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11ºC warming, climate crisis in 10 years?

Filed under: — gavin @ 29 January 2005 - (Français)

by Gavin Schmidt and Stefan Rahmstorf

Two stories this week, a paper in Nature (Stainforth et al, 2005) describing preliminary results of the experiments, and the Meeting the Climate Challenge report from a high level political group have lead to dramatic headlines. On the Nature paper, BBC online reported that “temperatures around the world could rise by as much as 11ºC “; on the latter report it headlined: “Climate crisis near ‘in 10 years’”. Does this mean there is new evidence that climate change is more serious than previously thought? We think not.

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What If … the “Hockey Stick” Were Wrong?

Filed under: — stefan @ 27 January 2005 - (Français)

The “hockey stick” reconstruction of temperatures of the past millennium has attracted much attention – partly as it was high-lighted in the 2001 IPCC report as one of the important new results since the previous IPCC report of 1995, and partly as it has become the focus of a number of challenges. Discussion about the “hockey stick” is conducted with considerable fervor in the public media, where this curve is often presented as if it were a proof, or even the most important proof, of anthropogenic influence on climate.

As someone who has not worked on the past millennium, I do not want to discuss the merits of the often rather technical challenges (which have been dealt with elsewhere on this site). Rather, I want to discuss the “what if…” question: what if really some serious flaw was discovered in the “hockey stick” curve? What would that mean?

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Peer Review: A Necessary But Not Sufficient Condition II

Filed under: — group @ 27 January 2005

by Michael Mann and Gavin Schmidt

In a previous post, we discussed a number of examples where the “Peer Review” process has failed, and poor papers have been published in the ostensibly peer-reviewed literature. In this context, we revisit our previous discussions of the flawed work of McIntyre and McKitrick (henceforth “MM”). MM published a paper, in the controversial journal Energy and Environment, claiming to “correct” the proxy-based reconstruction of Northern Hemisphere temperatures published by Mann et al (1998–henceforth “MBH98”). Following the all-too-familiar pattern, this deeply flawed paper was heavily promoted by special interests as somehow challenging the scientific consensus that humans are altering the climate (an excellent account is provided by science journalist Dan Vergano of USA Today here). As detailed already on the pages of RealClimate, this so-called ‘correction’ was nothing more than a botched application of the MBH98 procedure, where the authors (MM) removed 80% of the proxy data actually used by MBH98 during the 15th century period (failing in the process to produce a reconstruction that passes standard “verification” procedures–an error that is oddly similar to that noted by Benestad (2004) with regard to another recent McKitrick paper). Indeed, the bizarre resulting claim by MM of anomalous 15th century warmth (which falls within the heart of the “Little Ice Age”) is at odds with not only the MBH98 reconstruction, but, in fact the roughly dozen other estimates now published that agree with MBH98 within estimated uncertainties.

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Anomalous Recent Warmth in Europe

Filed under: — group @ 24 January 2005 - (Français)

Guest Contribution by Juerg Luterbacher, University of Bern, Switzerland

While the anomalous nature of recent trends in global average temperature is often highlighted in discussions of climate change, changes at regional scales have potentially greater societal significance. Of particular interest, for example, is the possible relationship between climate change and the incidence of summer heat waves [Meehl, G.A. and C. Tebaldi, Science, 305, 994-997 , 2004] such as those observed in Europe during summer 2003 [see Schaer et al, Nature 427, 332-336 2004; Stott et al, Nature, 432, 610-614­, 2004]. Preliminary analyses of the annual mean surface air temperatures for Europe for 2004 show it be among the few warmest (though not as warm as 1989, 1990, and 1999-2003) since widespread instrumental records have been kept (roughly the past 150 years). 2004 exceeded the reference period (1961-1990) mean temperature by more than 0.8°C. The largest deviations were found over Northern and Eastern Europe. Every single month of 2004 contributed to the overall warmth; February-April, August, October and December were all more than 1°C warmer than the 1961-1990 period. Annual mean European surface air temperatures have increased by around 0.85°C over the last 100 years. The upward trend has accelerated in recent decades, with about 1.2°C of warming taking place over the past 30 years (1975 to 2004). Indeed, the last thirty years likely represent the warmest multidecadal period for Europe in at least the past half millennium [ Luterbacher, J., Dietrich, D., Xoplaki, E., Grosjean, M. and H. Wanner, Science, 303, 1499-1503, 2004], while the last decade (1995-2004) is likely the warmest decade, and summer 2003 the warmest summer. These conclusions are similar to those reached for the entire Northern Hemisphere on the whole.

Peer Review: A Necessary But Not Sufficient Condition

Filed under: — group @ 20 January 2005 - (Français)

by Michael Mann and Gavin Schmidt

On this site we emphasize conclusions that are supported by “peer-reviewed” climate research. That is, research that has been published by one or more scientists in a scholarly scientific journal after review by one or more experts in the scientists’ same field (‘peers’) for accuracy and validity. What is so important about “Peer Review”? As Chris Mooney has lucidly put it:

[Peer Review] is an undisputed cornerstone of modern science. Central to the competitive clash of ideas that moves knowledge forward, peer review enjoys so much renown in the scientific community that studies lacking its imprimatur meet with automatic skepticism. Academic reputations hinge on an ability to get work through peer review and into leading journals; university presses employ peer review to decide which books they’re willing to publish; and federal agencies like the National Institutes of Health use peer review to weigh the merits of applications for federal research grants.

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Global Dimming II

Filed under: — group @ 19 January 2005 - (Français)

Guest commentary on BBC documentary on “Global Dimming” aired on January 13th 2005 by Beate Liepert, LDEO, Columbia University

I haven’t yet seen the documentary. I have only read the transcript and hence was spared the pictures of the potential apocalypse and the invocation of biblical-scale famines. However, as one of the lead scientists on the topic [and who was interviewed by the BBC for the Horizon documentary (transcript, previous post)], I feel I should explain a few things about it without using religious analogies and stoking unnecessary fear.

First though, this is a nice example of the power of words: Gerry Stanhill coined the observed reduction in solar energy reaching the ground “global dimming”. He called it “global” dimming because the technical term for the radiative energy is called “global solar radiation” and it contrasts nicely with the more common “global warming”.

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Global Dimming?

Filed under: — gavin @ 18 January 2005 - (Français)

It just so happens that most of the posts on this site have tried to counteract arguments from those who would sow fake “uncertainty” in the climate debate. But lest our readers feel that we are unjustifiably certain about our knowledge, let us look at a recent example of the opposite tendency: too much certainty.

A recent BBC Horizon documentary (transcript) raised the issue of ‘global dimming’ and argued that this ‘killer’ phenomena’s newly-recognised existence would lead to huge re-assessments of future global warming. As part of the hyperbole, the process of global dimming was linked very clearly to the famines in Ethiopia in the 1980s and the implication was left that worse was to come. Media reports with headlines like “Fossil Fuel Curbs May Speed Global Warming” swiftly followed. So what’s the real story?

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Global temperatures continue to rise

Filed under: — Ray Bradley @ 17 January 2005 - (Français)

Preliminary calculations* show that surface temperatures** averaged over the globe in 2004 were the fourth highest (and the past decade was the warmest) since measurements began in 1861. (Actually, there are measurements at some sites before 1861, but this date is generally chosen as the first time when there is a dense enough network of data available to make a global average meaningful). 2004 was slightly cooler than 2003, 2002 and 1998, with the average world temperature exceeding the 30 year average (1961-1990) by 0.44° C. 1998 remains the warmest year, when surface temperatures averaged +0.54°C above the same 30-year mean. October 2004 was the warmest October on record. Sea-ice extent in the Arctic remains well below the long-term average. In September 2004, it was about 13% less than the 1973-2003 average. Satellite information suggests a general decline in Arctic sea-ice extent of about 8% over the last two and half decades.
For further details see the WMO Web site , go to “News” and look for Press Release 718.

You can also check the NASA-GISS news report on 2004

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The global cooling myth

Filed under: — group @ 14 January 2005 - (Français)

Every now and again, the myth that “we shouldn’t believe global warming predictions now, because in the 1970’s they were predicting an ice age and/or cooling” surfaces. Recently, George Will mentioned it in his column (see Will-full ignorance) and the egregious Crichton manages to say “in the 1970’s all the climate scientists believed an ice age was coming” (see Michael Crichton’s State of Confusion ). You can find it in various other places too [here, mildly here, etc]. But its not an argument used by respectable and knowledgeable skeptics, because it crumbles under analysis. That doesn’t stop it repeatedly cropping up in newsgroups though.

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Is Climate Modelling Science?

Filed under: — gavin @ 12 January 2005

At first glance this seems like a strange question. Isn’t science precisely the quantification of observations into a theory or model and then using that to make predictions? Yes. And are those predictions in different cases then tested against observations again and again to either validate those models or generate ideas for potential improvements? Yes, again. So the fact that climate modelling was recently singled out as being somehow non-scientific seems absurd.
par Gavin Schmidt (traduit par Gilles Delaygue)

A première vue, cela semble une question étrange. Est-ce-que la science n’est pas précisément la quantification d’observations dans une théorie ou un modèle, et ensuite son utilisation pour faire des prédictions ? Oui. Et est-ce-que ces prédictions de différents cas sont ensuite confrontées, maintes fois, aux observations, afin soit de valider ces modèles ou bien de faire émerger des idées d’amélioration ? Oui, encore une fois. Ainsi la mise à l’index récente de la modélisation climatique comme quelque chose de non scientifique semble absurde.


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