less lapse rate dependent.

    — In the very hot limit where most of your atmosphere was water vapor, such as near a runaway greenhouse regime, the effects of CO2 are not really important anymore because the opacity of the whole atmosphere is dominated by water vapor. This makes the runaway greenhouse threshold relatively insensitive to the CO2 content of the air. Clearly Earth is very far from this case though.

    — There are plausible cases (e.g., Kasting and Ackerman, 1986) where you have a very hot and wet atmosphere, close to that described above, in which raising the CO2 a lot can actually cool because the increase in the total surface pressure from the CO2 has a stronger influence than the increase in the saturation vapor pressure caused by the greenhouse effect. This reduces the water mixing ratio and the stratosphere can dry out.

    All of this said, there is no support for any inherent “saturation limit” that Earth is close to which will save us from global warming.

    Comment by Chris Colose — 19 Mar 2011 @ 11:44 PM

  79. V.D. is repeating Rod.B’s saturation distraction from a year or so ago. Are V.D. and Rod.B. the same person or computer program?

    Comment by john ramming — 20 Mar 2011 @ 12:25 AM

  80. “What would happen if the intensity of the incident radiation, the Io in the Beer’s Law equation, became smaller and smaller to a point where it was essentially zero. What would adding more CO2 do in this case.” – 70

    In the case of IR, I0 can only be zero if the temperature is zero.

    If we are to presume that I0=0 what other assumptions are we to have about the temperature of the atmosphere above the surface.

    If the volume above the surface does has T>0 then we can omit one atom of thickness from the optical depth and compute as before without any change in the result.

    “Let’s say CO2 is a sponge…”

    Lets not, since the analogy is worthless.

    IR photons migrate through the atmosphere in what is essentially a random walk. Adding CO2 makes the step size smaller and hence the diffusion time longer.

    With particle densities high enough, you can delay migration indefinately. Photons produced in the core of the sun for example, take some 100,000 years to reach the photosphere.

    Finally, Beers law is generally not applicable in the case of IR because the block of material the IR is passing through will remain in good or approximate thermal equilibrium with it’s surroundings.

    Comment by Vendicar Decarian — 20 Mar 2011 @ 2:21 AM

  81. Thanks. Appreciate the input. As you keep pointing out to me, I don’t have much of a scientific background. Only a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Harvard University. Studied under a couple of Nobel Prize winners – solid state nuclear magnetic resonance.

    [Response: since you’ve decided to play the Nobel Prize gambit, lets listen to what some actual Nobel Prize winners in chemistry have had to say about the issue of anthropogenic climate change, say, Sherry Rowland, or Mario Molina, or Paul Crutzen. -mike]

    I taught statistical and quantum mechanics for over 40 years. Saturation doesn’t have to do with the CO2 bands as much as it has to do with the lack of IR radiation at 15 micrometers, which quickly is absorbed. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. I believe that’s what absorbing to extinction means. Once the radiation is absorbed by the CO2, the gas has at least two choices – emit the radiation and drop down to ground state or more likely collide with neighboring molecules and drop down to ground state. That leaves it ready to absorb again. Eventually a steady state will be reached. If the planet could increase its production of radiation around 15 um, then I would agree, increasing the CO2 level would lead to an increase in global temperature. I’m just stumped on what would have caused such a rapid rise in atmospheric CO2 20,000 years ago to get us out of the ice age.

    Comment by James R. Barrante — 20 Mar 2011 @ 5:47 AM

  82. Climate scientists might want to blog about this upcoming workshop at the Vatican. The participants seem very famous.

    The Pontifical Academy of Sciences accepts the science of climate change and has created a Working Group on the Fate of Mountain Glaciers in the Anthropocene.

    The Working Group is having a workshop at the Casina Pio IV on April 2-4, 2011.

    The Prologue of the program, which was written by Academician P.J. Crutzen, L. Bengtsson and Academician V. Ramanathan, states:

    Mountain glaciers in Europe, North America, South America, Africa, and the largest of them all in the Himalayan-Tibetan region are retreating, some at alarming rates. The hypothesized causal factors include global warming, atmospheric brown clouds, land surface modification, recovery from the mini ice-age, and large scale drying of the air among other factors. Some glaciers are expected to disappear during this century and others are predicted to experience significant loss of spatial cover and mass. The downstream consequences include glacial lake outburst floods, disrupted availability of water for agriculture and human consumption, changes to mountain eco systems, increased frequency of forest fires, loss of habitat, and other potential catastrophes. A holistic study covering the physical science, social science, and the human dimension sides of the problem has not been attempted thus far. It is our hope that this first of its kind workshop organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences will lay the foundation for studying and monitoring this potential disaster that will impact the entire planet.
    The workshop will also explore avenues available for mitigating and adapting to this potential tragedy.
    P.J. Crutzen, L. Bengtsson and V. Ramanathan [See the full schedule of the workshop and the speakers.]

    Comment by Snapple — 20 Mar 2011 @ 9:58 AM

  83. I hope you will read the biographical information about the climate scientists who will be attending the workshop at the Vatican.

    Comment by Snapple — 20 Mar 2011 @ 10:32 AM

  84. > I’m just stumped on what would have caused
    > such a rapid rise in atmospheric CO2 20,000 years ago
    [citation needed]
    > to get us out of the ice age.

    You’re playing games here, aren’t you? Posting notions far too simple, hoping perhaps for an oversimplified answer you can then mock?

    We know the current rate of change, and the paleo rate of change fairly well.
    CO2 is a feedback at the rate of change of Milankovich cycles, and a forcing at the current rate. No, it’s not that simple.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 20 Mar 2011 @ 10:37 AM

  85. In 81, James Barrante says:

    Once the radiation is absorbed by the CO2, the gas has at least two choices – emit the radiation and drop down to ground state or more likely collide with neighboring molecules and drop down to ground state. That leaves it ready to absorb again. Eventually a steady state will be reached.

    In this steady state, where is the energy? It gets transferred (mostly) to neighboring air molecules, as you say – and then? Presumably those air molecules don’t just move ever faster as the CO2 continues to transfer energy – otherwise we wouldn’t have a steady state. So how are the air molecules getting rid of the energy?

    Comment by David Warkentin — 20 Mar 2011 @ 11:50 AM

  86. Dr. Barrante at #81 is ‘just stumped on what would have caused such a rapid rise in atmospheric CO2 20,000 years ago to get us out of the ice age’. Well yes dear doctor, some folks are easily stumped. Others just do their homework. More effort, but you come out better looking :-)

    As to your saturation nonsense, all that your physics background proves is how dishonest you are. Don’t you ever look in the mirror?

    Martin, boasting only FCD :-)

    Comment by Martin Vermeer — 20 Mar 2011 @ 11:55 AM

  87. I’m just stumped on what would have caused such a rapid rise in atmospheric CO2 20,000 years ago to get us out of the ice age.

    Galloping Gishes and moving goalposts, I swear we have a bouncing Barrante here …

    Comment by dhogaza — 20 Mar 2011 @ 12:17 PM

  88. “Once it’s gone, it’s gone” – 81

    1: It is never completely gone.
    2: It is constantly being replenished from the thermal emissions of the atmosphere itself.

    “Eventually a steady state will be reached” – 81

    Contradicting the “Once it’s gone, it’s gone” comment.

    “I’m just stumped on what would have caused such a rapid rise in atmospheric CO2 20,000 years ago to get us out of the ice age.” – 81

    And I’m just stumped at how bananas cause monkeys.

    It is unfathomable, isn’t it? The biologists must all be wrong.

    Comment by Vendicar Decarian — 20 Mar 2011 @ 1:10 PM

  89. “I don’t have much of a scientific background. Only a Ph.D. in physical chemistry from Harvard University. Studied under a couple of Nobel Prize winners – solid state nuclear magnetic resonance.” – 81 – James R. Barrante

    “Let’s say CO2 is a sponge, and water is the incident radiation.” – 70 – James R. Barrante

    I smell something….

    Do you smell something?

    Comment by Vendicar Decarian — 20 Mar 2011 @ 1:19 PM

  90. People might be interested in this little pdf that contains the first part of Barrante’s book:

    I’d say a few Nobel prize winners who taught Barrante will be extremely disappointed at his attempt to fool people by rhetoric. They will note that much of the style appears to be an Appeal to Incredulity…

    Comment by Marco — 20 Mar 2011 @ 1:53 PM

  91. James R. Barrante,
    I am rather surprised that a scientist would not have learned that the experts actively publishing in a field should have a better understanding of it than those outside it.

    I’m also rather surprised that a scientist would not understand that argument from personal incredulity is a fallacy.

    Perhaps most surprising for me is the fact that a physical chemist would argue that increasing CO2 atmospheric concentrations by 40% shouldn’t lower ocean pH.

    Perhaps oddest of all is that the same scientist should be arguing that on the one hand CO2 is present in such small concentrations that it can’t have any effect and on the other hand that its effect is saturated. My, my, aren’t we…flexible. James, I really can’t quite figure out whether you really are as utterly clueless as you seem to be in your utterances on the Intertubes or wheter you are merely a lying, disengenuous troll. Either way, I feel sorry for you.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 20 Mar 2011 @ 2:19 PM

  92. Dr. Barrante, I am totally impressed by your Harvard credentials and completely willing to listen to your scientific findings. If I understand you correctly, you’re saying that the extra energy from more Co2 will be absorbed by surrounding air molecules. That means they’ll heat up, right? Thank you for establishing that more Co2 means warmer air temperatures. Now I get it.

    Comment by One Anonymous Bloke — 20 Mar 2011 @ 2:57 PM

  93. Barrante’s book has substituted rhetorical questions for footnotes that cite authoritative sources. This book should be called Global Warming by a Dimwit.

    This book reminds me of Dr. Will Happer’s folksey Senate Testimony. Happer didn’t have any footnotes, either, until SPPI [the Institute in a PO box] put some in after the testimony that credited Lord Monckton.

    I didn’t graduate from Harvard, and I didn’t have too much science in college; but even I can see this book is a joke.

    Comment by Snapple — 20 Mar 2011 @ 4:06 PM

  94. There are 26 question marks in Barrante’s book. One of them should be a period:

    “What causes this temperature wiggle is not known?”

    The book says “we know” eight times, and then says something scientists don’t know at all.

    Comment by Snapple — 20 Mar 2011 @ 4:23 PM

  95. @Marco (90): Everything one needs to know about that book can be derived from the preface, pp.x-xi: “…the fact that global temperature has not increased since 1998….”

    Comment by Meow — 20 Mar 2011 @ 4:48 PM

  96. I did a scholar search on James R. Barrante. He has a few physical chemistry publications from the 60s and early 70s as well as a text book or two on this topic. More recently, 2010, he is the author of a book called “Global warming for dim wits: a scientists perspective.” I have not read the book, but scanned a few points on Google books. One argument is that climate change (in the past at least) was very slow, so we can’t tell anything after 150 years or so.

    Of course there are a couple of issues with this–human effects are unprecidented in their speed and intensity in recent years and we can study climate change from principles of physics.

    I am a scientist. However, since climate change is not my area of expertise, I would not presume to publish a book on the topic, at least not one that attempts to debunk the mainstream.

    Comment by BillD — 20 Mar 2011 @ 5:13 PM

  97. Along with the usual suspects, James Barrante signed a letter to the House and Senate. This letter was a “truth alert” in reply to “The Importance of Science in Addressing Climate Change”

    Comment by Snapple — 20 Mar 2011 @ 5:35 PM

  98. Since the arguments have easily been refuted, but the “PhD” credential has been played for credibility, it seems the field is open for assessing whether or not a PhD confers credibility or not.

    In this 2009 analysis, I looked at the social networks and demographics of the ~200 signers of a 2009 petition to the American Physical Society, most with PhDs, some quite distinguished. The petition essentially ignores basic physics. Signers of the petition included PhDs who’ve written books extolling results of Beck or G&T.

    There was strong prevalance of retired/emeritus folks, with little or any actual peer-reviewed research in climate science, but strong opinions that they knew better, often developed after retirement. They may have had excellent track records in their turf (with several NAS members and one Nobel laureate), but no matter how smart someone is, they have to learn the field before they have nonzero credibility.

    For example, one of the local Nobel physicist of my acquaintance is Burt Richter, long-time director of SLAC. He’s “retired”, but his idea of retirement would wear out most people. As he notes in his (good) book, he had to go learn this stuff from experts, although he writes that having a Nobel does open a few doors :-).
    Burt is a great counterexample to the idea of “going emeritus” (TEC5, usually combined with other reasons, where someone starts trying to talk authoritatively about topics outside their expertise.

    The APS petition shows that strong extra-science motivation can convince even PhDs (who should know better) to ignore sophomore physics … although only ~0.5% of them, and very few younger ones.

    Dr. Barrante’s background is this, and this.

    “Recently retired, I taught physical chemistry at Southern Connecticut State University since 1966. I received my undergraduate degree in 1960 from the University of Connecticut and my Ph.D. degree in chemistry in 1964 from Harvard University.” (According to his book, he was born 1938).

    S. CT State U is part of this. The chemistry department is here:
    12 faculty, of whom 6 are Emeritus. It grants BS and MS in Chemistry, but not PhD. (There is nothing at all wrong with that, but it does mean there is more teaching than research. Dr. Barrante claims a few papers and books, as per Google Scholar.

    Books are not necessarily research, and this is not an overpowering research record. Again, nothing wrong with that … unless being used to claim higher credibility than might be warranted.

    To be fair, I spent 10 years at Bell Labs, which had so many PhDs one never called anyone “Dr” because it would have wasted too much time, and very smart people learned quickly that it was a good idea to ask world-class experts before telling them they were wrong… However, the asymmetrical nature of universities sometimes provides less such check-and-balance on professors.

    Perhaps it is coincidental that the APS Petition had a small, but vocal, cluster of people of CT academics (p.25 – Gould, p.29 – Hayden, Monce, Paolini).

    In this case, Barrante taught at one school since 1966, has produced relatively little research (but some books), and having retired, now writes:
    here, H/T marco in 90:

    “As a physical scientist and somewhat knowledgable in the physical chemistry of the atmosphere, I am going to redefine a “dim wit” as someone who believes that greenhouse gases, and in particular, carbon dioxide, could actually control the climate.”

    Well, I guess that makes the 2 Nobel physicists I know dimwits, along with all the relevant Science societies and national academies.

    Comment by John Mashey — 20 Mar 2011 @ 5:46 PM


    From above Re: Realclimate

    “I’m sorry, but I am going to break my own rule about name-calling. These people are dolts.” – James R. Barrante

    “If one burns fossil fuels, the temperature of the globe must increase. Let’s even go one step further and give them a bonus. If the CO2 levels in the atmosphere go up, the temperature of the globe must increase. Notice that, according to logic, this does not mean that if CO2 levels do not increase, that the temperature of the globe cannot go up. Or said another way – it is possible for the temperature of the globe to increase without CO2 levels increasing. Now, what logically follows from this is: If the temperature of the globe does not increase, the CO2 level in the atmosphere cannot increase.” – James R. Barrante

    Comment by Vendicar Decarian — 20 Mar 2011 @ 5:56 PM

  100. Why are we still discussing old issues on here and still referring to WUWT?
    Yawn !
    We have lots of science to talk about, lets stick to that.

    Comment by Bill — 20 Mar 2011 @ 6:20 PM

  101. You put words in my mouth. I never said that increasing CO2 concentration in the oceans would not lower the pH of the oceans. Moreover, I never said anywhere in my book that increasing CO2 levels in the atmosphere would not increase global temperature. I just said that there is no scientific evidence that increasing CO2 levels from 280 ppm to 380 ppm in 150 years could raise global temperature by a degree. Most climatologists agree that doubling CO2 from 380 to 760 ppm would not even raise global temperature by a degree. My questions above were honest with no attempt at tricking you. I don’t deny that the globe is warming. Never have. In fact, honest science shows that it has been warming since the Little Ice Age. It’s just interesting that when you can’t refute my arguments you stoop to calling me dishonest or a lying, disingenuous troll. I would think you should look at who is in your camp. Talk about being scientifically dishonest. It boggles the mind.

    Comment by James R. Barrante — 20 Mar 2011 @ 6:47 PM

  102. Here, James. Let me refresh your memory:

    I’m sorry to hear about your memory problems.

    As to refutations of your contention about CO2, here are a few papers to read:

    Knock yourself out.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 20 Mar 2011 @ 7:07 PM

  103. James R Barrante:

    Most climatologists agree that doubling CO2 from 380 to 760 ppm would not even raise global temperature by a degree.

    This is a false statement. Do yourself a favor and quit being ridiculous, please.

    Comment by dhogaza — 20 Mar 2011 @ 7:39 PM

  104. Barrante:

    It’s just interesting that when you can’t refute my arguments you stoop to calling me dishonest or a lying, disingenuous troll.

    Just because someone says that you’re lying, doesn’t mean you’re telling the truth …

    Corollary: just because you claim you’re telling the truth, doesn’t mean that you are…

    Comment by dhogaza — 20 Mar 2011 @ 7:41 PM

  105. Dr. Barrante,

    They already refuted your arguments.

    Why don’t you answer the 26 mind-boggling rhetorical sentences in that passage from your ludicrous children’s book?

    After that, perhaps you can document your sources for those eight sentences which begin with the royal “We know”?

    As for your claim that there has been no warming since 1998, where did you get that?

    Phil Jones said that there was no “statistically significant warming since 1995 [not 1998]–but only just.”

    Here is the loaded question and his response:

    BBC: Do you agree that from 1995 to the present there has been no statistically-significant global warming?

    Phil Jones: Yes, but only just. I also calculated the trend for the period 1995 to 2009. This trend (0.12C per decade) is positive, but not significant at the 95% significance level. The positive trend is quite close to the significance level. Achieving statistical significance in scientific terms is much more likely for longer periods, and much less likely for shorter periods.

    Comment by Snapple — 20 Mar 2011 @ 7:48 PM

  106. > Most climatologists agree
    [citation needed]l

    Singer & Avery? Michaels?
    been debunked:

    Got a refereed journal source?

    It’s easy to make such claims, there’s no law against saying stuff like this; the “advocacy science” business claims, well, whatever pays them.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 20 Mar 2011 @ 8:14 PM

  107. Let’s not be too harsh on poor James Barrante. His book is no more ridiculous than William Westfield’s.

    Comment by JiminMpls — 20 Mar 2011 @ 8:57 PM

  108. My apologies for originally taking James Barrante seriously in my reply to him. I could have spent 20 minutes that I took to write the comment doing something else, but I thought someone actually was curious. After looking through the short version of his book, and his comments here, it’s disappointing that someone with such credentials is unable to actually make the connection to how the chemical and physical processes he studies interact when allowed to operate on the planetary scale. For that matter, his apparent lack of ability to create a logical thought (like his insistence in the book that slow climate changes in the past must mean we cannot be altering the climate now) is particularly suspicious. Virtually every paragraph that begins with or develops one of his “questions” is misleading, and logically or scientifically fallacious in some form or another.

    I don’t know the psychology or motives behind “going emeritus” or the number of “scientists” with good credentials outside climate who actually think climate change physics is all bogus, and I won’t speculate, but in the meantime I would suggest Dr. Barrante work on the things that “emphasizes analytical thinking and problem solving” (as he so clearly expected from his students back in Physical Chemistry).

    Comment by Chris Colose — 20 Mar 2011 @ 9:06 PM

  109. Dr. Barrante, I think part of the reason it’s sometimes difficult for non-experts to take “scientists” seriously is because some of you insist on making such a public fool of yourself.

    Comment by One Anonymous Bloke — 20 Mar 2011 @ 9:31 PM

  110. FWIW Eli knows a couple of people at SCSU and they are quite good.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 20 Mar 2011 @ 9:40 PM

  111. “Most climatologists agree that doubling CO2 from 380 to 760 ppm would not even raise global temperature by a degree.” – James R. Barrante

    And how much would that slightly less than 1’C of warming increase the water vapor content of the atmosphere, thereby enhancing it’s effect?

    The science states that the fast feedbacks which are largely water vapour, result in a 3’C to 4’C of warming, with perhaps twice that as the oceans reach equilibrium.

    Why are you dishonestly ignoring well known positive feedbacks in your comments?

    You can’t really think you will manage to deceive anyone here.

    Comment by Vendicar Decarian — 20 Mar 2011 @ 9:53 PM

  112. It’s a cultural thing. Most chemists use IR spectrometers which have glow bar IR sources, a hot electrically heated bar at at few hundred C (looks like your electrical stove element on medium high, sort of just redish). Under such conditions emission plays no role.

    However, if you point out that in the atmosphere you will have both absorption and emissiondue to thermal excitation, some of them get it. The physical chemists almost at once (present company excepted), the analytical types more or less, and the organikers? ok, they are organikers?

    FWIW SOD is beating the pressure/temperature broadening thing to death

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 20 Mar 2011 @ 10:04 PM

  113. Dear Dr. Barrante:

    Can you tell us why you believe that beers law applies to the extinction of “thermal” radiation when this radiation passes through a thermally radiating medium that approximately at the same radiating temperature.

    Please avoid any Kook-Tard comments about sponges, wet floors, or overflowing toilets.

    On a personal note, I find it astonishing that you would fail to comprehend simple high school level principles of physical science.

    I think it good that you have been put out to pasture.

    Comment by Vendicar Decarian — 20 Mar 2011 @ 10:07 PM

  114. > Most climatologists agree
    [citation needed]l

    Singer & Avery? Michaels?
    been debunked

    Debunked, or not, there are more than 5 climatologists in the world, and at least two of those you list aren’t climatologists.

    Hopefully Barrante can do better (especially since he accepts his statement as being true, unlike you or me, Hank)

    Comment by dhogaza — 20 Mar 2011 @ 10:56 PM

  115. A year or so ago, I was chatting with a geology professor of mine, Eldridge Moores (Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Geology at the University of California, Davis, and a former president of the Geological Society of America) about the fact that many of the deniers of continental drift/sea floor spreading way back then and global warming deniers now seem to be professors emeritus. He said that definitely was true — some older scientists just cannot give up their beliefs despite new science showing something contrary. He said much of the opposition to the theory of continental drift/sea floor spreading disappeared as the old guys died off. Of course, we didn’t have the Republican Party denying the science of geology back then.

    Comment by Jim Eaton — 21 Mar 2011 @ 12:26 AM

  116. All,

    Someone here (I think it was Ray) called James Barrante a “troll,” to which he appears to have taken offense.

    Wikipedia defines “troll” as: “…someone who posts inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in an online community, such as an online discussion forum, chat room, or blog, with the primary intent of provoking other users into a desired emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.”

    I have no objective way to ascertain the level of honesty of James Barrante, but I have my doubts. He has done this before at RealClimate when looking for ways to boost his bona fides among the AGW denier set (back in May, 2010):

    “I appreciate your plugging my new book “Global Warming for Dim Wits”, but I should warn you before you spend your hard-earned money on it. The AGW crowd at the website Real Climate have labeled the book, and, more importantly, me as “jaw-dropping ignorant.” I think they don’t like what I said in the book, which is curious, because I’m not convinced any of them has read the whole book.”

    This looks like troll behavior to me, and for profit. Now we can wait and see if he takes his most recent perceived abuse here to again boost his reputation (and sell books) to those who believe his interpretation of science.

    It is really a backhanded compliment to the credibility of this web site. Those of you who are railing against him are actually providing him with valuable quotes to use to sell more books.

    I wonder if he’ll send you a cut of his profits? No harm in asking!

    Comment by Craig Nazor — 21 Mar 2011 @ 2:39 AM

  117. Dr. Barrante should read the “Most Used Skeptic Arguments and What the Science Says.”

    Dr. Barrante even speculates that the earth may have started its trek back to an ice age but that we won’t be able to tell unless we can look back for ten generations.

    If an ice age were starting, I think we would see more ice, not less. I don’t think the permafrost would be thawing.

    Dr. Barrante just calls climate scientists “dim wits” because he hasn’t taken the trouble to study what authoritative sources have written on this subject.

    I am not so young, and I am not a scientist; but first I try to read what the experts say. I don’t just assume that the most prominent experts are a bunch of morons.

    The world’s scientific academies, the government agencies, the Pentagon, the CIA, and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences say there is global warming, mainly due to CO2.

    There are a lot of people who are smarter than I am, but at least I know that and it doesn’t make me jealous. In fact, it’s a big relief to me that there are people smarter than I am who can provide leadership.

    Dim Wits who don’t have the faintest grasp of this important subject should not be writing books for children.

    Comment by Snapple — 21 Mar 2011 @ 4:55 AM

  118. Barrante wrote: “It’s just interesting that when you can’t refute my arguments you stoop to calling me dishonest or a lying, disingenuous troll.”

    It’s just interesting that [edit–lets keep it civil] always seem to say that when their “arguments” are refuted.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 21 Mar 2011 @ 9:28 AM

  119. In defense of James Barrante, the discussion here has gone far beyond the scientific and into the bashing of a persona. It is very uninteresting and in my view most distasteful. Moderators, please get this discussion back on course.

    Comment by Jon G — 21 Mar 2011 @ 10:02 AM

  120. A successful troll drags tempting bait and captures attention.
    Using red herring is a good way to draw attention away from the subject.

    So, what was the subject again? Let’s look.

    Dr. Held is up to number five in a series. Let’s read.

    “Isaac Held’s Blog
    5. Time dependent climate sensitivity?
    Posted on March 19, 2011 by Isaac Held

    The co-evolution of the global mean surface air temperature (T) and the net energy flux at the top of the atmosphere, in simulations of the response to a doubling of CO2 with GFDL’s CM2.1 model.
    Slightly modified from Winton et al (2010).

    Global climate models typically predict transient climate responses that are difficult to reconcile with the simplest energy balance models designed to mimic the GCMs’ climate sensitivity and rate of heat uptake. This figure helps define the problem…..”

    You know how to find it.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 21 Mar 2011 @ 10:04 AM

  121. Dr. Barrante’s arguments seem to be yet another example of the Dunning-Kruger Effect , or at least confirmation bias. More the subject for a psychology blog, not RealClimate.

    Comment by Mark — 21 Mar 2011 @ 10:13 AM

  122. Okay, a few problems with James R. Barrante.

    Firstly, he can’t be described as having “gone emeritus” (in the pejorative sense) because he has no reputation to destroy.

    Secondly, his book says “This book was written for dim-wits” – so I stopped reading.

    I did flick through a few more pages, but the burning stupid made me stop.

    James R. Barrante – the problem with providing any reasonable critique to your work is simply the sheer quantity of things you get wrong. I had difficulty finding anything at all that you hadn’t lied about, distorted, or got wrong through sheer ignorance.

    Dim-wit indeed.

    “I take full responsibility for any errors found in the book”

    [edit – enough, thanks]

    Comment by Didactylos — 21 Mar 2011 @ 10:23 AM

  123. This is noteworthy, especially in light of the House Republicans’ arrogant dismissal of real science.

    Comment by Alan Gregory — 21 Mar 2011 @ 10:34 AM

  124. A few comments on Barrante’s “Global Warming for Dimwits”-

    “If we know anything about climate change, we know that it changes very slowly.” “Considering that it takes 10,000 years for Earth’s climate to change…”
    “In the past 400,000 years the climate of the earth has changed only four times.” Wrong.

    “…do you think it is possible to detect any kind of climate change by studying global temperature for 150 years?” Of course –

    “The scientists who originally collected the temperature going back thousands of years decided that one data point every 80 to 200 years would be scientifically valid.” Wrong again.

    “…the fact that global temperature has not increased since 1998…” Another lie. (UAH data from noted skeptics Dr John Christy and Dr Roy Spencer)

    “…people will argue, ‘The changes today are different from what they were 400,000 years ago!’ But that is not what the data shows. In fact, they are exactly the same.”
    You have already pointed out that humans weren’t burning vast amounts of fossil fuel 400,000 years ago, and the CO2 ice core record shows that its current level, ~390 ppm, is much higher than it was anytime in the last 400,000 years. Look at the Vostok CO2 data again; a change from ~200 ppmv to 280 ppmv, initiated by the Milankovic cycle and reinforced by outgassing of CO2 from the warming seas and increasing water vapor, warmed the globe by ~ 8 degrees C. we’ve gone from 280 ppmv preindustrial levels to 390 ppmv, and we are headed towards 560 ppmv (and more; the IPCC projections don’t include methane–>CO2, and CO2 emissions, from the melting of permafrost, which already have begun).

    I wouldn’t waste my time reading the entire book if someone gave me a free copy, let alone paying for one.

    “The level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere today is about 0.036% [it actually hasn’t been this low since 1997]. in a crowd of 10.000 people, this is about four people.” Josef Stalin, Mao Tse Tung, Adolph Hitler, and Pol Pot, perhaps?

    “In defense of James Barrante, the discussion here has gone far beyond the scientific and into the bashing of a persona. It is very uninteresting and in my view most distasteful. Moderators, please get this discussion back on course.” Jon G — 21 Mar 2011 @ 10:02 AM

    Pointing out that the statement “global temperature has not increased since 1998” is a lie isn’t bashing his persona, but his lack of fact. Barrante, a Phd. who has published a book “Applied mathematics for physical chemistry”, knows very well what an OLS fit to the UAH data from 1998 means.

    Addressing misinformation blogged by non-scientists, or blogging nonsense, in a discussion of blogging by scientists, IS on topic.

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 21 Mar 2011 @ 3:48 PM

  125. Would I be out of line to return for a moment to the original post in this string? I would like to comment on the initial entry.

    I was surprised when Physics Today accepted my letter for publication, and even more honored to have my letter excerpted and discussed on RealClimate.
    I would like to offer another wrinkle on the wrinkle why our actions (or inactions) at WHOI regarding TDAT turned out the way they did. In the letter I suggested that the outcome depended on the motivation and incentives/disincentive of scientists. While I believe this is true, I also believe there is more to it, and that the outcome also depended in large part on who framed the issue.

    I am on thin ice here, speculating on the motivation of others. But based on my four years of experience in Woods Hole, I believe there is some credibility to the following case.

    Picture the room in which I opened the discussion on what we should do about TDAT. Everyone except me was a PhD with at least a decade of experience at Woods Hole. All had tenure. I have a lowly bachelor’s degree in earth science and a master’s in journalism, and had been hired by a lab director whose support was waning and so I had a degree of guilt by association. I was seen as “the communications guy” with dubious motivations and allegiances. (As one department chair so elegantly put it: “you work for the institution; I work at the institution.”)

    The wrinkle on the wrinkle is that in this context who matters as much or more than what—and I suspect this phenomenon is not unique to WHOI. Had I been a scientist, my proposal to initiate communications about TDAT (rather than passively respond) would probably not have been summarily dismissed. Had I been a senior scientist, it might have received actual debate. And had I been, say, Wally Broecker or Richard Ally—well, I think the outcome might have been entirely different.

    Nonscientists beware: Science is an intensely tribal pursuit and credibility is extended only to tribe members. Nonscientists bring no currency to the table, and it was remarkable that scientists agreed to meet with me at all.

    Science communications lies in what I find to be a delightful gray zone. I used to think its effective prosecution required expertise in the communication arts coupled with knowledge of science facts, methods, processes and culture. Now I believe the only hope for science communications is for communications initiatives to come from and be lead by scientists. This might be a like saying: “Plumbers must learn to be electricians! How many plumbers can do that?” True, individuals gifted in both arts will be rarer than individuals gifted in only one. But I believe dire times do surface people of talent.

    Where does this leave us humble nonscientist science communicators? Probably best as advisors, as back-room consultants and coaches, to embolden scientists by giving them the tools to go courageously into the unknown, dirty, messy, nonlinear multivariate world of communication. But we have to be asked; we can’t offer help. Just as many scientists comment on public issues only when invited, we communicators must get used to the idea of helping scientists only when invited by scientists. Like the old joke about how many psychiatrists it takes to change a light bulb—just one, but the light bulb has to want to change.

    [Response: thanks for stopping by! I think your diagnosis is very close to the mark. Partly it’s a ‘not invented here’ syndrome, and partly it’s a ‘why do I need to do anything different’ attitude. Any suggestions for overcoming these obstacles are welcome. – gavin

    Comment by Jim Kent — 21 Mar 2011 @ 5:24 PM

  126. FWIW, I agree that Isaac Held’s blog is a good addition to climate blogging. I read a few of his posts before commenting. Looks like I’ll read it regularly.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 21 Mar 2011 @ 5:29 PM

  127. RE:125

    Excellent comments Jim…I couldn’t agree more. My strengths are also in communication rather than hard science. I also had a ‘lowly’ degree but was quite enjoying teaching. However, I left the university system as I was constantly frustrated with the myopic approach of many academics. This is unlikley to change as to be successful in academis you do need to have a single mindedness to the task at hand. But what annoyed me was that they could not see the need to be good communicators of their science, and often actively looked down on people with such talents rather than embraced their skills for the benefit of the university.

    I still work in a bureaucracy (government)and find that there is a different kind of single-mindedness – the fear of making a bad decision. This is also frustrating as decisions rarely get made at all. The combination of these two systems means making progress on important issues such as climate change is very difficult.

    Comment by George Fripley — 21 Mar 2011 @ 8:25 PM

  128. Brian Dodge,

    Next time Barrante quotes the trace gas nonsense ask him if believes whether it was natural cycles or 10 micrograms of Polonium 210 that the Russian government used to murder Alexander Litvinenko.

    captcha: Trotsky, eputuag

    Comment by John E. Pearson — 21 Mar 2011 @ 8:33 PM

  129. Re: Gavin’s response to #125: Good metaphors are your friend. The metaphors employed in this article are a good example, I think. Peter Hadfield’s metaphor for the difference between forcing and sensitivity in this video is excellent, and it also illustrates a situation to avoid: the Monckton ambush so ably dissected.

    Comment by One Anonymous Bloke — 21 Mar 2011 @ 10:04 PM

  130. …the tools of communication are the tools of art. Get some artists involved, or become artists.

    Comment by One Anonymous Bloke — 21 Mar 2011 @ 10:23 PM

  131. I really wish we could ignore Barrante and his obtuse ilk–and in an ideal world we should. After all Barrante is self refuting–arguing simultaneously that CO2 is an insignificant trace gas and that it is saturated. He’s so transparently wrong, he should embarrass other denialists. Unfortunately, people see a PhD dissenting from the consensus and don’t bother to see if the PhD is in climate science or comparative lit or whether (as in the case of Barrante) the PhD stopped publishing during the Johnson Administration.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 22 Mar 2011 @ 4:10 AM

  132. Re: #129

    Shouldn’t it be Peter Sinclair (not Hadfield) ?

    Comment by Deconvoluter — 22 Mar 2011 @ 10:47 AM

  133. Deconvoluter #132: Potholer54 = Peter Hadfield.

    Comment by One Anonymous Bloke — 22 Mar 2011 @ 12:44 PM

  134. I’m still waiting for Dr. Barrante to explain how he concludes from beers law that there is absorption saturation in a media that is radiating at the same frequency which he claims absorption is saturated.

    Where oh where, has the incompetent gone?

    Comment by Vendicar Decarian — 22 Mar 2011 @ 3:37 PM

  135. Or did Sinclair come up with it first (now I’ve made the connection to desmogblog)? It’s a good metaphor whoever created it.

    Comment by One Anonymous Bloke — 22 Mar 2011 @ 3:56 PM

  136. Saturated: Gavin: Please calculate the residence time in the high energy state. I’m guessing the CO2 molecule falls back to the low energy state in milliseconds. CO2 can’t all be in the high energy state [saturated] all at once. That would be a quick end to the saturation argument. Arrhenius couldn’t have done the computation because he died in 1927, while Quantum Mechanics was being invented.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 22 Mar 2011 @ 4:06 PM

  137. George–One sentence you wrote struck me: “But what annoyed me was that they could not see the need to be good communicators of their science, and often actively looked down on people with such talents rather than embraced their skills for the benefit of the university.”

    The irony is that many scientists (the best ones anyway) are very good communicators with their peers. In fact, they might be loathe to say so, but they excel as marketing their science to scientists. They know how to tell their story persuasively to other scientists, who are professional critics. The remarkable part is that skill stops short as soon as they have to communicate to nonscientists. I suspect the issue is more will than skill.

    As far as looking down at communicators, I think there is a certain vulgarity associated with making science accessible, since accessability is assumed to require compromises of accuracy and precision. When I was an undergraduate, I once commented to my philosophy professor about how lucid a certain philosopher’s writing were. He chuckled and said: “Yes…if you really want to insult a philosopher, you say ‘he writes clearly.'”

    Comment by Jim Kent — 22 Mar 2011 @ 4:45 PM

  138. In the old days, we remembered Giordano Bruno. Giordano Bruno (1548 – February 17, 1600), was burned to death for thinking that there could be life on other planets. It was better to not communicate in those days. NOT communicating has become a tradition. In the case of Climate Science and other subjects, it is time to do the opposite. Blind traditions are bad. In today’s world: 1. we have the right to speak and 2. For our species to survive, everybody has to understand science.

    Remember in accusing scientists of not communicating that there used to be powerful reason to not communicate. What is demanded is TWO acts of creative destruction. First changing the culture of science so that, second, the culture of the USA can be changed. Neither is easy. Changing everybody’s culture should be harder than getting them to change religions, except that we are trying to minimize the impact on their lifestyles. Consider what we are offering: Believe in us or you will die of starvation. But you might die of starvation anyway. We aren’t exactly offering “salvation,” whatever that is.

    The only thing we can’t do is give up. I’m saying the above because the project must be dealt with as a major research project. It is the most difficult absolute necessity.

    Comment by Edward Greisch — 23 Mar 2011 @ 12:36 AM

  139. RE: #133.
    Thanks for the useful correction; they have cdifferent accents.

    Comment by Deconvoluter — 23 Mar 2011 @ 5:26 AM

  140. RE: #136.

    Your argument appears to be too strong. In principle it could abolish saturation effects at all levels and wavelengths e.g. in the centres of sharp absorption lines and at low altitudes. I thought that saturation , when it occurs, applies to the shortage of e.g. unabsorbed photons not to to a shortage of unexcited CO2 molecules.

    Comment by Deconvoluter — 23 Mar 2011 @ 5:46 AM

  141. Edward–Agree. That change has to come from scientists. The paradox is, scientists have been so conditioned to noncommunication, it will be hard to find champions, and harder still to have champions who are not excommunicated or executed. Any change will involve casualties. There is some safety in tenure, but I believe the change will be lead from the top and bottom. From the bottom, I mean young scientists who often have a wider social awareness than their elders. And from the top, I mean the major leading lights who, from the safety of their status, can survive advocating unpopular notions. I was in the middle at Woods Hole and learned that change initiated from the middle is the first lamb to the slaughter.

    Comment by Jim Kent — 23 Mar 2011 @ 6:15 AM

  142. 136, Edward Greisch,

    I’m guessing the CO2 molecule falls back to the low energy state in milliseconds.

    My understanding is that the density of the atmosphere causes so many collisions (and the accompanying transfer of the vibrational energy in CO2 as translational energy in O2 or N2) that even that relaxation time is irrelevant. That is, the energy absorbed by CO2 through IR is almost instantly transferred to (and thus heating) the surrounding air, leaving the CO2 molecule to absorb again, long before the CO2 molecule is able to re-emit the IR.

    The whole system is a complex balance of many different events happening in both directions, and so one needs a “rate of reaction” sort of approach to really break it down.

    Comment by Sphaerica (Bob) — 23 Mar 2011 @ 7:04 AM

  143. Re: #142.

    Yes,I agree, except for this bit which could be misunderstood:

    leaving the CO2 molecule to absorb again, long before the CO2 molecule is able to re-emit the IR.

    The description ‘long before’ could have misleading implications. It also disregards the fact that another CO2 molecule could be emitting, without absorbing, during the delay. You must have a rough balance or you will have an unrealistically fast tropospheric warming.

    In practice over such short time scales the air would be warming or cooling a little depending on the time of day.

    Comment by Deconvoluter — 23 Mar 2011 @ 10:02 AM

  144. Edward Greisch and Bob, the collisional lifetime is about 1-10 microseconds at atmospheric pressure for the vibrationally excited CO2, this is OOM 1000 collisions.

    Comment by Eli Rabett — 23 Mar 2011 @ 10:31 AM

  145. I really don’t think it is appropriate for a scientist to have a blog in any way associated with a government-funded organization. It is an unfortunate use of tax-payer dollars that Dr. Held’s blog site features the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory(GFDL) and NOAA prominently at the top of the page. At least this site does not do that.

    Comment by George — 23 Mar 2011 @ 11:55 AM

  146. Edward,
    Nice comment, and one that many here should take to heart. Scientists should not be afraid to voice their opinions; right or wrong. To many times throughout history, scientists have been ridiculed (or worse) because of statements that were unpopular. Science should be decided in the lab or field, not in a barroom. Personal attacks have no place in science

    Comment by Dan H. — 23 Mar 2011 @ 12:39 PM

  147. George #145 I think you’re completely wrong. It’s entirely appropriate for scientists to use institutional resources to discuss science: that’s their job, in fact. I appreciate that Republicans and other delusional fanatics don’t like that, but the solution is to defund the fanatics, not the scientists.

    Comment by One Anonymous Bloke — 23 Mar 2011 @ 1:07 PM

  148. George @ 145

    “I really don’t think it is appropriate for a scientist to have a blog in any way associated with a government-funded organization.”

    So they should only be allowed to communicate through more expensive printed media? You want what, just tri-fold brochures on 8.5″ x 11″ stock? Distributed by mail? Street corner stands? Can they use two colors or is only black permissible?

    Comment by Radge Havers — 23 Mar 2011 @ 1:55 PM

  149. “I’m still waiting for Dr. Barrante to explain how he concludes from beers law that there is absorption saturation in a media that is radiating at the same frequency which he claims absorption is saturated.” Vendicar Decarian — 22 Mar 2011 @ 3:37 PM
    Not to mention a simple explanation of how that reradiation varies with altitude, which changes the temperature and density of CO2 along with the rest of the atmosphere, and the mean time between collisions which lose energy before some statistical fraction has had a chance to radiate away, or transfers enough thermal energy into vibrational energy which is radiated away. He might want to start by reading “A high resolution infrared radiative transfer scheme to study the interaction of radiation with cloud”, Roach and Slingo, Quart. J. R. Met. Soc. (1979), 105, pp.603-614 – “The simple exponential attenuation law which applies for monochromatic radiation, know as Beer’s Law, is not obeyed over the wide spectral intervals occupied by the absorption bands of the principal gaseous absorbers(water vapour, carbon dioxide, and ozone)…”

    “Please calculate the residence time in the high energy state.” Edward Greisch — 22 Mar 2011 @ 4:06 PM Average residence time for the full column of the atmosphere? Residence time for the CO2 above an atmospheric pressure of 250 millibar, where the water vapor has fallen by ~ 3 orders of magnitude, but the CO2 is still well mixed? This high altitude CO2 is disproportionately important, because its greenhouse effect keeps the troposphere warm enough to hold water vapor; if we could magically remove just this CO2, and leave the 3/4 of the CO2 that’s in the lower atmosphere the same, the planet would get much colder as the water vapor condensed out.

    “I thought that saturation , when it occurs, applies to the shortage of e.g. unabsorbed photons not to to a shortage of unexcited CO2 molecules.” Deconvoluter — 23 Mar 2011 @ 5:46 AM See Vendicar Decarian’s comment. For every absorbed photon whose energy get thermalized, there is, statistically, thermal energy transferred into CO2 excitation and emitted isotropically as a photon. The half that are downwelling and get absorbed & thermalized at (or near) the surface maintain more energy there, thus higher temperatures. If CO2(and H20, GHGs) didn’t absorb thermal energy from N2, O2 and radiate, but the energy was all thermalized(an optical analogue of Maxwell’s Demon), the atmosphere would be much hotter. The only way to get the energy out of the system would be conduction of heat to the surface, against the lapse rate temperature gradient, until the surface got hot enough to radiate all the outbound energy in the infrared windows where there isn’t absorption.

    “My understanding is that the density of the atmosphere causes so many collisions (and the accompanying transfer of the vibrational energy in CO2 as translational energy in O2 or N2) that even that relaxation time is irrelevant.” “The whole system is a complex balance of many different events happening in both directions, and so one needs a “rate of reaction” sort of approach to really break it down.” Sphaerica (Bob) — 23 Mar 2011 @ 7:04 AM
    IMHO, it should be plural “rates of energy transfer” since they vary with altitude, temperature, and effective path length which is affected by the random walk nature of the absorption-thermalization-emission diffusion of energy, as well as pure scattering by clouds. (A question for someone who knows more radiation physics than I do – why does the spectrum of scattered/emitted light from thin clouds show water vapor & CO2 lines, like clear sky (back) radiation, but that from optically dense clouds approach a black body?)

    Houghton, J. T. (1969), Absorption and emission by carbon-dioxide in the mesosphere. Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 95: 1–20. doi: 10.1002/qj.49709540302
    “Abstract –
    Theoretical and experimental evidence is presented which leads to a vibrational relaxation time appropriate for the v2 vibration of CO2 at 15 μ under atmospheric conditions at 210°K and standard pressure of 6·0 × 10−6sec. The effect of this on the atmospheric cooling rate near 90 km due to emission by CO2 is discussed. It is shown that absorption of solar radiation by the v3 band (at 4·3 μ) and the combination bands of CO2 (at 2·7 μ) leads to a heating rate of about 2°C (12 hr)−1 near 80 km, this being one of the largest contributions to the radiative heating rate at this altitude. The processes by which relaxation from the v3 vibration of CO2 occurs involve vibrationally excited oxygen and the v2 vibration of H2O. The magnitude of heating-rate depends considerably, therefore, on the H2O concentration. For thermal radiative exchange by the v3 band, thermodynamic equilibrium begins to break down at 30 km; its contribution to the radiative budget of the mesosphere is consequently very small.” Can you rephrase this so the average Tea Party Republican can understand it, or do they need to take a physics course first?

    What has this got to do with blogging, or other communication by scientists, you may ask? (at least those of you whose eyes haven’t glazed over and skipped to the next shorter, simpler comment)

    All scientists have experienced trying to explain complex subjects, like atmospheric radiative transfer, or whatever their speciality is, in simple enough terms that non scientists can understand.

    Frequently, you lose your audience – their eyes glaze over, or they ask a question that shows they missed some important simplification – and you have to back up and start over. Frustrating.

    Or, they reach a point where they say “it’s too complicated; let talk about something else”. Even more frustrating – a waste of time.

    Sometimes, they assume that what you are trying to say is so complicated that it must be just self important bullshit, and that scientists are a bunch of econazi socia _ lists lying through their teeth making up stuff to steal their tax money for grants; that if it can’t be simplified to where they can grasp it, it can’t be true. Now you’re not a scientist frustrated by your attempts to explain, and the laymen’s inability to understand simple stuff you learned as an undergrad, but you’re pissed off by the arrogant asshole who wears his ignorance like a cloak and wrongly accuses you of being the bad guy. (Or you KNOW he understands what an OLS trend is, and what the difference between “no trend” and “not statistically significant” is, but chooses to cherrypick endpoints and conflate meanings in order to make political points and lie about the science).

    Is the reward from reaching an occasional Septic Matthew worth the hassle of trying to reach those who actually believe a right wing political hack with a journalism degree has read and is familiar with all the literature*, or butting heads with the Watts, Goddards, Pielkes, Idsos, M&M, G&T, Currys, Svensmarks and other contrarians, or being threatened by the lawyers from E&E, or Cuccinelli?

    I do it (as an interested lay person, not a scientist) because trying to teach is a good way for me to learn; since I’m widowed and childless, it’s an intellectual exercise with little emotional stress for me – YMMV.

    * Monckton or Palin, take your pick. Gavin, the next time a reporter who has quoted Monckton on climate asks you a question about climatology, try referring him to Palin for the answer. How long do you think it will take for him to get the joke? &;>)

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 23 Mar 2011 @ 2:16 PM

  150. George 145:

    I see it as free work for the agencies. Lots of personal time goes into a blog.

    Comment by RichardC — 23 Mar 2011 @ 2:24 PM

  151. Can I take it George that you are also dead against government agencies employing staff whose job is to communicate its science to the public? I don’t live in US but our institutes are actually required to be communicating their science through a variety of media.

    Comment by Phil Scadden — 23 Mar 2011 @ 3:17 PM

  152. Re: #149 (Brian Dodge)

    Good comment, or perhaps I should say, “Hell yeah!”

    And I agree Gavin, the next time a reporter who has quoted Monckton on climate asks you a question, tell him to ask Palin for the answer.

    Comment by tamino — 23 Mar 2011 @ 5:48 PM

  153. I found this new thread by accident. I’ve been clicking on my name in your index and it’s been taking me to a dead end. Why does Beer’s law apply when radiation is passing through a medium that is radiating at the same frequency? Isn’t that true for all radiation? When light passes through a solution and is absorbed by the solution, doesn’t the solution then radiate the light (actually the radiated light is scattered light). The question is how much IR light is radiated by the CO2 after the molecules absorb it. I think that the excited CO2 molecules collide with other molecules around it and transfer that light energy as heat before it can irradiate it as light.

    If you were to tell me that increasing the level of CO2 in the atmosphere causes heat energy to move from upper layers of the atmosphere toward the surface so that the surface temperature increases and the upper layers cool, I would wholeheartedly agree with you.

    By the way, you should really read my book more closely. The “Dim Wits” in the title does not mean dimwit. It’s meant to describe all humans, since our brains put out about 40 watts (not very bright). I said that my book is from one dim wit to another. The point is that we are not as smart as we think we are (of course this doesn’t include the gang at RealClimate, since, as you keep pointing out to me, you are all experts. The book was written for persons not trained in science. It’s interesting that you refer to them as children.

    My definition of “troll” is a cave-dwelling dwarf having an ugly appearance.

    Comment by James R. Barrante — 23 Mar 2011 @ 7:18 PM

  154. Re: #145.

    There is nothing special about blogs, except perhaps that they may involve unpaid work. Openly sharing ideas with colleagues from other institutions, without political interference, has usually been regarded as a benefit to those institutions. I should imagine that the GFDL would be proud to see their name at the top of a blog by a distinguished employee, rather than the opposite.

    Of course there is no guarantee that George’s view will not prevail, but it should be remembered that those countries which discouraged the practice of free and open exchange of ideas(e.g. in Eastern Europe before 1989) began to fall behind. Much more could be written about that.

    If you were to ban open blogging, the next steps would be to stop government scientists from going to conferences, or to politically control their lectures, or make them conceal where they come from. It may yet happen, but not without a brain drain and a national decline.

    Comment by Deconvoluter — 23 Mar 2011 @ 8:10 PM

  155. All the comments about how long CO2 bend stays in the v=1 state after it absorbs IR, and how the vibration goes to v=0 (by collisional de-excitation, spontaneous emission, or stimulated emission) is only part of what should be considered. And what would that be?

    The reverse process: where does the IR come from? A short distance above the surface negligible IR comes from the surface because of the saturated absorption. Collisions can produce excited bending vibration in CO2 to v=1 followed by emission.

    More CO2 means more absorption AND more emission. Which means higher radiation flux in W/m^2, which means higher surface temperatures.

    Comment by t_p_hamilton — 23 Mar 2011 @ 8:32 PM

  156. James,
    Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s great that you wrote a book on climate science. I just think it might have been more useful if you’d bothered to understand the subject first.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 23 Mar 2011 @ 8:37 PM

  157. Re James R. Barrante –

    40 W brains? Wow! (I honestly don’t know if that’s right or not; I know our brains are energy intensive but that’s a huge chunk of the average person’s caloric intake! (rough back of the envelope: 2000 kcal = ~ 8 MJ, 8 MJ/day * 1day/86400 s ~= 100 W … well there’s roughage to account for, many people eat more than that, but you get the idea…)

    Beer’s law: exponential extinction of a beam of radiation, where the e-folding distance is a unit of optical depth or thickness. Optical thickness adds linearly from type and contributor (scattering, absorption, absorption from CO2 adds to absorption for H2O – FOR optical thickness, not the changes in radiant fluxes/intensities). Beer’s law applies to the initial incident radiation. For LW (longwave, longer than about 4 microns wavelength in a vacuum) radiation, the Earth’s surface and atmosphere can generally emit significantly. Absorptivity of a path = 1 – exp(- optical thickness); that is the fraction of incident radiation which is absorbed. Emmissivity of a path is the same as absorptivity (specifically for a given frequency, polarization (where it matters), and at LTE and for emission back in the direction from which the incident radiation would be absorbed, but for randomly-oriented gas molecules and spherical particles, etc, direction shouldn’t matter). Emmissivity is the fraction of the Planck function (for the temperature of the path) that is emmitted from that path in that direction. LTE tends to be maintained by molecular collisions so that the temperature of emitting substances (CO2, H2O, cloud particles, etc.) tend to be about the same as the temperature of the air they are in – they add and remove energy to the same total heat capacity of a given volume. The greenhouse effect on Earth is mainly caused by absorption/emission, but a scattering greenhouse is at least possible in principle and could occur or at least add to the total greenhouse effect in some cases (dry ice clouds in a snowball state). Anyway, basically you have to consider where the radiation you would recieve (at any given place) is coming from. A scattering greenhouse effect reflects some of the darkness of space back to space and some of the radiation from the surface or underlying emitting matter back downward, thus trapping heat (the surface must get warmer than otherwise in order to get the same flux out to space to balance solar heating). An absorption/emission greenhouse effect ‘replaces’ (by absorption and emission) radiation from a greater distance with radiation emitted closer-up, so that the radiant intensities and fluxes tend to correspond with temperatures found nearer the observer. The Earth’s atmosphere cools with height in general (the bulk of Earth’s atmospheric mass and even more so it’s optical thickness (except maybe in wavelengths where ozone dominates ??, provided lack of clouds) is in the troposphere). Adding more greenhouse gases and clouds (depending on how high the clouds are): For radiation going upward, such as toward space or upward at the tropopause – first replaces the radiation from the surface with radiation from the air below, then replaces radiation from the warmer lower troposphere with radiation from the cooler upper troposphere, etc. For downward radiation – first replaces the darkness of space with radiation from all layers above, then replaces radiation from higher levels with radiation from closer levels. Because convection in the troposphere tends to maintain a particular temperature profile, the surface temperature responds in particular to changes in radiative fluxes at the tropopause – the surface and troposphere warm up to increase the global average net upward flux at the tropopause level in order to balance tropopause level forcing (and feedbacks) (after stratospheric adjustment – look it up, I want to finish soon), such as an increase in net downward flux caused by adding CO2 (or adding H2O vapor, or adding clouds, or increasing the heights of cloud tops).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 23 Mar 2011 @ 9:19 PM

  158. Re “Absorptivity of a path = 1 – exp(- optical thickness)”

    That’s in the absence of scattering, of course.

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 23 Mar 2011 @ 9:24 PM

  159. … to clarify – Adding CO2 will tend to cool the stratosphere and warm the surface and troposphere, but the amount of heat is not conserved; there is a net imbalance left at the top of the atmophere until climate equilibrium occurs; until then the planet as a whole has a net gain of heat (PS I’m ignoring the continuing geothermal loss, which is too small relative to solar heating (for the inner planets, not so much the gas giants so far as I know) to have much direct effect on large-scale weather and climate, and anyway, it could be included in the energy budget as an add-on to solar heating of the surface – it’s already there, and not changing much over relevant timescales. Etc. for tidal energy. Heat from fossil fuels and nuclear fusion has changed on the relevent timescale but is very small except locally.)

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 23 Mar 2011 @ 9:38 PM

  160. … PS – the greenhouse effect at the tropopause is not generally saturated in total ever. A particular gas could become saturated if it’s absorption band had definite cutoffs and the actions of other matter on solar radiation and LW radiation produced an isothermal upper atmosphere (without any upper atmospheric solar heating, temperature declines with height even above the tropopause). But if the net flux at the tropopause were brought to zero for all relevent frequencies, heating would continue (assuming any solar heating beneath the tropopause occurs) until it either shifts the relevant frequencies or moves the tropopause higher to ‘unsaturate’ the greenhouse effect. Anyway, CO2 is (for Earth) saturated or nearly saturated ***at the tropopause level*** for the central part of it’s band but the absorption spectrum is shaped such that it effectively widens by roughly some amount for each doubling (the optical thickness halves over that wavelength interval; doubling the amount of substance shifts the optical thickness values outward from the central part of the band – this is approximate and is glossing over some finer-scale texture of the absorption spectrum). H2O vapor is concentrated in the lower troposphere and so much of the CO2 essentially sits on top of most of the H2O and can block radiation from the warm H2O vapor below (but other parts of the H2O spectrum, away from the CO2 band, have stronger absorption).

    Comment by Patrick 027 — 23 Mar 2011 @ 9:50 PM

  161. Prof. Barrante, I can recommend Peter Hadfield’s series of videos on climate change. You can find them on the “Potholer54” channel on Youtube. They are quite easy to understand, even when you know absolutely nothing about the subject. Other good resources can be found at the top of this page, and in the sidebar on the right.

    Comment by One Anonymous Bloke — 23 Mar 2011 @ 10:05 PM

  162. It is pretty clear by heat capacity ratio experiments that molecular collisions cannot excite gas molecules to higher vibrational states particularly around room temperature or below. The energy spacing between vibrational states is too large. I would assume that is the case with CO2 although I have never studied that particular gas. If this is true, then the only way to vibrationally excite CO2 molecules is by absorption of IR radiation (exchange is fast at the speed of light). The question is when a CO2 molecule absorbs a photon of IR light does the temperature increase mean anything? Unlike a solid, the gas molecule will not transfer this light energy as heat unless it collides with other molecules. My point here is if the CO2 molecule simply emits the energy as IR light before it collides with other molecules, then isn’t that the same as it not absorbing the light in the first place. Wouldn’t the outcome be similar to a simple diffraction of light.

    The bottom line to all your angst about whether I have or have not the credentials to write a book on global warming: it certainly didn’t stop Al Gore from making a movie about it, and certainly any one of you experts are free to write your own book. If you do, you might hope that critics would read more than a few initial pages before deciding whether the book has any merit or calling you a lying, ingenuous troll.

    Comment by James R. Barrante — 23 Mar 2011 @ 10:38 PM

  163. “Why does Beer’s law apply when radiation is passing through a medium that is radiating at the same frequency? Isn’t that true for all radiation?” James R. Barrante — 23 Mar 2011 @ 7:18 PM

    Consider the amount of blackbody radiation from a globar lamp element in your FTIR spectrometer at 1400 Kelvin versus an infrared absorbing/radiating component dispersed in potassium bromide at room temperature, ~295 Kelvin. (1400/295)^4= ~500. Is the instrumentation signal to noise better than 0.2%? If the effect you’re measuring is important at that level, can you cryogenically cool the sample?

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 23 Mar 2011 @ 10:44 PM

  164. Perfesser Barrante #162, Angst? I have no dog in this fight (thanks Prof Schmidt for the metaphor). I just want science to progress in spite of bias. You’ve never studied Co2? Then your opinion on its properties means as much as mine.

    Comment by One Anonymous Bloke — 23 Mar 2011 @ 11:52 PM

  165. James R. Barrante, as I understand it, if CO2 does not absorb the longwave radiation from earth, that radiation follows a one-dimensional trajectory: away from earth. If CO2 *does* absorb the radiation, this adds a few dimensions, one of which is straight back to earth.

    Comment by Marco — 24 Mar 2011 @ 1:53 AM

  166. 149, Brian Dodge: Gavin, the next time a reporter who has quoted Monckton on climate asks you a question about climatology, try referring him to Palin for the answer.

    That’s very cunning. I applaud the idea. Not only did I smile when reading it, but I think it would be effective.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 24 Mar 2011 @ 2:22 AM

  167. James Barrante,

    Definitions are important. By changing or confusing definitions, black can become white, up can become down, and war could be peace. In an honest discussion, one party does not get to pick the definitions to be used.

    Do you really believe that you were being accused of being a cave-dwelling dwarf of ugly appearance? Since your picture is readily available on the Internet, this is easily disproven. It’s much more likely that “troll” was referring to the definition I provided (from Wikipedia).

    But that is beside the point. It appears to me (from the evidence I have provided) that you have, at least in the past, used the reactions you have gotten on this web site to povide your arguments with some kind of “credbility” with those who are already in the denier camp.

    That is not really a scientific argument, is it? That seems to me to be relying more on the emotional reactivity (and possibly the scientific ignorance) of others to manipuate them.

    As to the reradiation of energy from CO2 – I am no scientist, but as I understand it, the direction of that energy is important. The energy coming into the climate system enters from above. The reradiated energy is randomly released, meaning that approximately half of it is released downward. This would tend to hold heat in the system, and slow down the reradiation of that heat back into space, no?

    Comment by Craig Nazor — 24 Mar 2011 @ 2:28 AM

  168. George doesn’t want scientists who work for the American government to discuss climate change on blogs.

    How does he feel about Attorney General Cuccinelli citing official Russian sources in his EPA suit?

    Cucinelli cited RIA Novosti trashing British climate scientists. That article was an edited version of an article that cited Andrei Illarionov of the Russian Institute for Economic Affairs in Alisher Usmanov’s Kommersant. Usmanov is a Gazprom operative with an education and career pattern that suggest an affiliation with the Russian state security.

    How does George feel about the Cato Institute (funded by the “anti-communist Koch brothers) hiring the same Russian economist Andrei Illarionov to also be a Cato spokesman on the subject of climate change? Illarionov is a “former” Putin advisor who also worked for Chernomyrddin, the head of the Soviet Gas Ministry and now Gazprom. It is a Russian government entity.

    Cato gives the impression of being an outpost of Gazprom/Russian state security.

    Some people want US Agencies muzzled, but they don’t seem to have problems with foreign governments influencing this debate.

    I am not giving obedience to American politicians who are promoting the propaganda of Russian agencies.

    Comment by Snapple — 24 Mar 2011 @ 6:18 AM

  169. 162. Barrante,

    You said (emphasis mine):

    Unlike a solid, the gas molecule will not transfer this light energy as heat unless it collides with other molecules. My point here is if the CO2 molecule simply emits the energy as IR light before it collides with other molecules, then isn’t that the same as it not absorbing the light in the first place.

    But it does collide, on the order of 1,000 times (at sea level atmospheric densities) before it is able to emit the energy as IR. This also means 1,000 chances to collide in just the right way to become vibrationally excited, in an incredibly short period of time, but even then, the received energy is far more likely to be passed on through another collision than to be emitted as IR.

    The net result is that the energy absorbed by CO2 as IR is very rapidly transferred to surrounding molecules as kinetic energy (i.e. heat), warming the air and freeing the CO2 molecule to absorb again (or to be excited through a collision, only to de-excite the same way).

    This heat energy can then, in turn be transferred through more conventional means to other parts of the atmosphere, so conduction/convection can come into play (on larger scales).

    I don’t think one can properly understand or discuss this without considering all of the reactions involved, and the various rates of reaction, which are in turn dependent on CO2 concentration, IR levels, and atmospheric density.

    Comment by Sphaerica (Bob) — 24 Mar 2011 @ 7:12 AM

  170. I am very glad to see that another scientist who has actually studied climate science is blogging. I think it will be great for us (those who don’t know that much), great for him and great for the science overall.
    Why I say great for him – when you try to write up a topic in new ways (not just for the same types of audiences that you always write for) – it challenges you to think about new ways to make your points and that can help spawn ideas of new approaches you could follow.
    As that happens – new ideas, new trails to follow, new thoughts – its easy to see the benefits to the science as well.
    Science is not just about “benchwork’ but also about spreading the knowledge so the more communication from people who actually understand the science the better.

    Comment by Donna — 24 Mar 2011 @ 8:33 AM

  171. James Barrante,
    First, a troll is one who hijacks a discussion with off-topic posts intended to generate more heat than light–as you have done here. Such beasts are indeed ugly,whether or nto they live in caves. Your elementary misunderstandings of greenhouse forcing belong, if anywhere, under the opten thread “Unforced Variations”.

    Second, Al Gore, it is true, is not a scientist. However, he is seeking to communicate the consensus science, while you are disputing it. What is more, Gore’s expertise in the matter considerably exceeds yours, as he at least bothered to talk to some climate scientists and learn something about the discipline–and you, clearly, have not.

    Comment by Ray Ladbury — 24 Mar 2011 @ 9:23 AM

  172. James Barrante wrote: “… whether I have or have not the credentials to write a book on global warming …”

    The issue is not your “credentials”.

    The issue is that much of what you have written about global warming is just plain not true.

    Comment by SecularAnimist — 24 Mar 2011 @ 10:10 AM

  173. James Barrante,
    your comments about Beer’s Law remind me of how we used another parameter. This is the Mean Beam Length, which we used in radiation energy transmission.

    Comment by J. Bob — 24 Mar 2011 @ 10:47 AM

  174. “It is pretty clear by heat capacity ratio experiments that molecular collisions cannot excite gas molecules to higher vibrational states particularly around room temperature or below.” James R. Barrante — 23 Mar 2011 @ 10:38 PM

    It is true that the energy of a single photon at 10 microns is ~ 2e-20 J, and the average kinetic energy of gas molecules at 288 K is about 6e-21 J, about 3.4 times less. But, some molecules will be moving faster, and some slower, than average. Kinetic energy varies with the square of the velocity, so an individual molecule only has to be going ~3.4^0.5 = ~1.8 times the average velocity to excite CO2 to a radiative state.

    Maybe the skies seem pretty clear because we can’t see into the infrared.

    “…this adds a few dimensions, one of which is straight back to earth.” Very, very nearly half of them are back to earth; in geometric optics speak, 2 Pi worth, less a teeny bit because of earth’s curvature and finite surface area.

    Comment by Brian Dodge — 24 Mar 2011 @ 12:36 PM

  175. Barrante again:

    does the temperature increase mean anything?

    The right question is whether temperature means anything in the presence of IR absorption?. Answer yes provided there is equilibrium, in this problem it is assumed that there is LTE (local thermodynamic equilibrium) and that applies whenever there are a large number of intermolecular collisions as described in earlier comments. The rest follows. Temperature is a parameter occuring in a Gibbs or Boltzmann distribution function describing the occupation of all the energy levels in a set of gas molecules.

    Thats theory. Now for a measurement:

    From #174:

    Maybe the skies seem pretty clear because we can’t see into the infrared.

    Yes and as shown in in the crucial observation in Fig.1(b) “surface looking up” :

    Comment by Deconvoluter — 24 Mar 2011 @ 1:34 PM

  176. I actually purchased the book (142 pages small pages, double spaced, about 200 words/page, for $20 … well, I do collect these things.)
    My wife picked it up, read a bit, and laughed a lot.

    She especially liked “Also, we must keep in mind that a computer is no more intelligent than a person who programs it, and that limits its computing power to 40 watts.”

    Computers are not intelligent, this is irrelevant, and (especially for those of us who have designed supercomputers), this is hilarious. We’d all love it if computers were limited to 40 watts. I helped design supercomputers that have been used for many climate simulations (including the SGI machines that were used by GFDL for many years), and power is a serious problem.

    But this whole 40-watt brain idea is a complete red herring. Dr. Barrante’s *message* is that people who think CO2 matters are dim wits.

    Dr Barrante says (in #153)
    “By the way, you should really read my book more closely. The “Dim Wits” in the title does not mean dimwit. It’s meant to describe all humans, since our brains put out about 40 watts (not very bright). I said that my book is from one dim wit to another. The point is that we are not as smart as we think we are…”

    p.2 of his book has the rather irrelevant idea that human brain is ~40 watts. Then:
    “This book was written for dim wits. The dictionary defines a dimwit as a stupid or silly person. That definition doesn’t apply in this case. As a physical scientist and somewhat knowledgeable in the physical chemistry of the atmosphere, I am going to re-define a “dim wit” as someone who believes that greenhouse gases, and in particular carbon dioxide, could actually control the climate. Such individuals generally fabricate their version of science to fit their own agenda. When it comes to dim wits, there is a lot of truth to the old saying “in one ear and out the other.”

    Did his comment in #153 fairly represent what he wrote?

    Again, I ask him to explain why he thinks the world’s National Academies and science societies are all dim wits and he knows better. Maybe it’s true, that with no obvious track record in this turf, he has proved everybody wrong, in which case a Nobel awaits.

    he writes (p.xii):
    “No one writes a book in a vacuum. I have been working in this area of science for a number of years…”
    (Vacuum: true, although it is possible to write books that manage to ignore most real science. The second statement is an appeal to authority not backed by published peer-reviewed references. Usually, if a scientist actually works in an area for a number of years (although 1 is a number, so is zero), they publish peer-reviewed papers.)

    He also writes (p.xiii) “I would also like to thank some individuals who reviewed the manuscript and made valuable suggestions:
    Mr. David Whalen, (I don’t know who he is)
    Mrs. Sharon Barrante Adkins, (might be a relative)
    and Ms. Kimberly Barrante. (might be a relative)

    With all due respect, one might ask if these reviewers are experts in this topic?
    Dr. Barrante did reference one of David Archer’s books (1 of 8 references, most of which were irrelevant, 3 of which were pretty dubious (SPPI as a reference?) Archer might have been a better reviewer, although I suspect if he’d been willing to take the time, the review would not have been very positive.

    He also writes (p.xii) “I am hoping that this book becomes a popular read for children.” I speculate this is a forlorn hope., although I suupose the Mpemba Effect is something they needed to learn.

    Comment by John Mashey — 24 Mar 2011 @ 1:36 PM

  177. A troll is one who engages in trolling. Comes from fishing, i.e. a commercial troller baits hooks on lines, and trails them in the water behind the boat hoping to attract fish to the bait. An internet troller offers virtual bait in order to hook people into a needless conversation argument. The commercial troller isn’t offering fish a free meal, and an internet troller is not offering opportunity for real debate.

    It has nothing to do with trolls that live in caves or under ridges.


    The bottom line to all your angst about whether I have or have not the credentials to write a book on global warming: it certainly didn’t stop Al Gore from making a movie about it, and certainly any one of you experts are free to write your own book

    Oh, you’re undoubtably qualified to do what Gore did: summarize consensus science as accurately as you can.

    The question is whether or not you’re qualified to overturn the work of generations of scientists, going back as far as Tyndall, when such overturning requires ignoring the observational evidence that led to the initial discovery of greenhouse gasses and that continues to support the more mature theoretical understanding of how they heat the earth.

    Quite a difference …

    Comment by dhogaza — 24 Mar 2011 @ 2:54 PM

  178. Dear darling James R. Barrante: we do not turn to Al Gore’s book and film for original science, but for a popular summary of what actual working scientists are doing. This is why Gore’s work is studied in classrooms, but your work will only be of interest to special-ist book collectors (and the odd crank with money to waste).

    I imagine at your age, if you are still unaware of your own fallibility, then it is far too late to learn now. But is this really what you want for your legacy? A mere punchline?

    Comment by Didactylos — 24 Mar 2011 @ 5:13 PM

  179. > I would assume that was the case with CO2

    Why not look it up before the 2nd edition of the book?
    A cite would be helpful.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 24 Mar 2011 @ 5:41 PM

  180. It is a bit frustrating to see a thread essentially taken over by someone who really seems to have no interest in the type of blog that Isaac Held has created.
    It must be a bit of an ego trip to get people so focused on you that they more or less turn away from something really interesting to reply to someone who cannot even quote himself accurately.

    Comment by Donna — 24 Mar 2011 @ 6:54 PM

  181. Re: 162

    “It is pretty clear by heat capacity ratio experiments that molecular collisions cannot excite gas molecules to higher vibrational states particularly around room temperature or below.” – James R Barrante

    Cause room temperature is special to you I guess.

    To illustrate how idiotic your above claim is, lets consider taking a container of gas, at thermal equilibrium, and cut off the tail of the Boltzman energy distribution by removing all the gas molecules that have a kenetic energy above say… the Boltzman peak = sqrt(2RT/M).

    Your claim is equivalent to saying that thermal equilibrium can never be reached because “molecular collisions cannot excite gas molecules to higher vibrational states” IE. that low energy collisions could never boost the low energy gas molecules that remain to higher energies.

    The Boltzman distribution has no practical high energy cutoff does it….

    And of course the thermal distribution (vibrational linked by equipartition), will readily be re-established.

    So your claim is simply Kook Tard nonsense.

    You would think that if you actually taught this stuff for 40 years, you might actually have managed to learn it yourself.

    Your students should sue for a refund.

    “If this is true, then the only way to vibrationally excite CO2 molecules is by absorption of IR radiation” – James R. Barrante

    The mean free path of a typical molecule in air is about 2.5 cm. With an average speed of roughly 40,000 cm per second, a typical molecule in air will experience about 20,000 collisions per second. or roughly 1 collision every 50 microseconds.

    In comparison the Einstein coefficient for the CO2 P20 line is 0.187/s, (1) which corresponds to an energy state occupancy time terminated by spontaneous emission of about 5 seconds.

    It follows immediately then that vibrational excitation on Co2 molecules at STP comes almost exclusively from molecule/molecule collisons and from radiation absorption as you assert.

    Perhaps you would like to argue that the Co2 molecules are pumped by the vary radiation you erroniously claim has been extinguished by Beer’s law.

    And again your students should sue for a refund.

    Analysis of the data on spontaneous emission probabilities and collisional broadening cross sections of 0001-1000 lines of the CO2 molecule

    A S Biryukov, A Yu Volkov, E M Kudryavtsev and R I Serikov

    Soviet Journal of Quantum Electronics Volume 6 Number 8

    Comment by Vendicar Decarian — 24 Mar 2011 @ 11:41 PM

  182. Donna

    It must be a bit of an ego trip to get people so focused on you that they more or less turn away from something really interesting to reply to someone who cannot even quote himself accurately.

    Yes, he’s a troll … you’ve got it :)

    Comment by dhogaza — 25 Mar 2011 @ 12:50 AM

  183. #180–That’s it in a nutshell, Donna.

    Comment by Kevin McKinney — 25 Mar 2011 @ 7:25 AM

  184. 171, Ray Ladbury: Second, Al Gore, it is true, is not a scientist.

    I admire Al Gore up to a point. He did well as a Senator and VP, but was disappointing as a pres. candidate. His work on global warming essentially started the debate, whereas he thought he was ending it. However, he is also a businessman, and his work is promotional literature for his business. Since earning (I emphasize “earning”) his Nobel Peace Prize and Oscar he has become less trustworthy, and is another BP, GE, Peabody Coal, or Siemens. I think that it is a mistake to overlook the conflicts of interest of people with whom one agrees.

    Comment by Septic Matthew — 25 Mar 2011 @ 1:25 PM

  185. There aren’t many people that I admire, but Gore is certainly one of them. Gore is admirable not only for his excellent work promoting the issue of Global Climate Change, but also for his instrumental work in creating what is now known as the “internet”. Without Gore’s vision of lowering to near zero the barriers to knowledge and his legislation to realize his vision, the Internet as it is constituted today would not exist.

    Gore saw both of these issues as moral imperatives, and I absolutely agree with him, as do all thinking, moral people.

    In addition, Gore has had the fortitude to put his money where his mouth is, and he has profited handsomely for his efforts.

    Those who criticize his success do so out of a combination of jealousy and a deep seated hate for anything environmental – especially if it is a proven success.

    Comment by Vendicar Decarian — 25 Mar 2011 @ 6:26 PM

  186. The Republican Party of Wisconsin is demanding that a University of Wisconsin-Madison professor turn over his emails through the state’s open records law.

    The request came on March 17, two days — and half a million hits — after Cronon published his first-ever blog post, an exploration of the influence of the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council on state legislatures and the Wisconsin union fight. This was five days before Cronon published an op-ed in the New York Times saying that Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s bid to limit union rights represents a radical break from American tradition.

    Cronon, who is president-elect of the American Historical Association, says he believes the request for his emails is a GOP fishing expedition to locate “ammunition […]to embarrass, undermine, and ultimately silence me.” Cronon suspects the GOP is trying to catch him violating a university policy that forbids professors from using e-mail to “support the nomination of any person for political office or to influence a vote in any election or referendum”–a rule he says he hasn’t broken.

    Comment by Vendicar Decarian — 25 Mar 2011 @ 7:00 PM

  187. I don’t know if you read the comments this far down, and on old stuff, but here goes. I greatly appreciate your blog!!! (Are 3! enough?) I teach English here in Japan. My advanced level group consists of a sprinkling of retired engineers mixed with housewives and 1 or 2 younger “kids”, There is an abiding interest in science topics in general from the engineers, and very frequently the bridge of climate science news is something that reaches the homemaker in their backyard garden as well as the newest discoveries as a result of drilling for core samples in some remote place. Climate science is a wonderful bridging science that has both immediate relevance for even secondary students, male and female, up the socioeconomic ladder. I have used your site often as a concentrated, up-to-date, reliable, quick. source for something “new” to slip into my 10 min. intro or conclusion to the class.

    Personally I try to avoid inert facts/news that doesn’t connect to something positive and tangible to our lives (the our means the community space I share with my students in this area of Japan). This is the only difficulty I encounter when I come here. The theory or discovery, I have to find some tangible way for some who are not theoretically inclined or appreciate learning for the sake of it, to grasp and hold on to.

    Again, thank you very sincerely for this blog, and the comments which I read associated with your postings.

    Comment by Thomas Asada-Grant — 27 Mar 2011 @ 12:41 AM

  188. Any comments on the Sea Level Rise paper? – if I am reading this correctly there is an issue correlating temperature rise to sea level rise.

    Thank you for your comment in advance

    Comment by john — 28 Mar 2011 @ 6:37 AM

  189. > john …jcronline (J. Coastal Research)

    Note they don’t discuss “increase” or “decrease” — they say “acceleration” or “deceleration”

    ” Several additional years of GRACE measurements will be necessary to accurately determine the contribution of the land–water interchange to sea level….
    … Our analyses do not indicate acceleration in sea level in U.S. tide gauge records during the 20th century. Instead, for each time period we consider, the records show small decelerations that are consistent with a number of earlier studies of worldwide-gauge records. The decelerations that we obtain are opposite in sign and one to two orders of magnitude less than the +0.07 to +0.28 mm/y2 accelerations that are required to reach sea levels predicted for 2100 by Vermeer and Rahmsdorf (2009), Jevrejeva, Moore, and Grinsted (2010), and Grinsted, Moore, and Jevrejeva (2010). … global sea level has possibly decelerated for at least the last 80 years.”

    Look at the chart and the trend.

    Comment by Hank Roberts — 28 Mar 2011 @ 10:06 AM

  190. This is one research paper based on one technology and one type of measurement in a small portion of the planet. Notice that the last sentence includes the word “possibly.” For a discussion of why the authors used that word, read here:

    Comment by Craig Nazor — 29 Mar 2011 @ 1:05 PM

  191. The Worldwide Methane Reduction Project is seeking funding to research and develop chemical compounds that will drastically lower methane production from landfills, rice paddies and sewage treatment plants. Given enough funding our goals are realizable and practical. We belive that favorable laboratory results and in-field testing of these formulations will lead to the next stages of funding patent applications and pilot projects. We expect the funding to result in patents that will be licensed to as many companies as possible to provide the biggest impact on the worldwide environment and also to payback investors with sustainable profits.

    Comment by Neil Farbstein — 29 Mar 2011 @ 6:38 PM

  192. c02 co2 co2
    in most cases, to produce co2
    you will need a
    combustible substance+heat+OXYGEN
    (GASP GASP) yep, good old OXYGEN,
    must be time to combine rising CO2 levels
    with the lowering OXYGEN levels

    [Response: For every 1 % CO2 increase, it’s only .0014% oxygen decrease.–eric]

    Comment by eric — 9 Apr 2011 @ 4:55 AM

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